Bust! The 140OB offense officially fizzled today in the face of a disciplined Boston defense.
The Suns' defense, particularly that of Steve Nash, was completely exposed by a disciplined (anyone see a trend here) Boston squad. Rajon Rondo looked positively all-world today. In my preview, I completely underestimated RR's ability to take over a game. It helps to be guarded by the Canadian matador. As was pointed out multiple times in the game thread, the irony of Nash getting absolutely gored (13-18, 32 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) by a player that could have been his protege was particularly galling.
And it's not that Ray Allen (31 points) and Paul Pierce (26 points) didn't make some noise. It's just that Rondo having his way with Nash keyed the rest of the Celtics offensive domination (63% shooting and a double digit performance from Brian Scalabrine!). I'm beginning to think that Steve Nash doesn't miss Boris Diaw's playmaking ability nearly as much as he misses his help defense.
Enough picking on Nash, though. He was after all the only Sun distributing the ball. Outside of his 11 assists, the rest of the team combined for only 8 additional dimes. Even with him in the game, the Suns offense noticeably stalled whenever the ball wasn't in his hands (there, I said it, Stan). Jason Richardson and Matt Barnes tend to force an offensive action instead of looking for a pass to reset and create something new. And fouls absolutely murdered the pace of the game. The 140OB (like 7SOL before it) is predicated on not fouling as fouls slow down the game. The Suns fouled early and often enough to effectively kill their chance at running the Celts off the court after the 1st quarter.
More after the jump...
While there weren't many bright spots for the Suns, I'll enumerate a few of them here:
Goran Dragic: Looking less and less helpless in increased minutes. He's hardly arrived, but it's obvious he's gaining confidence as Gentry gives him more responsibility to spell Nash.
Leandro Barbosa: His unbridled joy on offense is always apparent. But it's his defense that's increasingly becoming the story. He notched another 3 steals today after a few 5 steal games. He may never be an all-defensive team player, but it's nice to see at least one of the run and gunners step up in this respect.
Jared Dudley: Another buried bench player benefitting from increased burn. He's active at both ends of the floor and generally makes smart plays. Let's hope he's part of the Suns'
rebuilding process future.
The Bench: What they lack in skeelz, they bring in effort. Outside of perhaps Dudley, I haven't seen any starters-in-the-making, but I see some capable back-ups that might not otherwise have been given a chance to shine under either Terry Porter or Mike D'Antoni.
(Side note: for all the ado made over how Rajon Rondo coulda shoulda woulda been a Sun, what are the odds he would have flourished under D'Antoni's tutelage? Would he have cracked the 8 man rotation? And doing so, would he have developed any semblance of the game he has now? Sure, he's a beast now, but I'm not sure the Suns as they were constituted could have gotten him where he is now. Food for thought.)
Alvin Gentry: He could take a cue or two from Doc Rivers in terms of game management (Did I really just say that?). A well-placed timeout might have staunched the flow of points the Suns hemorraged in the second quarter. But he's been pretty fearless about stretching his bench and challenging his starters to get out of the messes they've created for themselves. The bar is low enough for him and the team that he's got a lot of freedom to tinker with line-ups and see who's going to be a productive player for the Suns going forward and who is, um, past their prime or never going to reach it.
Steve Kerr: In his recent interviews, it's obvious he's earning his stripes as a GM through the adversity the team is enduring (both of his making and not). He appears to be smart enough to take this experience and make better decisions going forward.
Mental toughness: HA! Just kidding. The Suns embraced their inner victim by whining about call after call and racking up a few techs. Legacies (*cough* Steve Nash *cough*) will be tarnished if this keeps up.
I know, the gloom and doom continues. Here's the ceiling for these Suns barring a sudden ability to get consistent defensive stops: run poorer lesser disciplined teams off the floor and take their lumps against the NBA's elite. All hail Phoenix Stan. I for one welcome our wet blanket overlords.
Oh, and somehow I got through this entire recap without mentioning Shaquille O'Neal or Grant Hill. They're still on the team and playing fairly effectively, so the Suns have that going for them.