Remember last season when I started doing this every day some time around March? That was pretty sweet. For those of you who don't remember, here's a sampling. (But if you ever don't read something I write again then your fate will be the same that awaits a certain 6'6 guard from North Carolina with a homeless beard and a complete lack of zest for life. For serious.)

Well since we've reached the All-Star break I thought I'd maybe dust it off to provide everyone a broader picture of where we've been and where we're going.

First a story.

A couple weeks ago I discovered this low-rent auction site iOffer.com. I'm sure you've heard of it before but I haven't so get out of my face. Well on this site certain folks sell DVD's of old sporting events. If you know anything about me you know that I love old sporting events - like to an unhealthy level. I mean how many of you read my 6,000 word tome on the 92-93 Suns? Like 6 of you? Thought so (and fuck you guys that didn't). 

My first purchase on this site was the 2008 NFC Championship Game between the Cardinals/Eagles. Being that I knew nothing about this site it was basically a crap shoot whether this would be a real recording of the game or just some awesome sick midget/horse porn that I paid 9 dollars for.

Fortunately the game was legit and though not HD inspired me to purchase a selection of Suns games. A week later I was the proud owner of both the 1976 and 1993 NBA Finals triple overtime games (Game 5 and Game 3 respectively) and a couple games from 1979 and 1980 - against Magic/Kareem and against Dr. J. Just fantastic stuff. 

For a history freak like myself it's great to see what all the fuss is about with some of the Suns greats I never got to see live (because you know, I wasn't alive). Watching Walter Davis (in the '79, '80 games), Alvan Adams, Paul Westphal, and Dick Van Arsdale ('76 Finals)  - all members of the Suns Ring of Honor - is a treat. 

Enough jibber jabber - let's take a look at the current standings leading into the break:

Western Conference Standings:

 

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1.  San Antonio 46 10 .821 - 7-3 LOST 1
2.  Dallas 40 16 .714 6
9-1 WON 3
3.  LA Lakers
38 19 .667 8.5 5-5 LOST 3
4.  Oklahoma City 35 19 .648 10 7-3 WON 1
5.  Portland 32 24 .571 14 7-3 WON 6
6.  New Orleans
33 25 .569 14 2-8 LOST 3
7.  Denver 32 25 .561 14.5 4-6 WON 1
8.  Utah
31 26 .544 15.5
3-7 LOST 4

-  Memphis

31 26 .544 15.5 8-2 WON 4
-  SUNS
27 27 .500 18
7-3 LOST 1
-  Golden State
26 29 .473 19.5
7-3 WON 3

 

That's where the Suns sit - 2.5 games out of 8th with 28 games left to play. Since standings alone probably aren't enough to satiate your burning playoff desires let's stare longingly at each squadron.

San Antonio Spurs (Games remaining: 26, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 17) -What the hell. After finishing in the seven spot last season and getting swept by the Suns this team was supposed to be dunzo. Instead they decided to have the best record in the NBA and be absolutely cruising to home court advantage at least through the Western Conference playoffs. This team doesn't really even have a viable MVP candidate - they just have a bunch of dudes playing well above average. I predict a collision course with the Lakers in the conference finals.

Dallas Mavericks (Games remaining: 26, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 14) - Is Tyson Chandler and his 10 points and 9 rebounds really what is supposed to take Dallas from an annual playoff flame out to a title contender? Color me skeptical. Dirk is having a ridiculous year and Peja seems to be a good fit for them but I'll be surprised if this team makes it out of the West. Am I wrong? Definitely not.  Ever.

Los Angeles Lakers (Games remaining: 25, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 18) -You know how in the Halloween movies Michael Myers never really died and it took until Jamie Lee Curtis cut off his head in Halloween H20 to finish him off? That's the Lakers. Sure they're struggling right now but for them "struggling" is being 19 games over .500 and winning the last game they really gave a shit about (Boston) quite convincingly. B.S. all you want about how they're done but someone's got to stop Kobe Bryant in the playoffs - and as all of us Suns fans know from last season - easier said than done.

Oklahoma City Thunder (Games remaining: 28, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 14) - I'm really curious to see whether or not these guys can take that big boy step that Portland before them failed to take. Going from young up and coming team to actual contender. They certainly seem to have the core for it but I'm a bit skeptical - they just don't seem as hungry this year as last year. That said, if the Lakers continue to struggle these guys could snag the 3 seed - they do have the least .500 or better opponents remaining of any Western Conference playoff team.

Portland Trail Blazers (Games remaining: 26, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 17) -  I said this yesterday in the comments for the Dallas game preview and I reiterate it now - this team isn't going away. For whatever reason (it's witch craft) this team just keeps winning basketball games. LaMarcus Aldridge has blossomed into an All-Star among the MASH unit. Brandon Roy 's corpse is probably going to come back eventually but that will probably last like 6 games - doesn't seem to matter.

New Orleans Hornets (Games remaining: 24, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 16) -  New Orleans surprised the league by opening the season 11-1...since then they are 22-24. If you're looking for a team to fall apart for reasons not related to trading it's star player or losing it's head coach then this is your pick. They've lost to Minnesota, Sacramento, and New Jersey all in the last month. 16 of their 24 games against .500 or better teams probably won't help either.

Denver Nuggets  (Games remaining: 25, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 16) - Pretty simple formula here - if they have Carmelo Anthony the rest of the season they'll make the playoffs (probably) if they trade Carmelo Anthony and get back almost anything they're being offered then they won't. Any questions?

Utah Jazz  (Games remaining: 25, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 15) - This certainly looks like a dead team walking. Jerry Sloan was brutally murdered by Deron Williams* and the team has lost three straight since new coach Tyronne Corbin took over. With Williams' wrist bothering him and the team in almost complete disarray I would actually be pretty surprised if this team could keep it's tenuous grasp on the final playoff spot.

Memphis Grizzlies (Games remaining: 25, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 16) - If this team misses the playoffs it will be because of Rudy Gay. Memphis will be without their second leading scorer (19.8 points per game) for at least the next 4 weeks with a bum shoulder and possibly for the rest of the season. Replacing him won't be easy until Sam Young learns to do this or (unfortunately) this.

Phoenix Suns (Games remaining: 28, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 15) - Since falling to 14-20 after an embarrassing home rout by the Knicks, the Suns are 13-7. Sure they've taken advantage of some softies but they've also got a few nice wins against Boston, New Orleans, and the Jazz. I think the main question for me is whether this team can continue to win games when Channing Frye is it's most consistent scoring threat.

Golden State Warriors (Games remaining: 27, Games remaining with teams .500 or better: 15) - They've actually had a pretty impressive February - going 6-2 while defeating Chicago, Oklahoma City, Denver, Utah, and New Orleans. As you might remember the two losses were to our beloved Phoenix Suns who with the exception of basically one quarter ran GSW off the floor. The Warriors have a nice squad - I just can't take them seriously as a playoff contender yet.

Consider it broken down. Here's a neat video.

 

 

* - not fact checked


LETS DO THIS!!!!!!!!!

Dinner_and_drinks_medium 

Bright Side of the Sun and SB Nation loves you. How much? SO MUCH that we're going to give one lucky winner something for free! No strings, y'all. Well a few. But that'll covered in the link below.

So here's the who/what/where when:

WHAT ARE WE PLAYING FOR?

I free EA Sport NBA Jam iphone game (a $4.99 value). Yo check it: 

 

 

NBA JAM Live iPhone Gameplay Tease (via EAMobileGames)

HOW DO I WIN???

Simply post a comment below. The winner will be selected at random and given an access code. That's it!!!!!! 

*Contest ends 2/19/11 at 11:59 PM ET, so get going!

**If it wasn't clear to you people, you can't play if you don't have an iphone. Don't be a Scott Howard .


PHOENIX — The final buzzer of Thursday night’s game marked the beginning of a quick break for the Phoenix Suns as the NBA heads into the All-Star break. However, it also marked the continuance...

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Rest up this weekend, Steve.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A frustrating game because the Suns could have won it, while in the same breath I see how Dallas is winning so many games. The Mavericks don't get rattled. Dirk Nowitzki just goes ahead and makes a fallaway or two, or Jason Terry runs around a few picks for an open jumper. 

Notice both of those example are jump shots, which the Suns' defense is designed to entice. Jumpers are less valuable than layups, dunks and 'and 1s', while the Suns almost always outscore the other team on 3-ptrs.

The Suns outrebounded the Mavs by 4, outscored them in the paint by 10 and made 1 more free throw. Generally, that spells a win.

But contested jumpers were the difference in this game. The Mavericks scored SEVENTY of their 112 points on jump shots (outside the paint). 70. Seven-oh. 

It helps to get Dirk's best shooting night of the entire season (35 points on 13-18 shooting, including 3-3 on 3-pointers and 6-6 on free throws). We all know Dirk is a great shooter, but that's ridiculous. He hasn't been that good all season, and nearly every shot was a jumper.

Centers

Dallas' C combo Tyson Chandler/Brendan Haywood combined for 19 points and 17 rebounds, which sounds good until you compare it to the Suns' C combo of Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat that produced 22 and 19. In fact, the Suns won the rebounding battle 43-39.

Substitution patterns

Dallas' substitution patterns were quite interesting, and not suited to the Suns' substitution pattern at all.

Nowitzki, Kidd and Chandler spent a lot of time playing against the Suns' second unit along with Terry and Marion. That's a starting lineup right there. Beaubois and Stojakovic are not as good as Terry and Marion, but it works when you're surrounding them with Dirk and Kidd. Moreso than most teams, the Mavs sub guys in and out like a hockey team. 

The Suns, on the other hand, play all their starters as starters and their bench players as bench players. And Gentry likes to sub them in the way D'Antoni always used to - at the end of the 1st/3rd and beginning of 2nd/4th. This is like most other teams in the NBA.

Defense

The Suns' improved defense gave up 112 points on 52% shooting to the Mavericks. Ouch. But when I watched the game, I didn't see the Suns playing the Ole! defense of times past. Dallas was not running a layup line. In fact, only 42 of their 112 points were in the paint. By contrast, the Suns scored 52 of their 106 in the paint - a much better balance.

The Suns' defense wants teams to shoot jumpers. Certainly, those are lower percentage than layups and dunks and 'and 1s', and they did that with Dallas. 70 of Dallas' points came outside the paint area on jumpers, with a hand in their face nearly every time. I can count on one hand how many wide open shots the Mavs got. Yet, still they scored 70 points on jumpers.

Suns notes

Channing Frye played well again (24 and 8, 9-14 shooting), and Robin Lopez played his best game since early November (13 and 13). Nash was Nash (15 and 14) and Goran Dragic played better than he has in 2 weeks (5 and 3),

Anyway, a loss is a loss. The Suns played well enough to win. But Dallas shot LIGHTS OUT, Dirk had his best game of the year in terms of shooting, and Dallas won a squeaker.

It's better than a stick in the eye.

Enjoy the break!

[Note by Seth Pollack, 02/18/11 12:46 AM MST ]

Yes, Channing went to the Office Space quote...

Phoenix Suns Fall To Dirk And The Dallas Mavericks, 112-106 - SB Nation Arizona
The Suns reaching .500 is bitter-sweet goal according to Frye, "It's like we have the minimum amount of flare for all the Office Space fans."

And for Robin, it's all about not worrying and being happy...

Robin Lopez, Happy Or Mad But Not Bland - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
"Steve (Nash) took me in earlier and told me to make sure I'm having fun out there and not to get too down on myself or anything," Lopez said. Nash explained that this was a happy team and he needed to be happy.

Audio:

Game Notes

1st Qtr

  • Grant starts out on J-Kidd, w/ VC on Peja and Frye on Dirk
  • Robin shaved for TNT, I guess
  • Makes him look younger...might also make him look more energetic
  • Energy in the building is really high
  • Dirk hits two J's w/ Frye on him. How long before Hill gets the call?
  • Couple of good steals from the Suns....nice start
  • Mavs going right at Nash w/ Roddy B
  • Robin looks fantastic so far...nice bounce to his step...and hair
  • JT in for Roddy. Boos for the Jet
  • Mavs hitting some outside shots, up 17-14....this really has the feel of a great game. Maybe it's just b/c I am sitting center court at the scorers' table. Yup, I dropped that, suckers
  • 4 pts, 4 reb for Robin in that first stint. Birthday boy in
  • Tyson Chandler is looking athletic again...wow
  • Dirk is unreal
  • Nice hand for the Matrix...not huge but nice
  • Hilldunk
  • Pace of the game is very much in Suns favor...Mavs played last night
  • I liked DeShawn Stevenson a lot more when he has that huge beard...now he's just some dude
  • Really bad lob pass attempt from Frye to Gortat. He was smothered
  • MP 4 3
  • Everyone's mad at Violet Palmer for calling the blocking foul on MP but he seemed like he was in the circle when he took the hit
  • 28-25, Mavs. Pretty good start for Suns. Can't accuse them of playing flat

2nd Qtr

  • Dragic coming in. He was as serious as I've ever seen him in the locker room before the game. Nervous or focused? Stay tuned
  • Mavs shooting lights out...don't really think the Suns defense is that bad
  • OK, MP. Feel free to remember you are not Kobe Bryant
  • Gentry pissed at Gortat for not fouling Haywood harder and preventing the bucket. Robin coming in
  • Dragic looking good so far
  • Warrick not hedging the screen hard enough allows Terry to get into the paint
  • Nice pressure D from Dragic and Warrick forces turnover
  • 39-32, Mavs but they're starters are in the game logging minutes
  • Dragic and Roddy don't seem like either can guard the other
  • Dirk = sick. Warrick right up under his chin and he just leans back and shoots
  • 12 for Dirk so far...wonder if Grant can cool him off at all
  • 14
  • Now Dirk sits as Grant comes in. Chicken
  • 36-43, Mavs. Dallas D looks pretty good in person
  • TNT timeouts and halftimes even longer than ESPN (or so I am told by the Suns PA announcer)
  • Frye posts up Terry and then Kidd comes over to help so he posts him too and scores
  • Still think this pace helps Suns. We'll see if Mavs can make these shots late in the game
  • The thing I love most about sitting courtside is hearing the players, coaches and refs...yes, I am just rubbing it in now
  • Solid inside D by Robin on Tyson
  • If Vince ever comes away from a play where he touched another player and he's not holding some part of his body and wincing, I've not seen it
  • Nice drive and finish, Vince. More please
  • MP being as physical as he can possibly be w/ Dirk. Gets called for the foul which I think is fair. Still like the aggression from MP to at least try and make Dirk uncomfortable
  • Great help D by Robin to block Dirk posting up MP
  • 54-51. Suns playing really well here

3rd Qtr

  • Game on
  • Peja loses Vince running off a few screens and Steve finds him for a dunk
  • Roddy for three...damn. These guys have to cool off at some point
  • Vince bringing his big boy game so far. Someone much have reminding him that he's being guarded by Peja and that's not acceptable
  • Love the cheap buckets for Robin. He used to get a lot of those just by hanging around the rim
  • I need to put down the twitter and watch more of the game
  • Nice. Mavs switch and Steve goes immediately to Frye in the post vs a guard.
  • Come on Frye, put a hand up when you are closing on Dirk at the three-point line
  • 12 for Robin
  • Dirk missing a few now...phew
  • Good hard foul by Frye to prevent Chandler from getting a dunk on a fast break
  • 68-67, Suns
  • Really happy w/ the way the Suns are playing tonight
  • Nash thugging it up with JET
  • Grant = REJECTION!
  • That was really good defense by the Suns but Stevenson hit a contested shot late in the clock...
  • 78-75, Suns. 2:42
  • Dragic coming in now for Nash. I like it. Nash can start his rest sooner and then come back in earlier in the fourth
  • Twice the Suns try and post up Gortat on Dirk and twice it fails. 85-80, Mavs. Big run for them
  • Dragic stepped out on the baseline. Gentry's not happy with him

4th Qtr

  • Terry is doing a lot of damage with his dribble penetration and kick outs
  • 87-80, Mavs. 12-2 run since Nash sat. Yikes
  • Nice move by Goran. Suns need a stop
  • Suns get a stop and Goran gets to the line.
  • Gentry not pleased w/ that pass out of the post by Gortat...then Dirk hits a three. Time out. 90-83, 8:50. Nash has to be coming back in now w/ Hill
  • Carter, Robin, Frye, MP and Nash back in. No Hill
  • 7 FGAs for MP is probably about 4 too many
  • Crazy rainbow for Nash. Five point game
  • Just asked John Bloom, the winners of that $10k contest thing actually get the cash. Not sure if they get the briefcase too
  • Nice post up by MP on Terry
  • Hill was going to check in for MP but Gentry left Grant at the scorers' table for another stint
  • 94-90, Mavs. 6:13. Hill in for Robin. Suns going small
  • Great play by Trix on that weak side block
  • Dirk's been resting for a while now
  • Nash attacks Chandler off the switch. Bucket
  • Hill on Dirk but they switched MP on the Dirk/JET screen
  • Gentry wanted Carter to wrap up Dirk on that foul with both hands - not just reach in and slap
  • 96-92, Mavs. 4:45
  • Dirk with the nice post up on MP. He's just so good
  • Big rebound and put back for Tyson. 100-94, 3:34
  • MP misses a three...Suns not having a good night from deep...Kidd posts up Nash for two. 103-94. Ugh
  • Suns going small hasn't worked. They've been able to switch the screens but gave up size on the glass and Dirk posted up MP anyway.
  • Three from Frye, 103-97, 3 min. In theory there's time but I'm just not feeling it
  • Suns stay small. Mavs big.
  • Dirk springs free for a layup out of a time out. Nice play
  • Grant can't hit anything tonight. Suns have really needed one more guy to step up and make shots in this game.
  • Bavetta calls an offensive foul on Dirk. Probably a make up call
  • Nash two. 99-105, 1:40
  • JET for two
  • Vince for two
  • Trading buckets
  • Good stop by Suns and then Nash finds Hill at the rim as the defense is focused on him iso'd on Dirk. Still 103-107 w/ 45 sec
  • Tyson misses the layup but is just too tall for Frye to defend and he gets the tip back
  • 103-109, 19 sec
  • Suns 4-17 from three. They needed better to beat this Dallas team
  • Frye banks in a three with Chandler in his face. 106-109, 17 sec. Timeout, Mavs
  • 111-106, 14 sec


We found Robin Lopez! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Will Dirk make every second-half shot?

Are the Suns waiting to play defense on him until the second half, when he's not ready for it?

Will Robin Lopez get double-digit rebounds?

Let's See!


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