Too Nashty!

Make excuses about the Portland Trail Blazers being tired if you must, but there was no mistaking the fact that the Phoenix Suns came to play tonight. They came out with tons of energy from the very beginning and never let up or looked back. The Suns got out to an early lead and increased it throughout the game to finish with a blowout win over the Blazers 102-77

Tonight was a return to the ways of old with the run-and-gun offense back in full effect. However, they also managed to do this while still playing effective defense on the other end of the floor to hold the Blazers to under 33% shooting on the night.

This new change in tempo and offensive philosophy was likely something that head coach Alvin Gentry implemented to get the Suns back to playing like themselves again. And man, did it work. This was Suns' basketball, and when they are playing fast and furious everything else seems to fall in place...well, at least it did tonight.

Read on after the jump for more sunshine and roses.

Make no mistake about it...tonight's victory was an impressive one against a very good Portland team who (had) the best record in the West coming into tonight's game (5-1). Sure, they may have been tired after a late game against the Lakers last night, but take nothing away from the Suns either. They earned this win with energy, hustle, tempo, and very good defense...period.

Steve Nash led the team in awesomeness with 17 points, 9 assists, and a +22 for the night. Jared Dudley led the team in scoring with his 18 points, and it was his infectious passion and will that helped get the team out of a short-lived slump to start the second half. The twin towers of Gortat and Lopez also had a very nice night on the boards with 8 and 12 respectively. And last but not least, Markieff Morris put on a clinic from behind the arc and also on the glass notching 13 points and 9 rebounds on the night. Everyone was feeling good and feeling loose tonight...even Shannon Brown had 14 points!

The Suns did almost everything well, that is, as long as Nash was on the court. There's really very little to critique tonight, and I couldn't be happier!

Are there still issues with this Suns' team? Sure. But we've had enough doom and gloom around these parts recently. So for now I would recommend enjoying the heck out of an impressive, quality win...I know I am.

Game Notes:

First Half

Suns running-and-gunning again trying to get their offense going…and it’s working

Suns playing with great hustle and energy so far…Let’s see if they can keep it up!

Nash juked Felton so bad he fell backwards and out of bounds…He’s still got it

BAMF showed Crash who’s still boss with a stuff at the rim!

Suns out to their best start of the season, and leading Portland by 10 points midway through the first quarter

Nash going to the bench…let’s see if the offense can keep up the pace

Suns scored 30 points in a quarter…Just like old times!

Suns lead 30-19 at the end of the first quarter

Bench play has been good on defense, but still a significant drop off when Nash leaves the floor

Scratch that…Suns bench is now playing very poorly as Shannon Brown continues to shoot shot after shot

Nash is coming back in!

Nash hits the side fade-away jumper without missing a beat

Also, say what you want about Lopez’s rebounding, but he has 6 boards already midway through the 2nd quarter…Now Gortat is coming back in

Suns defense playing very well, and without affecting their offense for once! They are currently holding Portland to 28% shooting!

Suns still playing well, but Portland is still sticking around…mostly due to some wide open missed shots by Phoenix

Suns slowed down a little in the second quarter, but still maintain a nice lead going into the half up 49-34.

Second Half

Offense struggling at the start of the 2nd half.

Gentry calls a time out to talk it over before the Suns let a very dangerous team back in it

Dudley with a nice drive, then a fast break and-one…Looks like he’s trying to set the tone

Suns seemed to have fixed their offensive woes behind the play of Nash and Dudley

Suns now up by more than 20…Where has this team been?

Nash now with 17 points, 8 assists, and 3 TOs

Gortat now leading with 8 rbs to go along with his 12 points

Suns up 74-55 at the end of the 3rd quarter

All starters are on the bench with more than 8min left in the 4th quarter…Let’s hope they don’t have to come back in

Shannon Brown with a three and then a fast-break dunk…Everyone is feeling good!

Brown now has 14 points

Morris is awesome…that is all

Suns win!!! 102-77

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The run-and-gun Suns are back!!! What a great start to the game...They are playing very well on both sides of the court and currently lead 49-34.

Can the Suns keep their foot on the pedal to close it out in the 2nd half?

Let's do this!


Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns, Jan 6, 2012 8:30 PM MST

Will the Suns be able to come back strong at home after a lackluster performance on the road in Dallas? It won't be easy, but if the Suns are playing up to their capability they can get this win.

Let's go!

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Phoenix Suns 102, Portland Trail Blazers 77 The team with the best record in the Western Conference comes to Phoenix this evening, and the Suns’ defense will have its hands full. It used to be...

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Look, it's a Fast Break!

The Phoenix Suns are not playing fast. They said they want to continue to play fast AND focus on getting better defensively. They said that being good defensively helps you play faster. Those things are true and yet they rank 23rd in the league in Pace with just 90.7 possessions per 48 minutes.

So what's going on?

On Thursday Alvin Gentry talked about the sluggish Pace and said:

Phoenix Suns playing at unusually slow pace so far this season
"If you give up 20 (offensive rebounds), that's 20 times you don't get to run," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.

There's truth to that, of course, but the situation clearly is bigger than just rebounding. History tells us that bad defensive rebounding Suns teams still played fast.

Here's the data:

Suns_pace_medium

WARNING: We should ALWAYS be wary about small data sample sizes and SIX games is a small sample size.

The upside with small sample sizes, however, is that we can look at individual examples. Using the game logs from Hoopdata.com we find the following:

  • The Suns worst rebounding games were against the Hornets in the road win and against Dallas on Wednesday. The Suns Pace in those games were 90 and 93.
  • In the Suns best rebounding game against Golden State, the Pace was 92.
  • The Suns fastest game was against OKC (Pace: 97), and the Suns were basically even on the glass.

So is there a connection between rebounding and Pace? Sure, but it's far deeper than that. We all remember the days when the Suns were running on misses and makes. That was run and gun.

The problem now, it seems, is the team isn't in the up-tempo mindset. We see it in the half court where guys aren't shooting early in the clock even if they get an open look. Better rebounding will help initiate more fast breaks, but playing fast is more than that.

The issue is guys shooting poorly so they are not confident in taking shots which leads to extended possessions and often getting a bad looks at the end of the clock .

The issue is players not having enough time in the preseason to get into an up-tempo mindset.

Words like "rhythm" and "confidence" might sound hollow, but I think that's contributing to the slow start more than rebounding.

That's good news, by the way, because with time that mindset, rhythm and confidence should improve and the rebounding will get better too once Marcin Gortat takes off the thumb splint and the rotations solidify a bit more.

So don't worry, the Suns haven't turned into the Snails that we've seen so far. At least I hope not.

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