Last night's game against the Lakers was an instant classic. By far the best game of the 2010-11 season. I don't care if you're East Coast biased and completely favor teams like the Heat, Celtics or Bulls (*cough*ESPN*cough*), that game was legendary. It's unfortunate that the Suns couldn't have come out on the winning side of things last night, but what's done is done.
Instead of having really any time to recuperate, with the starters all logging insane amounts of minutes, the Suns travel back home to face the Toronto Raptors. Expect this game to turn into a jump shot-fest, as is usually the case when teams are incredibly tired. And, you know, when you're facing the Toronto Raptors, who hold their opponents to an average of 48.2% shooting. That's worse than Cleveland and Sacramento, and only marginally better than Detroit. Yeah, it's bad.
That said, the Suns need to find whatever it is will propel them to a victory. I dislike using the term "must win," but the Suns MUST win this game if they want to have a shot at making the playoffs. I also don't like to make sweeping predictions based on one game, but if the Suns lose this game, we're missing the playoffs. I'm calling it now.
No one will fault the Suns if they come out shooting flat, playing minimal defense and just generally lacking energy. Everyone understands that triple overtime games take awhile to recuperate from, especially when you're as old as Nash, Hill and Carter (37, 38, 34). However, even with the excuses already locked and loaded, the Suns need to try their best to win this game.
With Toronto coming into this game losing six of their last nine games and sitting at a measly 20-50 record, the Suns should be able to pounce on this team, even with their lack of fresh legs. If the Suns can't find a way to come out firing against the second worst field goal percentage defense in the NBA, they don't deserve to win this game. But enough of the generalizations and whatnot - let's get into what the Suns actually need to do in order to win.
Step Up 4: The Bench
The Suns' bench needs to step up their collective game to the highest level possible. We know Nash is going to be tired. We know Hill is going to lose a step defensively for the evening. We know Vince Carter is...well, if we see less of him, I think we're all okay with that. But with all the starters likely burnt out from playing heavy minutes last night, it is the Suns bench needs to be the spark that ignites the team to victory.
Aaron Brooks played well in his limited minutes against the Lakers, putting up 15 points in 14 minutes and being one of the catalysts that got the Suns back into the game against the Lake Show. Lopez even put up respectable numbers in his 10 minutes on the court, netting 4 points, 2 blocks and 3 rebounds. If there ever were a time for Lopez to step his game up, it is now. Not just for tonight's victory (though that's necessary as well), but if this team is thinking about the playoffs at all, they're going to need more production from Robin.
Shut Down The Excuse Factory
If the bench can't get it done tonight, it will be with a hope and a prayer that the Suns pull out a victory. As mentioned before, the excuse cannon is ready and aimed to fire. "But they were coming off a triple overtime game that ended late last night," one fan might say. "Gortat and Frye played a combined 110 minutes last night, what else could you expect," (hypothetically) quoth another Suns faithful. "They were hitting their shots and are a young team, and when you let a young team hit their shots, they get confidence, and my knee was giving me problems , and we played in triple overtime last night, and..." Vince Carter
might probably will say.
It is the time of the season where excuses just aren't good enough. For the first few months of the season, it was the Adjustment Period. The Suns were getting used to Hedo Turkoglu and their remade bench and vice versa. When the trade with Orlando went down, it was the Adjustment Period Redux. Sometime last week, it was the Steve Nash And Channing Frye Are Injured Period (I know, great name, right?). But at this point, with a healthy roster and the playoffs barely in sight, the Suns have no excuses. Triple overtime, schmriple overtime.
Expect to see an intense first quarter and a half from the Suns, as the desire for victory carries their tired little legs around the court. But don't be surprised if the third quarter slump is even worse than normal. At that point, we can just hope the Raptors live up to their sterling defensive reputation (jokes) and hope our jumpers fall. If not, we could be looking at the harsh realization that this Suns team just isn't going to make the playoffs.
Tough loss, very tough to swallow. The Suns had multiple opportunities to win this one, but couldn't get it done. It was a good game nonetheless. It may have even been the best game all season. Too bad the Suns were on the bitter end of it. The better team won.
This loss pretty much sums up the story of the season for these Phoenix Suns; getting off to a decent start, falling away, making a comeback, taking a brief lead, giving it up again, fighting to get it back and never giving up, but falling short in the end.
Their record now stands at 35-34 behind the 37-34 Rockets and 39-32 Grizzlies who hold the 8th seed. When you look at teams like the Grizzlies you'll notice that they've managed to play through injuries (losing Rudy Gay) and upset some very good teams such as the Thunder, Mavs and even the Spurs. The Suns have been unable to do that losing close ones to the Thunder, Mavs, Lakers and even the Rockets and Hornets in recent weeks; can't say they haven't tried though.
Playoff chances are looking pretty dim and the Suns just can't seem to get that miracle when they need it. It doesn't mean all is over as they still have a chance and I'd be surprised if they just laid down and called it a season. They'll fight to the end because that is who they are, the Phoenix Suns.
Suns got off to a decent start and took a 31-27 lead by the end of the first. From 2nd quarter things kind of went down hill as they allowed the Lakers to score 39 and take a 6-pt lead into halftime. Both teams were on fire for much of the first half and not much defense was played at all. Same story for much of the 3rd quarter only the Suns started missing their shots and the Lakers took a 21 point lead with about 4 minutes to go. At that point I thought, "Well, not surprised they're getting blown-out. I guess I can start writing the recap and than call it a night and get some extra sleep." Boy was I wrong!
Steve Nash led a comeback with 4 minutes to go in the 3rd, hitting three straight three-pointers. The Suns managed to tie the game at 101-101 and than Kobe checked in and led the Lakers to a 9-0 run. Suns didn't give up. Down 106-112 they tied the game to take it into overtime thanks to two threes from Frye and Grant Hill.
In OT the Lakers took a 121-118 lead with about 2.5 seconds to go and Lamar fouled Channing Frye on a 3-pointer. Frye once again came through in the clutch knocking down all three attempts to send it into a 2nd overtime.
In 2nd overtime, Frye hit another 3-pointer to give the Suns a 130-128 lead. Gasol was fouled and made two free- throws to tie it.
A 3rd overtime! This is where things got rough. Both teams were tired, but for the Suns players like Nash (37), Carter (34) and Hill (38); they can only go for so long before they run out of gas. Nash turned the ball over 2 times, Grant fouled out and Carter missed a wide open three. The worst mistake was when they were down 135-137 and refused to foul, letting Odom run off the clock and throwing it in to Kobe who scored over Channing. The Suns lost 137-139.
Steve Nash- 20 assist, 19 points on 7-15 shooting.
Channing Frye- 32 points on 11-23 shooting and 14 rebounds.
Marcin Gortat- 24 points on 9-15 shooting and 16 rebounds.
Grant Hill- 11 and 10.
Aaron Brooks- 15 points on 6-9 shooting and 3 assist in only 13 minutes. Brooks played well in limited time and lived up to his "Laker Killer" title. We have to question if Gentry should have gone to him for a minute or two in the 2nd OT just to give Nash a breather?
Well, good night folks. Lets hope the bench comes up big against the Raptors tomorrow because we'll need em.
I hope we are treated to more games like this from Nash and Hill in the playoffs. I hope these two guys are back in Suns' uniforms next season doing what only they can do. But if not and this triple overtime game on a Tuesday night with the entire NBA community watching has to be their encore performance, the show couldn't have ended in a better way...except for the final score.