This is a really tough game to wrap my mind around. So much here to dissect, from the horrible start to the great comeback to the blown opportunity to the
It is a classic case of bright side vs. dark side and normally I can easily pick one of those and write with that theme in mind. With this game, there is so much of everything, that I am going gray. The Gray Side of the Sun.
On the bright side of the first half...
the Suns showed up at the arena without getting injured on the way over. That's pretty much all I can come up with for the start of this game. Oh, I've got it. The Suns out scored the Jazz 12 -6 in fast break points. In the first quarter, the Jazz showed a complete lack of interest in playing any sort of transition defense and the Suns abused them for it.
On the dark side of the first half...
there was the first half. It was horrible. The Suns had 11 points in the 2nd quarter and shot 29% from the field. Barnes and JRich combined for 4 blown layups. Not the tough "in traffic" kind but the wide open "can't miss" kind. Nash was 2-11 and it wasn't as if he was well defended. He just missed. But he wasn't alone. No one shot the ball (well) and the starters once again looked tired and a bit resigned to an early start to the summer. The bench wasn't able to come in and help much, either.
Credit the Jazz for not dropping their shorts and peeing on the court. The Jazz really don't deserve any more credit than that for their first half 52 to 35 point lead. If anything, they should have been up by at least 30 with as crappy as the Suns played. I am all about giving the other side their due when it's deserved. They don't deserve it. Only Okur looked sharp and that was only for the first quarter.
On the bright side of the second half...
the Suns bench, led by Jared "My New Hero" Dudley, staged a comeback of legendary proportions. The Suns had all but thrown in the towel (I certainly had) when at about the 9 minute mark the Jazz were up 21 and the tide turned. Slowly.
The run was started by the starters and it wasn't one of those old classic 10-0 2-minute runs. It was the chip away, grind it out kind. From that point to the end of the quarter, the Suns outscored the Jazz 21 to11 with Nash and Hill logging 5 each.
Deron Williams somehow managed to pick up four fouls in less than 4 minutes during that time, which helped Phoenix but also must have used up all the karma the Suns had with the whistle gods.
Dragic, you might have noticed, played considerable time with Nash as JRich spent the better part of the 3rd and 4th quarters on the bench. At one point in this game, on a break away, Nash lobbed a ball to Richardson and he was barely able to elevate and was lucky to tap in a ball he normally would have slammed home.
Richardson was obviously not playing at 100% for this game. I believe he rolled his ankle in Portland and his 4 points and 0-4 from behind the line performance was painful to watch. But this is the bright side of the recap, so great work by Dragic who also couldn't hit the broad side of the barn but had some good defensive plays, including 2 steals.
On the dark side of the second half...
the Suns blew what would have been the greatest win of the season and a truly legendary Suns victory (especially if the team made the playoffs) in what can only be described as a HUGE FAIL.
Behind Dudley's 12-point 4th quarter (and Shaq's 8 pts) the Suns took a 7-point lead into the final two minutes and a four point lead in the final :34 seconds.
The Jazz had actually cut the lead from 7 to 2 in about an 80-second span before Nash, who finally arrived for the game in time for the final half (scoring 15 of his 20 points) hit a running off-balance Nash special to give the Suns a solid 4-point lead.
With 34 seconds to go, the Jazz had the ball and Williams finally hit a fadeway J (he missed a ton of them) to cut the lead to two with only 25 seconds left.
All the Suns needed to do was either burn the clock or play the foul game. Instead, under Jazz full court pressure, Hill inbounded to Barnes who freaked the f--k out and passed back to Hill, who barely had time to step in bounds. It is not clear if Hill fumbled the pass or was never inbounds when he caught it. Either way. Epic fail. Turnover.
The Jazz, of course, hit the shot to tie the game and send it to overtime, where the Suns couldn't buy a call despite Okur shoving Shaq with two hands in the back or plowing through Nash on a screen.
Game over. The Utah whatever the hell it is mystical powers come through in the clutch. Game over.
On the bright side of the summary...
the Suns were totally out of this game and guys like Dudley and even Swift and Lopez stepped up and played solid energetic defense until Shaq and Nash finally arrived on the court.
It would have been a fantastic victory and a real momentum boost going into the final stretch of 9 games. Even without the win it was still a great comeback and the kind of performance that you can build on.
The confidence in the bench continues to grow and the team is finding ways to win (almost) that in the past we would have never thought possible. The comeback was gutsy and showed heart and determination that you can only admire.
On the dark side of the summary...
The game was over. It was won. 7 points with two minutes left. Four points with 34 seconds left. You have to win that game. You have to find a way not to lose that game.
Random bright and dark side thoughts...
- The Suns really are missing Amare the most in end of game situations. At the end of OT Nash and Shaq ran a pick and roll and when they trapped Nash he was able to find a wide open Shaq at the top of the lane. If that had been Amare, it's two easy points. Shaq can't shoot on the run or run and then shoot so he wisely dished to an open Hill who missed a shot that would have tied the game and forced a 2OT
- On the bright side, the Suns didn't need to play any more OT's having already played 3 games in four days and with another tomorrow on the road. Even though it is the Kings, it is a very dangerous game for a tired team missing Barbosa and with a clearly hobbled Richardson
- The Jazz were not that impressive in the win. Williams hit a couple of clutch shots and Okur hit a big three but overall, that team didn't play good defense and almost blew a 21-point lead at home to a 9 seed. I would not be thrilled if I were a Jazz fan right now
- Lopez had two huge rebounds and as my favorite broadcaster Eddie Johnson pointed out, two months ago he doesn't grab those boards. Improvement is good. Need to see more from him because if Robin was where we thought he would be by now the Suns are a much, much better team
- Tucker, despite my love for him in general has not stepped up during Barbosa's absence
- The loss in OT forcing Nash and Shaq and Hill to play big minutes was probably the worst possible outcome considering the game tomorrow
This one you can live with. Losing to the Kings on the same day the Mavs are playing in Cleveland would spell the end of what is already a long shot playoff chase.