The Phoenix Suns lost the game, but the bigger story was the Phoenix Suns lost Steve Nash. With 7:28 left in the first quarter, the Nash collided with Tyson Chandler on a scramble for a loose ball and suffered a stinger in his neck, losing feeling in his arm and leg. Paul Coro reports that the Suns believe Nash will be available to play in Oklahoma City.
Once the Suns lost Nash, the game was effectively over. They hung tight for the remainder of the first quarter, taking a 25-22 lead into the 2nd stanza. After that... oof.
The Suns were aggressive early in taking the ball to the rim. That aggression paid off with frequent trips to the line, helping them survive some shaky shooting. Goran Dragic and Hakim Warrick especially went hard to the hole in their first few minutes of action.
And then, well... one of my game notes reads "Are there worse defensive rotations anywhere in the NBA than on the Suns?" While it's true the Suns "held" the Mavericks to 45.3% from the field, it was the rare Maverick that had a hand in his face while attacking the Suns basket. The Mavs' took a 12 point lead into the half and never really looked back.
The Suns had an opportunity to keep things competitive. Dirk Nowitzki went to the bench early in the 2nd quarter after picking up his 3rd foul. So instead of the Dirk Show I had predicted in the preview, the Suns got their turkey roasted by Jason Terry who drove and hit from range with equal aplomb, racking up 18 points on 8-16 shooting.
And while I truly lament the Suns' sieve-like defense, it was their inability to put the ball in the bucket that did them in. There was certainly plenty of visible effort from the Suns, especially the bigs. Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye attacked the glass to the tune of 14 rebounds apiece and the Suns as a team only lost the rebound differential by 3.
The Suns offense was in disarray. With Nash out, the Suns seemed rudderless for the final 3 quarters. Familiar ill-advised shots were in abundance, including but not limited to:
Oh, yes, Earl Clark got 16 "quality" minutes in the second half. And by "quality", I mean allowed to take and miss jumper after jumper after ever-loving jumper. At 3-12 from the field (including 2 shots squashed by Tyson Chandler), Clark brought a new shade of black to the phrase "offensive black hole." On defense, his play was considerably more inspiring. He spent a lot of time covering Dirk and while he didn't slow him down terribly, he stuck with him and didn't find himself embarrassed either.
The final score might say the Suns only lost by 15, but it was a pretty thorough dismantling by the Mavericks. Save for a couple of late 3s by Frye and J-Rich, the Mavs would have walked away with this game midway through the 4th. Not much new to take away from this game. The offense stalls without Nash. The defense gives the French military circa 1940 a good name. I wish I had something better to say about this team, but they did nothing to inspire confidence or hope going into a brutal 3 game stretch against OKC, San Antonio and Miami.
Here's hoping Nash recovers quickly and Alvin finds the right combination of players and minutes to keep things respectful heading into the holidays.
More photos » Christian Petersen - Getty Images
If this is how they celebrate against the T'Wolves, what will they do if they beat the Mavs?
Few things warm the cockles of my heart like a Suns - Mavs tilt. These franchises are mirror images of one another; their consistency of excellence marred only by their inability to get over the top. Probably fueled by the friendship between Steve Nash and alpha Mav Dirk Nowitzki, there seems to be a mutual respect between the teams that ends up translating into fierce and entertaining basketball contests. Would that that was the case this season...
The Mavs sit at 20-5, trailing only the Spurs (and their ridiculous 22-3 record) in the West. They've won 13 of their last 14 games, including a 12-game streak that ensures they will be NBA champions. They are, as the deportes crowd would say, en fuego.
The Suns on the other hand have lost of 3 of their last 4, snapping a 3-game losing streak with a we-could've-done-a-lot-better-than-6-point victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Sadly, snapping that streak does not come with any sort of guarantee other than ensuring the Suns did not put up their first 4-game losing streak since January of this year. They have been, how you say... mas o menos? Asi asi? At 12-12, they are the definition of mediocrity.
This is the first meeting of the season for these two perennial Western Conference contenders. The Suns have their work cut out for them. Much like with the Lakers, the Suns will have to play nearly flawless basketball to hang with the Mavs. This Dallas squad runs a slow, efficient offense (ranking 23rd in pace and 8th in offensive efficiency) headed up by their own well-preserved point guard, Jason Kidd. And of course there's Dirk Nowitzki, Dirk Nowitzki and Dirk Nowitzki. He is an unholy terror on the offensive end this season averaging 25 points a game on a Nintendo-like 56.2% from the field. That includes a 40% clip from distance. Thus far this season he's been virtually undefendable which is fitting as thus far this season, the Suns have been virtually defenseless. And rudderless. And rotationless.
And yet, here they are at .500 hanging around like they're some kind of legit NBA team. A top-ranked offense will do that in spite of a defense more than wiling to concede open shot after open passing lane after open lay-up.
In my heart of hearts, I expect this game to get ugly and to do so fairly quickly. The play-by-play at times will resemble portions of Team America: World Police as the Suns have absolutely no answer for Dirk or the rest of the Maverick offense, whilst getting stifled by some impressive Dallas D.
But that is sooooo not very Bright Side of me, is it? So here's the Suns best hope (stop me if you've heard this before): push the tempo and turn the game into a track meet. Hit from distance. Attack the glass on the defensive end to limit possessions and get started on run-outs. Get timely stops. Etc.
The Suns can win this game, but it's a longshot. It's a rough start to a rough little road trip (next up is a Sunday-Monday back-to-back at OKC and San Antonio). Am I playing preview Scrooge? You think there's some holiday cheer in store for Suns fans in tonight's box score? Sound off in the comments.