Now that was great game. I didn't get too excited about scoring 140 on the depleted and lowly Clippers and I wasn't all that thrilled with beating up on the 13-win Thunder and reaching 140 on a last minute 5 pt run from Barbosa.
This game, though, was impressive. Let me count the ways:
1. Alvin Gentry was smart enough to not try and run the run and gun without Nash. He had an advantage down low and he used and abused it. The running the Suns did came off defensive stops.
2. Defensive stops. The bench guys were very active on the perimeter, putting pressure on the ball and getting 11 steals and outscoring the Raps 21 to15 off turnovers.
3. Turnovers. 12 for the Suns to 17 for the Raps. At least 3 of those turnovers were late in the game when Shaq was just in goof off mode.
4. Shaq. His numbers were awesome. His effort was fantastic. The Raptors interior defense was horrible. I have no idea why they waited until the final couple of minutes, when Shaq was trying to get 50, to decide that was the point to double him -- not early in the game, when he was racking up points, putting fouls on the Raps front line. That's some questionable defense.
5. Entry passing. Big props to the Suns for getting Shaq the ball. This is something the Suns struggled with all year long. Tonight they made the easy pass. When the Raps fronted, they either made a nice lob coming from a good wing passer (Hill or Barnes) or they reversed it around to the weak side and got Shaq the ball with his man sealed on his back.
I am just going to say it. The Suns seem to play better with Shaq, without Nash. In the Bobcats game, Nash had three straight turnovers making lazy high entry passes against taller defenders. LB on the other hand in a similar situation faked high and hit Shaq with a bounce pass. You can't tell me Nash can't find a way to get Shaq the ball. If he wants to.
Of course, the Suns are better with Nash on the floor, but the story of this season has been the inability of these two former MVPs to coexist and that's a real shame. Run off stops and misses. Work the ball inside out in the half court. When you have two weapons like that, you use them both. Too bad that didn't work. I hope someday we find out why that is. Back to this fun game...
6. Lou. Lou had a career-high 20 points, which he mostly got by moving without the ball. Imagine how good this guy would be in Utah, where cutting and passing are the name of the game. Jerry Sloan might even let him keep the pony tail....
7. Grant Freaking Hill! Grant was not really hitting his shots and he hasn't been for a few games now. After the reports of having foot problems, it seemed he was bothered enough to be slowed. That was until he went back to playing the three instead of trying to be a power forward (Grant Hill at the 4. How was that ever a good plan?) and he got out on the break, crossed Bargnani over and invited him to join in a classic poster dunk. That seemed to ignite Hill who went on to have 12 assists and a very loud 14 points. He was awesome running the half court sets and his perimeter D was stellar.
8. Half court shots FTW!!! This guy stepped up and hit the granny half court shot to win $77,777. It was all net! He then proceeded to go bonkers jumping on Barbosa and having to be dragged away from Lopez by The Gorilla and Coco the glee squad kid.
9. Bonus shot. I have no idea either...
Shhh. Don't tell anyone, but Dragic was horrible. He even managed to blow a 3 on 1 fast break. To be fair he had a great wrap around pass to Shaq for one of his two assists to go with his five fouls.
What does it all mean? In the long run, not much. Like Shaq said, the Suns need to win games like this, even without Nash and Amare, if they want to get to the playoffs.
During the Suns broadcast, Eddie Johnson pointed out the Suns have lost 9 games to sub-.500 teams and if they had won 6 or 7 of those, they would be right in the middle of the playoff pack.
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