I am not even sure where to begin this one. Dropping a must-win game to the team you are chasing the playoff hunt. At home. Is it over? Uh ... pretty much any rational non faith-based sports fan will tell you that.
Even if the the Mavs implode for a stretch (which they are prone to do) the Suns still have not shown the ability to get stops and on top of that the offense continues to look good at times, but finds itself sputtering for just long enough to get behind in games and can't regain a lead once it's lost.
It's a pretty simply formula. If you can't get stops and you can't score consistently for 48 minutes then you are going to lose games to good teams.
Perhaps the Suns should consider this off-season finding a coach that would focus more on defense and build a team that can win when the offense goes cold. Oh, right ... the Suns are built to run, not to get stops. Getting stops is boring. It's not fun to watch. Low entertainment value. Let's just run even faster then. As long as the guys are having fun shooting all the time, that's all that really matters, right? Call it "140 or Bust" because it looks like it's going to take 140 points to get a win over a quality team.
The Suns, despite playing hard tonight and having a solid all-around effort, showed why they are 5 games out of the hunt.
It's not because they are old. It's not because they aren't trying hard enough. This team has been assembled with the engine of a Mazda Miata, the suspension of an F-350 and the body of a Hyundai Boring As Crap car. The design is flawed and it shows and don't think the players don't know that, either.
Post game audio from Sports 620 KTAR. Wait until you hear what Shaq says! He doesn't throw anyone under the bus or call for the ball more! What will the Shaq haters do with that!
I came up with four reasons why the Suns lost this game. Here's a hint: "energy" wasn't one of them and turnovers wasn't the other, which just goes to show that curing a few symptoms doesn't always beat the disease.
Shaq was 9 for 10 in this game. That's 90% for you math challenged types. 90% shooting from the field. I am no Dr. Jack Ramsey but it seems to me if you've got a guy shooting 90% then you might want to give him the ball more times than you give the guy shooting say, oh, 46%. And yes, I do understand that he wouldn't have shot 90% with 20 attempts.
Dampier wasn't a factor in this game at all and, in fact, the best thing he did was get into foul trouble so some kid named R. Hollins could come in and front Shaq and beat him down the floor a couple of times. The Mavs also came pretty quickly at Shaq with double teams all game.
So, what else could the Suns do in that situation? Could they move the ball around and repost Shaq on the other side of the lane? Could they lob the ball over the fronting defense like they did against the Raptors?
Or, since this is a quick fire system, perhaps the better move was simply to take the first open shot once Shaq passed out of the double team. Yes. That one. That's the best way to use your 90% shooter.
All this proves (hopefully once and for all) is that Shaq doesn't fit in an up-tempo style. Seven Seconds or Shaq only works if you actually go to Shaq once the early offense isn't there.
If your entire offensive principle is around shooting quickly and keeping the pace moving, then you are not going to have the patience to repost your big man or find other creative ways to get him the ball no matter what kind of mismatch he might have.
Meanwhile, on the other end, The Big Frustration was getting beat down the floor by his 24-year-old opponent who didn't hide his head in fear after getting popped in the nose.
Can't trap the pick and roll and recover quickly enough. Can't run the floor fast enough in transition. So let's play him 30+ minutes and use him to set screens at the free throw line extended. How does this make sense again?
Apparently it doesn't, since Shaq sat out the final crucial stretch where the Suns were trying to hope and faith their way to a comeback victory. That tells you all you need to know about how Shaq fits on this team. He doesn't.
Dirk was awesome. Dirk was Dirk. You knew that Dirk missing shots was only going to last so long. But since we don't worry about defense, we can't play a bigger man on him like Swift to give him a different look and we certainly can't run guys at him and take the ball out of his hand until it's pretty much too late.
Credit Jason Kidd, though, because when the Suns finally did run Barbosa at Dirk, Kidd stepped up and hit two big three pointers late. Those were probably the clutchiest daggers of the game.
I still am not all that impressed with a Mavericks team that relies on jump shooting to win games. But hey, they won the game, so what do I know?
3. JJ Barrea
Eddie Johnson, who I think understands and explains the Suns better than anyone, pointed out in the post game show that the inability to stop JJ Barea in the first quarter was huge. Dirk wasn't hitting at that point and there really wasn't anyone else on the floor you were worried about until Terry came in.
Once again, the Suns got hammered with the high pick and roll as JJ kept the Mavs in the game while the Suns were looking pretty darn good on the offensive end with a lot of off-the-ball movement creating open looks.
Barea was 7-10 in the first half for 14 of his 16 total points.
Here's an interesting statistical side note:
Goran Dragic played under 5 minutes and had all zeros on his box score (except for 1 turnover) so how did he end up a +1 while Nash was a -1? Yes, the answer is partly because that stat is stupid but it could have something to do with the defense he played on Barea which was pretty decent considering the alternative.
4. Dry Spell
I commented after the first half that the Suns looked pretty good. I was feeling confident about the game actually. The offensive was varied and moving. Four guys were in double figures. Dirk hadn't gone all Dirk-y (which some of you might remember used to mean "choke" but hasn't for a while now).
What happened? A dry spell. Again.
The Suns were up 70-64 at about the 10 minute mark of the 3rd when they proceeded to give up the lead for good to a Mavs 9-0 run.
During that stretch Nash had a turnover after getting trapped under the rim. Hill (whose foot must still be bothering him) missed two wide open shots. Shaq had an offensive foul that bloodied Hollins' nose. And Nash forced up an off-balance, well-defended "shot." Fortunately, that was one of only a couple shots from Nash that were questionable.
Overall, the offense looked pretty darn good as you would imagine with 117 points, 55% shooting and only 10 turnovers. For most teams, that will earn you a win. The Suns, however, are giving up 116 per game since Amare went out and are only scoring 112.
For historical purposes only, note that the Suns averaged 104 and gave up 103 during the Porter era.
My question to all you fans of running and gunning is this: Have you seen enough yet? Are you ready to tilt the balance the other direction and play a bit bigger and a bit slower for more of the game (and still run opportunistically and go small for times, too)?
Or perhaps it just needs more time to gel.
Banana hammock!...just checking to see how many of you actually read this far. Not many I am guessing.