Circle January 28th on your calendar. On that day the Suns play the Dallas Mavericks. The game is in Phoenix. It's a Thursday. On TNT.
Correction: I was only looking at Thursdays on my schedule. It seems the Suns next shot at The Curse is Monday, January 18 in Memphis.
At this point breaking that curse has surpassed all possible objectives for the Suns season. Forget about the playoffs. Forget about being the Most Watchable Team. The Phoenix Suns simply must BREAK THE CURSE!!!
For those of you who don't believe in these kinds of things (as if 17 straight losses on TNT is some kind of coincidence) might point out the 13 point lead the Suns had going into the 4th quarter and call out the Suns inability to close out the game. The first of 13 games by the way, the Suns have lost this season after taking a lead into the final period.
That 13 point lead was cut to 5 within the first two and half minutes as the Suns missed two shots and turned the ball over while the Blazers hit two three's and a deuce. Just like that the curse reaches up and grabs your ankles and drags you down in the mud where it spikes your eyes and rips your heart from your chest.
Good thing I don't believe in these things.
The Suns played a fantastic game for the 1st three quarters. The offense moved well and the team was making quick decisions reacting to the Blazers switching defense. On the other end the Suns were winning the battle of the boards and were active and aggressive on D holding the Blazers below 41% shooting before two things happened...
The tank ran dry and the starters couldn't sustain the effort and Jerryd Bayless went nuts. Perhaps more importantly, the Blazers coaching staff benched Andre Miller in favor of Bayless and they finally turned the kid loose.
Throw in Brandon Roy's normal fourth quarter big time play and there was simply no way the Suns were able to stop those two guards from getting deep penetration. When they stayed home on the shooters Roy and Bayless scored at the rim or got to the line. When the Suns collapsed in the paint the Blazers hit their shots. Frustrating, but also a case of great players making great plays at home.
I can live with this result. Yes, the Blazers are suffering more injuries than the Suns and they certainly were feeling that early in the game as Phoenix was beating them on the glass without Oden and on the wings without out Rudy and Batum. But we've known for some time that the Blazers were a deep team loaded with studly young talent. Forced to use it their second year former Wildcat stepped up.
Amare "Max Contract" Stoudemire had a beast of a game. 27 points and 11 rebounds and some of the most aggressive play we've seen from him in a long long time. He was a one-man wrecking crew until he faded under the weight of too much expended energy. With 45 minutes under his belt in this game he simply wasn't able to sustain that monster effort in the final minutes.
Just like in the Dallas game, Nash made a couple late three's to make it interesting but I am going to get on him a bit here for waiting too long to find his shot. All game he was letting his teammates score and it was working great. But in those final minutes he needed to start looking for his shot just a bit sooner. Maybe that's play calling as the Suns tried to ride Amare's back but regardless, the five or six empty offensive possessions where the Suns were stuck at 92 from the 5:27 mark until Hill hit a jumper with 2:47 to go were the difference in the game.
Overall, I was pleased with the way the Suns played. Missing Richardson and Barbosa is a lot for this team to take and it showed. The Suns bench is solid but Dragic isn't a 20 point guy and there's no one else on that bench that can be asked to deliver points when LB is missing.
But that's how it is in the NBA. No excuses.
The Suns played hard. They are competitive on the road against good teams and undefeated at home. I can live with that.
Oh, and the Suns have 10 of their next 12 games at home with the only road trips to Golden State and Sacramento.
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 12/18/09 7:17 AM MST ]
Interesting that after only scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter including a ~3 minute dry spell that Gentry and Nash talked more about the defense and rebounding. This game aside, that's an interesting turn of events isn't it?
Anyway, I still think fatigue played a big role in this loss. A mental let down early in the final period followed by a physical let down late.
SUNS: Postgame Quotes: Suns @ Blazers - 12/17/2009
"We can't play good for 36 minutes. We have to play well for 48 minutes, that's the only way you can win on the road. You can't do it. You can't spot play on the road, you got to be tough, hard-nosed, and you got to be able to finish games. You get nothing for playing well for three quarters. It's very very disappointing, it's the most disappointing loss we've had the whole year." - Alvin Gentry
Suns can't hold lead against Trail Blazers
Portland scored 10 points on second chances in the fourth, including 3-pointers on two of the first four possessions that quickly made it a five-point game
Blazersedge - A Site by Blazer fans, for Blazer fans
Apparently that kindled something in Hill because he went on a tear and almost singlehandedly wrested control of the game away from Portland. It was like that time your grandpa caught you smoking and took you out behind the woodshed. You knew he was capable, you knew you probably deserved it, but it's still pretty bad getting beaten by an 80-year-old man.