I did not intend to watch any games today, The Suns lost. I was not in the mood to watch basketball today, but I was at least going to check the scores. So I go check the scores and I see that The Bucks are down 30 to The Heat at the half. Now I have to tune in. For context, the Bucks are down Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez but that can’t be the whole story. It seems like the Heat are having an amazing shooting night, but they are also out hustling Giannis, and the rest of the Bucks. Starting in the second half what have I seen? The Heat are really moving, both off the ball and the ball itself. Their guys are getting each other open shots, and playing tough defense on Giannis. Having watched only the 3rd quarter, the thing that stands out the most is that The Heat are willing to put themselves in Giannis’ way, they are making the physical sacrifice and getting rewarded. The most stark difference between this game and the Nets game on opening night is how Antetokounmpo is being refereed. He is not being allowed to bowl players over per his usual strategy, and it appears to be affecting his aggression. Hopefully that doesn’t come off as me just being a salty Suns fan, but the last 5 games I’ve watched Giannis play in, he has looked like the most physically unstoppable player since Shaq, and so far today he’s looked pedestrian and lethargic. As I said earlier though, The Heat are all willing to get in his way and disrupt him in any way they can, and not just Giannis but the rest of the short handed Bucks too. On top of their defense The Heat are also having a good shooting night, moving the ball, and are much more active than the Bucks on both sides of the glass. I’m not sure what the first half was like, but I can presume it was more of the same. There’s still a quarter left but The Heat refuse to relent and head into a likely all garbage time 4th quarter with a 36 point lead 105-69.
Both teams start the 4th with their bench units as expected, The Heat bench is playing with as much intensity as ever, only increasing the lead. With Giannis unlikely to get much burn, if any, in the rest of this game, there isn’t much more to learn about either of these teams tonight. Heat good, Bucks injured. Actually, a special note should be made for Tyler Hero who has had a great game, and is currently cooking The Buck’s reserves. Benches empty at the 8:00 minute mark of the 4th quarter.
About The Suns though. Originally I had game notes ready to post immediately after last night’s game, but John Voita had such a thorough writeup that I felt it was unnecessary to add more to the conversation. But now, how can I talk about Bucks V. Heat and not The Suns?
As has already been said, The Suns had a very lackluster game, but I wouldn’t say they were terrible in their first game, just slow, maybe even unmotivated to compete at a playoff level in the very first game of the season. Which is somewhat understandable, The Nuggets didn’t play all the way to the finals, they did not face Demon King Giannis. These guys are human, of course there’s fatigue, both physical and mental. An aspect of the game which we should not ignore. The Suns largely executed their offensive scheme but did not make enough of their shots, only some of the credit should be given to The Nuggets defense as the Suns missed quite a few wide open shots. What The Nuggets did do is play like Tom Thibodeau had been in their ear since they got eliminated in, motivating them into honest playoff intensity on both sides of the ball for the whole game. Maybe if the Suns had made their open shots, it could’ve been a close game late in the 4th and The Suns could possibly squeeze out a tight win, but the Nuggets were having none of that. On the defensive end, The Suns were subpar, but not bad. A lack of effort is an easy way to sum up what happened last night but it was more specifically a lack of rotational discipline that was the most glaring weakness out there. Jokic was MVP Jokic, and MPJ had an outstanding night shooting, but beyond those 2, the Nuggets continuously penetrated into the paint, and dished out to the wings for open 3s. The Nuggets then only exacerbated the Suns’ troubles by moving the ball even more after passing out to the wings. It was probably a little of column A, a little of column B. Flat footed low effort defense on initial actions probably lead right into the penetration, which in turn forces hard rotations. It could have been worse, The Suns could have easily been blown out by 30, that’s why I don’t think they played badly, just mediocre. The Suns were sufficient on both ends, sufficient enough not to get blown out. That’s just not good enough in the Western Conference, sufficient basketball will not win you games, especially against a team with something to prove against you specifically.
In comparison to The Heat and Bucks? The Suns probably beat tonight's Bucks and play a tough game against The Heat, it’s tough to say more than that. It’s a long season and one or two game samples aren’t enough to extrapolate anything of substance. I have faith that by season's end, The Suns will be a more cohesive team that could beat any team in the league, but they’ll have to play better than they did in the first game of the season.