November 2006 - Posts

NBA

There's been a lot going on in the NBA the past week or so, including some memorable games and player matchups.

  • 76ers vs Heat - Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson put on quite a show last night.  Philly ended up on the losing end, despite Iverson's 45 pts.  Wade led Miami w/ 33 pts and 13 assists.
  • Ben Wallace fined by the Bulls - Wallace chose to wear a headband in one of the last games, which resulted in coach Scott Skiles pulling him from the game and fining him for breaking a team rule prohibiting headbands.
  • NBA Finals Preview?? - Orlando and Utah met last night for what some say could be an NBA Finals preview.  Dwight Howard's monster game dealt the Jazz their 2nd loss in a row after starting out the season 12-1.  Utah is way over-hyped... luckily they are in a weak division, so they should still have a good seed in the playoffs.
  • Golden State - The Warriors are moving up in the NBA ranks this week after two strong wins over the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs - all despite missing their star player, Baron Davis.  Jason Richardson has stepped up and has led the Warriors.
  • Shaq Out - Shaquille O'Neal's knee surgery is leading some to suggest that his career is declining and/or almost over.  Shaq suggest otherwise of course, but his stats don't lie... he is on the decline.
  • Clippers Reward Dunleavy - The L.A. Clippers rewarded coach Mike Dunleavy w/ a 4 yr contract extension worth $21 million.  This makes no sense, considering the much-hyped Clippers are in the Pacific Division cellar.  What happened to winning the division?  Reward the guy after he performs, not before.
  • Corey Maggette - Constant trade rumors surround Maggette almost every day.  The latest rumors suggest the Denver Nuggets may try to acquire him.
  • Derek Anderson - Signed by the Charlotte Bobcats.
  • Carmello Anthony - Probably the front-runner for MVP right now, Anthony leads the league in scoring and has kept the Nuggets afloat almost single-handedly (J.R. Smith has helped too).
  • Best Dunks - The Best Damn Show Period is doing a “Top 50 Dunks of all time“ special.  It's hard to argue the best dunk, but Vince Carter probably gets the nod with his facial on Frederic Weis in the 2000 Olympics.
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Portland Trailblazers

The Suns trounced a very young Portland Trailblazers team last night to win their 4th straight game and move above .500 for the first time this year.  The win also gets Phoenix out of last place in the Pacific Division; of course that spot is now occupied by the disappointing L.A. Clippers.

Raja Bell led the Suns with 30 points (1 off his career high) while making 7 3's.  Amare Stoudemire added 20 pts and 11 rebounds for the Suns.  Leandro Barbosa didn't play in the game, due to an injury.

The game really wasn't close and the Suns didn't not falter down the stretch like they were to open the season.  They led almost the whole game (except maybe the 1st quarter) and pretty much embarrassed the youthful Trailblazers.

Things are looking up for Phoenix right now and they're poised to jump up the standings even more with Golden State's Baron Davis out and the Clippers struggling so much.  Their only problem is going to be the L.A. Lakers, who are opening up an 8-game home stand at Staples Center.  While the Lakers start is very surprising, it's weighed by their early homecourt success (8-1 or 9-1).  Assuming they continue to play well at home, they'll have quite a few games on the road coming up (for a long time), so expect to see them drop in the rankings by late December.

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I don't think the Phoenix Suns envisioned their 2006-2007 season starting out this badly, but they currently find themselves in the cellar of the Pacific Division at 3-6.

Utah Jazz

Watching them blow a 10 point lead against the Utah Jazz the other night was just painful.  Leandro Barbosa nearly made a layup in regulation to preserve the win and avoid another allowing another opponent to come back on the road, and then again had a chance to force a 2nd overtime or at least put the Suns in contention to win, but the ball bounced off the cylinder again.  This is at least the 3rd time that I've seen Barbosa miss a game clinching layup.  He works hard as hell to get open and get to the basket, but he has too much spin on the ball or doesn't focus enough as he's releasing it.  The Suns would 5-4 if he'd simply made 2 easy layups.

Amare Stoudemire fouled out of the last game against the Jazz (so did Raja Bell), but he played solid before he left the court.  In the last several games, STAT has nearly returned to the formidable big-man that he was in the 2004-2005 season and playoffs.

Steve Nash is ailing right now with some back problems (missing several games), so the Suns have been lucky to win at least one game without him (almost a second against the Jazz).

Shawn Marion has been playing off-the-hook!!! His effort late in the Jazz game was simply unbelievable. Rebounding, 3-pointers, and his all-around play single-handedly kept the Suns in the game late.  Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to stop the Utah Jazz, who are off to the best record in the history of the franchise.

I'm from Salt Lake City originally, so I've seen plenty of good Jazz teams and witnessed Jerry Sloan screw them up somehow each year.  Everyone else can jump on the Jazz bandwagon, but until Sloan is gone, I'm going to sit back and watch them crumble by the playoffs (or in the 1st round).

The Suns play Golden State, New Orleans and New Jersey this week.  All are winnable games, but if Nash isn't back the Suns will probably be lucky to win 2 out of 3. 

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Dallas Mavericks

In a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals, the Dallas Mavericks again showed that they are the better team against a struggling Phoenix Suns squad.  While this game wasn't like their others (take quick lead & lose it), it's still very disappointing for the Suns to lose another game on their homecourt.  The game was pretty close throughout, including 6 lead changes in the 4th quarter, but Dallas did what they needed to at the end to win and Phoenix didn't.  A late offensive foul by Amare Stoudemire wiped out any chance the Suns had to catch up.

Dallas was led by Dirk Nowitzki (35 pts) and Jerry Stackhouse (23 pts), while Leandro Barbosa had another outstanding performance w/ 30 pts. Steve Nash and Shawn Marion also reached 20 or more points, and Stoudemire and Diaw contributed effectively with 16 & 13 pts, respectively.  Aside from Jalen Rose's 9 pts off the bench, there's was no bench for Phoenix - Kurt Thomas was the only other player to score (3 pts) and the reserves only gobbled up 5 rebounds.

The Suns are going to be in big trouble if they don't get more production out of their bench.  Jalen Rose will prove to be a good pick up for the Suns because he can post-up and shoot from the outside well; everyone else... well, they better get it going.

Keys to another Suns loss: lack of a bench, no defense (gave up 119 pts), out rebounded (37-25) including 14 offensive rebounds for Dallas, too many foul shots for Dallas (39) - only 22 for Phoenix. The strange thing w/ the foul shots is that Phoenix only committed 1 more foul than Dallas did, but the Mavs apparently were in the act of shooting more often than the Suns were (go figure).

Next up for the Suns are the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday; this should be an easy win (knock on wood).

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Jalen Rose has decided to accept an offer to join the Phoenix Suns, the veteran guard-forward said on his Web site Friday.

Rose, who received a $14.5 million buyout from the New York Knicks, reportedly had narrowed his choices to Miami and Phoenix. The Heat could pay more than the Suns, who offered the veteran minimum of about $1.2 million, much of which is paid by the NBA.

It's unclear where he would fit into the Suns' already deep rotation. Rose wants to follow the path of Tim Thomas, who parlayed a successful stint with the Suns last season into a lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. Rose would be playing in a fast-paced style directed by two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, rather than the more structured approach of Pat Riley's Heat. - Associated Press, FoxSports.com

What does this mean for the Suns?  For starters, it gives them a big guard off the bench that can come in and spell Nash, Barbosa or Diaw.  Boris Diaw seems to be the odd man out in the whole deal, especially with the way he's been playing to start the season because of Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas' returns.

Rose apparently prefers playing in a system with more flexibility and freedom versus the strict play calling of Pat Riley in Miami... can you blame him?  If he's able to play like Tim Thomas did last year, he's sure to get what he wants - another multi-year contract.

I'm not sure how well Jalen Rose will fit in with the Suns players, but if he can contribute consistantly, Phoenix will benefit.

Friday's game... Boris Diaw was benched in favor of Leandro Barbosa, but it wasn't enough as the Utah Jazz were victorious against the Suns.  I can't put my finger on it, but Phoenix just doesn't look the same as they have the past 2 yrs.  They look slower, unsure of themselves, and still lacking any defense (not really a surprise though).  Barbosa had a chance to tie the game with 10 seconds left, but his layup rolled off the opposite side of the rim as he went sliding across the floor.  The Jazz sealed it with two free throws by Derek Fisher.

Tonight the Suns get a chance to beat the LA Clippers again, but this time it's in Los Angeles.  Look for the power forwards to decide the game - Brand/Thomas for LA and Amare/Marion for the Suns.  Whoever has the advantage in this area is going to

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The Suns wrapped up their second game last night with the LA Clippers and are now 1-1 on the year.  Playing in their home opener against the Clippers, Phoenix was able to rebound from the previous night's disappointing loss with a win.  The short-handed Lakers surprised the Suns on opening night and came out w/ the victory, thanks in large part to Lamar Odom and the surprising efforts of Andrew Bynum.

The Suns and Clippers play each other pretty evenly, so last night's see-saw battle was nothing new.  At the end, Phoenix was able to pull it out, thanks to good games from Shawn Marion and Steve Nash.  The game also gave hope to Suns fans who were disappointed on opening night by Amare Stoudemire's performance.  He responded in his second game coming off the bench with 15 pts and 4 rbs in about 25 minutes of play.  Elton Brand led LA with his usual double-double stats (28 pts & 13 rbs).  Phoenix shot 53% of the field compared with only 43% for the Clippers, however, LA took 12 more shots than the Suns which helped keep the score close.

If there's anything to point out about the Suns besides the obvoius (no defense), it's the subpar play of Boris Diaw so far.  In game 1, he was in foul trouble and barely contributed in the loss.  In game 2, he scored 15 pts, but he looked lost out there and didn't seem to have his feet under him or a handle on the ball completely.  I'm wondering if the return of Amare has Diaw upset or thinking he doesn't have to put up numbers like he did last year.  If he doesn't step it up soon, we may have to start second-guessing the Joe Johnson trade...

Notable performances from last night:

  • Michael Redd - 37 pts (w/ only 1 three-pointer)
  • Quentin Richardson - 31 pts in triple overtime win
  • Carlos Boozer - 24 pts, 19 rbs (showcasing for possible trade??)
  • Paul Pierce - 29 pts, 19 rbs (in loss to Hornets)
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