On January 9th during the game broadcast commentator Eddie Johnson said, "Getting rid of ugly ain't easy". He couldn't be more right about both things he states in that phrase. First - the Suns are playing extremely ugly basketball right now. It's hard to watch, as a matter of fact I stopped watching the Suns v. Nets game after that one dude that looks like a girl hit a 3 to put the Nets up by 15 in the 3rd. I said to myself (and to the vast numbers of salivating @Eutychus12 fans that follow me on Twitter),
And so to avoid punching small animals or kicking any holes in the wall, I instead chose to vent my frustrations by heading to an empty gym by myself and hitting fade-away jumpers and issuing vicious elbows to imaginary Nets players until Midnight. After I had successfully put up 375 points and defensively limited the Nets to just 10 points, I wiped the sweat from my brow and I was happy to read this text on my phone,"The Suns rallied to beat the New Jersy Nets in overtime 118-109 behind 23 points, 16 assists and 7 rebounds from Steve Nash".
Usually I feel guilty when I turn off a Suns game in frustration because I never like to miss a second of the game. I love the Suns that much. But not this time. It was like I was the fed-up single parent of a rebellious teen that no matter how hard I pleaded for the kid to clean his room the booger wouldn't do it - so I left to work the late shift angry and disappointed that my child wouldn't listen... BUT! When I came home from work what did I find? The turd had actually cleaned his room AND done the dishes to my surprise and I couldn't have been more proud. Does that make sense?
Whatever, it was just the Nets right? Right. But like Alex wrote in the title to his preview of that game, the Suns needed a victory of any kind, and they battled back from a 15 point deficit in the 4th quarter & overtime and got both a moral victory along with an actual W in the column. Now it's time to carryover that momentum and show that same kind of heart tonight as the level of competition is increased and the Suns try avoiding a season sweep in their 4th and final regular season meeting with the Portland Trailblazers (20-19). Now to the actual preview - JUMP IT FOOLS!
"Getting rid of ugly ain't easy"
The second truth to Eddie's profound statement - getting rid of that ugliness is going to be no easy task. It's like swimming upstream. Before the Denver blowout, Alvin Gentry told his team and told us - that the next two weeks would basically determine success or failure of the season. I haven't quite hit the abort button yet and I'm going to take him for his word. Over these two weeks of seasonal determination there are 8 games - we're 1-1 to this point with 6 very winnable games ahead of us (POR, NY, CLE, WAS, DET, PHI). We have a very real opportunity to get back to at least .500 or even above it if we put a streak together and win out. To let's cross our fingers and pay attention.
Albert Einstein said,
Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them
Similarly and by my own interpretation - the Suns can't get rid of this ugly by only beating teams equal to or less than their level. (Our last two wins have been against terrible teams... Cleveland and New Jersey) Our next two games will allow us to make some progress as we play two teams with mediocre records, which as sad as it is to admit - mediocre is the next level from our position.
Now in this microcosm of a season we're putting in the petri dish (the two weeks mentioned by Gentry), this Portland game tonight will most definitely be the most difficult game for this Suns team as the Trailblazers have dominated us pretty easily this season. It's because their strengths really expose our weaknesses - rebounding, inside scoring (exposes our interior defense), and Wes Mathews. Yeah I said Wes Mathews.
Everyone is aware by now that nobody in the league is intimidated by the Suns anymore. In fact, teams look forward to playing the Suns. Just read this excerpt in a major preview of tonight's game,
A favorable opponent and an extra day off give the Portland Trail Blazers a good chance to rebound from one of their worst offensive performances of the season.
The Blazers go on the road to begin an easy portion of the schedule Friday night as they try to pick apart the league-worst defense of the Phoenix Suns and complete a season sweep.
We're the slump buster team. Just look at Denver, they were struggling - then they put up 178 points against us and then go on to put up another 180 points and embarrass the Heat last night (does that make our loss sting a little less? Probably not - we're all probably a little too numb to feel any sting regardless).
Not only are we the Team Slump Busters of the league - but we afford obscure players the golden opportunity to put up career highs, career firsts, and career high averages against us. Just ask Raymond Felton, Manny Harris, etc.
Wes Mathews is no exception - he's averaging 17.6 points against the Suns this season and is a huge reason the Blazers have scored over 100 points in their 3 meetings so far against us (when the team averages only 95 ppg otherwise). Here's the part where I would say - look for him to have a big game because he's due, especially since he's gone cold shooting over the past 6 games and only hit 2 of 12 from behind the arc. It would seem only fitting that he'd wake up and shake the slump against the Suns right?
Well good news Suns fans - he tweaked his ankle in practice yesterday per the Oregonian practice report. Great news for us eh? Well, don't get your hopes up too high - he'll probably be fine even though they say now his status for the game is questionable.
Watch out for this guy and shoot your finger guns at him from your couch.
The Blazers and injuries are almost synonymous nowadays. It's pretty sad and I'm sure it's no laughing matter for Blazer fans. I'm sure you've heard the news by now and though I've joked about Roy's knees in the past, this isn't funny at all. If you haven't heard the news here a snippet from the Blazersedge,
TRAIL BLAZERS GUARD BRANDON ROY TO HAVE ARTHROSCOPIC SURGERY ON BOTH KNEES
PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy will undergo arthroscopic surgery on both knees, it was announced today by General Manager Rich Cho.
The surgery will be performed by Dr. Don Roberts in Vancouver, Wash. next week.
There is no timetable for his return.
I hate him when he's playing against the Suns... but I really enjoyed watching him when he was healthy. Since he's out - this might be a good thing for the Suns tonight, but this is a terrible thing for Roy, the Blazers and the league. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.
Though Roy might be out... the Blazers have proven in the past that they can win against the Suns without him in the lineup. They still have a plethora of guys that can take the ball to hole and get high percentage shots or get fouled. LaMarcus Aldridge will be that guy that the Suns will need to lock down tonight. He has been on absolute fire for the past two weeks. The Blazers are coming off of back-to-back home losses coming into tonight's game... but Aldridge is riding a 6 game double-double streak and is averaging 26.4 ppg over the last 7.
I sat and watched Letterman last night because I heard somebody was going to make an appearance...
It was a good interview and I found myself missing the fool like a jealous ex-girlfriend. It made me think about tonight's game and how without Amare Stoudemire to punk and bully-ball Aldridge, as was the case last year - he's likely to continue his hot-streak - but then I remembered that we haven't yet seen how Gortat may help us against the Blazers... here's to hoping he can make a difference in the paint.
Dude had 18 rebounds against us last game... he's always a problem for the Suns. Here's to hoping he doesn't do that again.
Grant Hill will most definitely play tonight per Seth.
Steve Nash - Nicolas Batum
Grant Hill - Andre Miller
Vince Carter - Wes Mathews (game-time decision)
Channing Frye - LaMarcus Aldridge
Robin Lopez - Marcus Camby
As is usually the case - the Trailblazers will try to force Steve Nash to give up the ball. They are very effective at forcing Nash to do it with traps and full-court presses, so we are really going to need our wings and our bigs to be especially productive tonight cutting, posting up, and handling the ball. Limit the turnovers.
The Blazers will also look to get into the paint early and often - the scouting report on the Suns right now is that if you're able to get a lead on them early, we'll roll over. So our interior defense will need to be ON from the get-go tonight. We cannot afford to have a slow start defensively against Portland, because if they get it going early in the paint - it will only allow open looks all night around the perimeter for their shooters like Mathews, Fernandez, Johnson.. and even Andre Miller seems to hit every 3 he takes against the Suns. How about we change that storyline tonight, what do you say guys?
Most of all, from the Suns we need 48 minutes of effort. We're all tired of the hot and cold spell roller-coaster games. Lets play Suns basketball - get out and run on Camby and Miller and take it to the rim on Batum and Mathews. Let's see the Dragon take out some frustration and be aggressive against Portland's slower guards - there will be no Speedy Ty Lawson or annoying Sasha to pester Dragic - though Patty Mills is quick Dragic should be able to outplay him as well. The Bench needs to play well. But I'm preaching to the choir here.
All I really want to see is effort. Let's do this.
Paul Coro goodies:
Just how does Dudley do all he does without the speed or leaping ability of peers? Cunning, hustle and preparation go a long way, as his 15.7 scoring average over the past 11 games will attest.
"It's one thing to lose," Babby told KTAR." "it's another thing not to compete. And that's the part of this that I'm having a hard time fathoming and will not accept and our franchise will not accept it and our ownership will not accept it and our community should not accept it.
Frye is getting used to many new shots, whether it is stepping in for mid-range jumpers when defenders chase him off the 3-point line or backing down a guard when teams switch on his screens for guard Steve Nash.
Last season, he averaged 2.1 two-point attempts per game and 4.8 3s. In the past eight games, he has taken 6.5 two-point shots per game and 3.5 3s.
Q: What kind of conversations do people start with you on the street here?
A: Slowly but surely, they'll say, 'I've seen you somewhere.' They don't know who I am but they're like, 'You look kind of familiar.' Most of the time, they ask, 'How tall are you?' I always try to have a good demeanor and a smile on my face so I seem like a nice person and not a butt- hole. If you're nice, good things come back to you.
The mistake now is overreaction which is exactly the biggest mistake the Robert Sarver Suns have made in his tenure. Trading Steve Nash and Grant Hill would be the wrong move unless the deal is brings back an potential franchise player and there's not a single (realistic) trade idea out there that does that.
And visit the Blazersedge -
Meanwhile they sport the worst defensive efficiency mark in the league, bar none. They're so-so getting back on "D" and awful at keeping people out of the paint. Only Toronto allows a higher field goal percentage. They're lousy rebounders too.
When you look at it, though, this is exactly how you'd expect a lineup featuring Steve Nash, Vince Carter (playing the role of Jason Richardson), and Grant Hill to play. And where's the help? Channing Frye? Hakim Warrick? Robin Lopez's jersey title should be officially changed to "Not Brook". Marcin Gortat? Josh Childress?
I leave you with a little Steve Nash humor. Enjoy the game.
[Note by Eutychus, 01/14/11 11:17 AM PST ]
Above watercolor artwork of Steve Nash provided by Cindi Tanner (my mom), you can see some of the work she does for the interwebs here -> www.atherius.com