With a hard-earned 5-1 record since the All-Star Break, the Phoenix Suns find themselves only 1/2 game out of the 8th playoff seed with 22 games remaining on the schedule.
But it's not just since the All-Star break that the Suns have been playing well. How about since the now-annual January 28 "kick it into high gear" game? 12-4 so far, thankyouverymuch (after 28-7 last year). And overall since the "Denver debacle", marked by team President Lon Babby's public apology for the team's play and Marcin Gortat's proclamation that the Suns defense was the worst in the league, the Suns are a sterling 17-7.
The Suns are on a roll, just in time to face a very difficult string of games in the near horizon. While their slate is no more difficult than another other contender in the 5-10 range, it's tough nonetheless.
OKC tonight. Houston (and Dragic) Tuesday. Denver (and their band of merry men) Thursday. Orlando (and JRich/Hedo) next Sunday.
Can the Suns come out with supreme energy on the last of 6 straight road games tonight? How will they react to seeing Dragic in red on Tuesday? Or JRich in blue pinstripes on Sunday? Or, in between those games, the blurry-paced speed demons from Denver who've regularly crushed the Suns without Carmelo and now have even more speedy reinforcements?
We will see what this team is made of. Starting tonight.
Hit the jump for details on OKC, and commentary on Steve Nash's health.
Mighty OKC's record (38-22) is nearly the same as the Suns (32-28)! You just gotta swap a couple of the numbers. In Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, OKC has the requisite 2 All-Stars needed to be a title contender. The biggest question remaining for this team is whether they can get it done on the big stage of the playoffs.
New, and necessary, acquisitions C Kendrick Perkins and backup PG Nate Robinson are out for this game. But OKC is not likely worried. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collision and Nazr Mohammed are all Suns-killers who will gobble up the minutes at the 4 and 5 spots tonight. In addition, former ASU star and current Suns killer James Harden has stepped up as the third scoring option (17 PPG last 6 games) in the absence of Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.
Keys to tonight's game
Durant and Westbrook will get theirs, but everyone on the floor knows it. The Suns need to make these guys' points come with less efficiency than normal. 25 points is okay if it's on 25-30 shots.
After those 2 guys, DON'T allow 2 or more other players amongst Harden, Sefalosha, Cook, Ibaka, Collison and Mohammed to have career games. Last time, it was Ibaka and Green who killed the Suns in Phoenix (which resulted in a last-minute win for OKC). A few years ago, I still remember Nazr Mohammed dropping 30 and 11 on the Suns while playing for the Spurs. And I can't count how many times Nick Collison has helped beat the Suns with double-doubles.
If only one of those tertiary guys goes off, the Suns can weather it. If two or more have great games, it will be a long night.
Nash's Injuried Pubic Bone
Symbolic of the Suns' in-game turnaround, Nash went from a seven-turnover first half to making eight second-half assists without a turnover. If it hurt to watch, imagine how it felt for Nash, who has been fighting through the same pubic bone irritation that hurt him in November.
"It's not been this painful," Nash said. "The muscle group in my underlying stomach muscles shuts off so you lose a lot of control. Then there's shearing forces and I have issues with my pelvis. I've had a lack of control because that muscle has been shut off for the last week but the pain just started. Playing like that for a week has made it inflamed. I just have to start back at step one and get my strength back. I definitely am not trying to shut it down. I'll try to get back on top of it and stay ahead of it."
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/sports/articles/2011/03/04/20110304phoenix-suns-win-milwaukee-bucks.html#ixzz1FpaKc0os
Am I the only one who thinks Steve Nash might be messing with us a little bit? He's definitely hurting, no doubt. But anyone who follows his work via Meathawk videos, twitter and facebook knows that he's got a sharp, dry sense of humor delivered with the most deadpan of faces.
Loss of muscle control...shearing forces...inflamed...try to get back on top of it... the whole thing gives me the willies.
But we asked for it, didn't we? We all wanted to know what was wrong this time. We wanted an explanation for his suddenly horrible shooting and tentative game management.
Phoenix Suns aim to cap successful road trip in Oklahoma City - Coro's preview in the AZ Republic
"We have an opportunity to have a real special trip," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said of Sunday's game at Ford Center, where they won short-handed in December.
"We just need to come out and play a little reckless," Frye said. "We need to play harder and be more focused. We need to set the tone, not allow the tone to be set. We need to come out and play the way we play."
For you Frye lovers and haters out there in the audience.
Tonight's game in Milwaukee was a tale of two-halves... well - at least is was from our starters who started the game flat, cold, and downright ugly.
What began as a back and forth game with ugly turnovers by the Suns and easy transition buckets for the Bucks, ended in a Suns victory as Phoenix rode an amazing 19-0 run in the third quarter from
the bench the starters who turned around in the 2nd half after trailing by 3 and played a great game defeating the Bucks by 24 points.
Mickael Pietrus stepped in for the Injured Vince Carter and played extremely well finishing with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Channing Frye also netted 20 points (5-8 from downtown), 9 rebounds and 2 steals.
After a rough loss in Boston in Tuesday the Suns stepped up tonight in a must-win game and took care of business.
Let's break it down a little more after the jump.
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In this game I mentioned how the starters came out very cold and without a lot of energy, well, everyone but Channing Frye - he has Tigers Blood. In 36 minutes he scored 20 points and had 9 rebounds and he was the work-horse that carried the Suns in the first half and continued his roll as the Suns built separation in the second half. What gets Frye even more plane-cookie points in my book is that he's doing this after coming off of a game where he was absolutely abused by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston. It was also a game in which Frye suffered a mild concussion, he missed practice yesterday but tonight he came to the game ready to work and dialed in to shoot. I think we all know of another player who's losing even more plane-cookie points (though that won't stop him from eating multiple on the ride to OKC) in my book because though he too suffered a mild concussion.. he watched the game from the locker room.
(Disclaimer: I'm not trying to make light of head injuries... but in my book Vince has a reputation of embellishing nicks and bruises. Channing Frye now has a reputation as A MAN)
Despite hitting a barrage of 3's, the most impressive basket of the night for Frye was his offensive rebound that he slammed home on the fly - a thing of beauty.
Man - what impresses me the most about MP's game tonight besides his 20 points and 8 rebounds was his activity defensively, he was everywhere! He was poking balls away, contesting everything, his weak side help as well as his slashing rebounds were awesome and he was flying in from the wing to grab boards all game.
Pietrus absolutely abused smaller guards down in the post in the second half and was feeling it (I think he's always feeling it regardless of if he's making it or not..) from behind the arc - we even heard yet another... tiger scream when he made a mistake and threw a pass into the back of an oblivious Marcin Gortat. That tells me he's engaged and passionate about making the right plays. I didn't miss Vince Carter one bit and that's probably not surprise since you already know I'm not a fan.
Nash came out of the game with 4:36 left in the first quarter, that's very early... is he tired? Is he hurt? Is he just in a slump? Is it really just that he had 5 turnovers and 2 fouls in just under 7 minutes of play? Definitely not a good start to tonight's game for Nash but I don't buy that story. Something is wrong with Steve, maybe he's got a small nagging injury. A strained oblique again, maybe his back, maybe the groin... who knows but I'm willing to start a conspiracy theory that he's hurt or in a dark place mentally or whatnot, at least he has been since the start of this road trip.
In tonight's game Steve had 7 of the team's 8 turnovers they were sporting like a haematoma at the half. Though he turned his game around in the second half without a turnover and finished with 8 points and a big 13 assists. He's still finding guys and getting the job done in that department.. but on this road trip something is definitely wrong with his shot. Here's how his shooting has been,
@Toronto - 2/12 (.167), 0-3 from 3
@Indiana - 5/14 (.357), 0-4 from 3
@New Jersey - 3/13 (.231), 0-3 from 3
@Boston - 3/7 (.429), 1-3 from 3
@Milwaukee - 3/6 (.500), 1-1 from 3
Sure his numbers were better in the last two games but look... 7 and 6 shot attempts. For the trip he's shooting just 33% from the field and a paltry 27% from 3-point range. For Steve Nash, a career 49% and 43% shooter... that is bad.
He's also coming off his worst 3-point shooting month of his career in February where he shot just 30%.
So what do you think is wrong?
I wrote a few notes while watching - these are some things I observed that I haven't already highlighted above. Let me know what you think.
While the Starters were in – everything was from a distance. We started the game with 12 points – on 4 made 3-point shots. That’s great that we shoot the three well, but I’m talking about EVERYTHING was from the perimeter. The second unit came in and did a much better job of playing both from the perimeter and in the paint and drawing fouls.
19 to 0 run in the 3rd quarter from
the bench the starters – GOOD GOOD GOOD especially because not everything is from a distance, they did a better job of mixing it up like the bench did in the first half.
In conclusion - the Suns did what they needed to do and got some garbage time for Silo as well. That's a good game and a job well done. This is really a fun road trip.
Time to travel to OKC and take on the Perkins-less and Robinson-less Thunder. It won't be an easy game... but I'll let the next bro tell you all about that game in the upcoming preview!
P.s. - Check out the losers site - sometimes its fun