A week ago at this time, the Suns were slipping into darkness. They had completely fallen apart to the tune of a 4-game losing streak as of Ray's writing of last week's 'Week in Review' post. A respectable start had degenerated into embarrassing losses to Cleveland and New Jersey on consecutive nights and a 5-game east coast trip on the horizon.
After an embarrassing loss to Chicago (without Derrick Rose, even) that stretched the losing streak to 5 games, 2-time MVP Steve Nash finally found his handy dandy headlamp and carried the team through the darkness. Coach Alvin Gentry switched up the starting lineup, by moving Channing Frye and Jared Dudley back to the bench where they previously shined, and the team rebounded with gritty wins on the road against New York and Boston. The wins were by no means pretty, but wins are wins. All wins count the same.
Did I use the word 'wins' enough in that last paragraph? It's a nice word. Can't possibly be overused.
As the Suns enter a new week, let's take a deeper look into the week that was.
Record for the week (January 16-22): 2-1
Overall record for the season: 6-9
Western Conference Position: 12th
Even going 2-1 this past week, the Suns lost ground in the conference (they were 11th a week ago). It's going to be an uphill battle all season folks, so strap yourselves in for a bumpy and expectedly unpleasant ride. There are a lot of teams in the same talent range as the Suns, and too many with more talent. Read this article by Paul Coro - beat writer for the Suns - for a great breakdown of the west.
Offensive Rating: 101.8 (17th of 30); Points per game: 92.9 (18th of 30)
As you can see, the Suns are no longer an offensive juggernaut. They began to fade last season too, but not nearly to these levels. Grant Hill is slowly regaining his legs, which are key to his offensive arsenal of jump shots and breakaways. Jared Dudley and Channing Frye have been completely healthy, but haven't shot nearly as well this season as last season. And remember, this is the same top-5 as the second half of last year.
Over time, the offensive rating should improve, but the days of leading the league in scoring are gone. The Suns simply don't play fast enough anymore.
Defensive Rating: 103.8 (20th of 30); Points allowed per page: 94.7 (17th of 30)
The Suns' defense improved again this week, against New York (88 points allowed) and Boston (71 points allowed). Only the Chicago game was a real stinker (whopping 118 points allowed). If the Suns are going to win half their games this year, they need a defense in the top half of the league. A healthy Grant Hill will go a long way toward that end. He really put the screws to Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce last week. Plus, Ronnie Price hounded Ray Allen into a poor night as well.
As you can tell from the offensive and defensive ratings, the Suns are a bit below average. Their 6-9 record is no aberration.
Game of the week: Suns 79, Celtics 71
The Suns played really good defense in this game, as Ray told us after the win.
The Celtics "Big Three" tallied only 36 points combined as the Suns played a stifling, ball-hawking defense that is foreign to most Suns fans. Sure, the Celtics are aging and their offense was discombobulated with Rondo out, but the Suns played defense with a ton of energy.
The game was so recent, let's just hit the link to the game recap and bask in the glory.
Stud of the Week: Steve Nash
While Marcin Gortat has been stellar all week, it's the magical return of Steve Nash to his MVP form that has made the Suns a winner these past two games. Nash is hitting that on-the-run-3 from the right elbow again and driving to the basket for twisting behind-the-head layups for the first time since... well, he hasn't hit those shots with ease and regularity in a long, long time. Makes me smile all big and goofy.
Nash's week produced averages of 20 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds. Very nice.
Honorable mention to the inimitable Marcin Gortat, with averages of 16 pts, 13 rebounds and almost 2 blocks this past week.
Dud of the Week:
Channing lost his starting job, and no one was surprised. He's been so maddeningly inconsistent. Even when we thought he was breaking out of his shooting slump in time to go on a hot streak, he didn't. And he's not producing much of anything else, either.
Channing's week: averages of 5 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks, along with 3 fouls in 20 minutes per game.
Not many other duds, really. Unless you count Michael Redd, who sat the last 2 games. The team had a pretty good week, overall.
The team finally comes back home, and at worst it will be a 2-3 trip. if they can slip past Dirk-less Dallas tomorrow, I will rejoice. After that, the Suns host Toronto, hit the road to Portland and then host Memphis. Not a good sked overall. Better hope for wins against Dallas on 2 rare days rest, then lowly Toronto at home.