"NO RETREAT! NO SURRENDER! THIS IS SPARTA LAW! And by Spartan law, we will stand and fight... and die."

"O-kay. We see where you're going with this. But hear us out. What if, like, instead of fighting to win, you like, lose some battles, so you're more effective later?"

"WHO ARE YOU?!? Who are these Cretins? Why aren't you dressed in battle armor?"

"Oh, we don't actually fight with you. We more like cheer from the sidelines. See those logs all tied up and webbed together beside the battlefield? We sit there and sort of tell you what you should do."

"THE PERSIANS ARE ALREADY HERE! We've made a giant wall out of boulders and their bodies! Why do you want us to not fight our hardest?"

"You see, there's some fine up and coming young fighters, and if you lose a lot, you would get first pick! So by strategically having some of your best warriors hide in that water tank over there part of the time, you could throw a few battles, BUT next year pick up some young stud who has a 7' wingspan!"

"CAPTAIN! GET OVER HERE! These young gentle men wants us to throw some battles. What say you?"

Captain gNash shakes the hair out of his eyes as he splits yet another giant warrior with his sword. He high 5's several comrades as he rushes to King Alvgentridas' side. "I say we fight on!" he cries as yet another foe's head is sent spinning free from its body.

"LIEUTENANT! How say you?"

Lieutenant Goretat raises his mighty hammer and shatters the shield of the enemy before him, He brings down his terrible beak upon the helm of his foeman, cracking the iron and sending shards into his brain. Spitting a piece of blood vessel from his mouth, Goretat exclaims, "We battle to the death!"

"No, you don't get it. We really like our idea. If you just don't try so hard, you might get some real sharpshooter in the offseason."

"HAVE YOU NO FIRE IN YOUR BELLY? What young fighter would wish to join our band if we were of the ilk who lay down their arms?"

"Changeling was doing so well, missing shot after shot, his longbow always off target. And Chilldrax was way off with that wacky swing of his. But now he's slashing, and slicing and dicing! You'll do no better than middle of the road! That's just madness!"

"MADNESS? THIS. IS. PHOENICIA!!! This is where we hold them! This is where we fight! This is where they die!"

With a mighty crash of swords upon shields, the orange-clad knights followed their battle-hardened captain into the fray once again, to do or die trying, leaving a pile of young bucks, hawk feathers, cat skins, and bear limbs in the wake of their slaughter.

The webbedloggers caught one look of the grim faces on the Sun-emblazoned fighters and skeedaddled over the hillside-- unless they, too, were ready to join the battle!

Prepare to wince, cringe, cry, or do whatever you may whenever the future looks dark. Chad Ford and John Hollinger released their most recent NBA Future Power Rankings on Wednesday, and if...

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And now, we interrupt this bipolar Phoenix Suns season to present you with some words from one of our favorite sponsors, XFINITY:

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Good defense beat decent offense.

The Phoenix Suns had a chance to beat the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. The bench unit got torched in the second quarter but the Suns shot well in the third and got back in the game. In the fourth quarter, however, Phoenix only scored 13 points. Eight came with Nash on the bench and five when Nash came back in the game.

Suns were down 83-84 when Nash came back in at the 6:20 mark, making it a very winnable game. From there, Houston finished on a 13-5 run, mostly thanks to their active defense.

Houston employed the same strategy the Lakers used to shut down the Suns on the 10th of January. They went small with Scola/Patterson, Budinger, Parsons, Lowry and Dragic. That's a four playing the five and a three playing the four.

After getting killed on the glass 37-21 through the first three quarters, the small Houston lineup allow the Suns to win the boards 10-7 and Phoenix gave up no offensive rebounds and no second chance points in the fourth quarter (Houston had 12 OReb and 22 second chance points for the game).

By going small, however, the Rockets were able to switch some pick and rolls and basically created havoc by rotating quickly.

Lowry took two charges and had a great block in the stretch. Budinger was solid on his weak side rotations. And like in the Lakers game, the Suns weren't able to take advantage of the extra size Gortat and Frye had because they are not post players. Gortat missed a make-able shot and twice was fouled on open layups and went 1-4 from the line.

Here's a breakdown of all the Suns possessions from the time Nash came back in with 6:20 to go in the game. Details and screenshots come from mySynergySports.com, which is an awesome service if you are so inclined.

1. High p/r results in Nash layup, 85-84 Suns

2. Hill iso, kicks to wing, deflected out

3. Hill inbound to cutting Dudley, great block by Lowry

4. Hill turnover on the baseline OOB

5. High p/r w/ Nash and Gortat. Dragic trailed over the screen, Scola hedged, Dragic stole the pass, 85-87 Rox

6. Wing p/r w/ Nash and Gortat. Parsons switched on to cutting Gortat, Scola switched on to Frye at top of the arc, Gortat missed 8ft hook

7. High p/r with Nash and Gortat. Parson's switched on to Nash, entry pass to Gortat deflected by Budinger who rotated over, ball of Gortat. Turnover. 90-85, Rox. (Screen shots below)

8. High p/r with Nash and Gortat. Defense sucked in from wings, Gortat kicks to Dudley, good rotation back to prevent three, Dudley drives and passes to cutting Gortat. Gortat fouled, missed both free throws. 90-85

9. High p/r with Nash and Gortat. Nash rejects screen and drives lane for open layup. 92-87

10. Nash curls baseline off a couple screens, catches and pump fakes Dragic, Scola rotates up to help, Nash finds open Gortat cutting, Budinger fouls. Gortat 2-2 free throw. 92-89, Rox (Screen shots below)

11. Curl into side p/r with Nash. Pass to Gortat in the post, quickly doubled, bad pass leads to turnover and runout. 94-89, Rox

12. High p/r with Nash using Frye and Gortat double screen. Rockets switch , Nash drives on Parsons, stopped, backs out resets side p/r , Nash trapped by Parsons and Patterson, pass to open Gortat, Lowry rotates and takes charge. 94-89, Rox

13. Hill iso drive, charge. 94-89, Rox

14. Hill iso, miss. 94-89, Rox

15. Quick three from Frye, miss. 96-89

This possession starts with a quick screen from Frye on Dragic. Parson switched on to Nash. In this screen shot you see Gortat setting up the p/r bring his man, Scola into the play. Note where Budinger is at the top of the key.


Parsons and Scola trap Nash, Gortat is open but Budinger quickly rotates over and deflects the pass and causes a turnover.


This was a pretty play. Frye holds the ball at the top of the arc as Nash runs off a couple of screens.


Dragic is screen by Gortat so Nash has space when he catches the ball here. He pump fakes Dragic out of the play, forcing Scola to leave Marcin open.


Nash finds the open Gortat (of course) but Budinger quickly rotated over and fouled Gortat and prevented the layup.


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Our little guy is growing up!  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Remember Dragic's first year, when he'd stop his progress, turn his back and crouch to protect the dribble when an opposing player got within a couple feet of him? And how his biggest problem was an inability to effectively run an offense?

I do. I remember folks wondering regularly why Kerr spent millions to get this kid from Slovenia.

It was Dragic's second season where he flourished as a change-of-pace backup, when our expectations were no higher than 8 points and 3 assists in 15 minutes against the other team's bench. Those occasional 10+ point games were a revelation. When he started 1 game that second year - a 16 and 10 performance against the rising Thunder - our eyes began to open to the possibilities of his future. Then that 28-point game against San Antonio sealed it. Dragic was a rising star!

Unfortunately, 2010-2011 happened. Dragic regressed. His shot failed him, and his confidence was close behind. The Suns were struggling for a playoff spot and the Suns' second unit was terrible. Horrible. And this was still when Frye and Dudley played in that second unit. So he was sent away for a chance at lightning in a bottle that never came. But don't fool yourself - Dragic played himself into that trade.

Some of us - me included - thought Dragic would never progress into a viable starting PG. His lack of confidence and streaky shot, and his inability to drive to his right, would forever limit him to "good backup" or "okay starter on a bad team".

But then something happened to Dragic. Maybe it was the shock of the trade - like a cutting of the apron strings - that forced Dragic to grow up and become his own man.

Last night, Goran Dragic showed the game that we all hoped he had. All while staying calm and collected. But the best part was that, between plays (and even once during a play), he kept his sense of humor and friendships with Suns players alive.

I counted several great exchanges between Dragic and a Suns player last night, in between him leading the second unit to 57 big points, including 11 of his own points plus 11 assists, 4 rebounds and a couple steals. Each one of those little exchanges with our guys made me smile.

  1. He and Nash shared a laugh and a few words when they first met up on the court during a timeout.
  2. A moment later, as Dragic was calling out a play to his teammates, Nash turned and mimicked the two-hand gesture. Dragic chuckled. Then drove to his left like a bat out of hell and dished a pretty pass.
  3. On the other end of the court, Nash tripped and fell face first to the floor. The ball was still live, as Nash was able to punch it to Gortat. As the ball swung to the corner, Dragic help Nash back to his feet. All while the ball was still in play.
  4. Just before the third quarter started, Robin Lopez playfully tried to block Dragic as he practiced his 3s. Dragic had missed 4 straight practice shots. Then Lopez defended his friend, crouching down into a defensive stance and half-heartedly rising to block the shot attempt. Dragic drained it and walked away with a big smile on his face.
  5. Later in the game, Grant Hill drew one of his patented charges on Dragic. They both tumbled to the floor, Dragic on top of Hill. I swear that, once the tumbling stopped, Dragic stayed down a second or two longer and maybe even patted Hill on the shoulder as they exchanged words. Then Dragic got to his feet and helped Hill back up.
Great kid. He's becoming a nice, mature young man in Houston.

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