March 2007 - Posts

Memphis Grizzlies

The struggling Memphis Grizzlies were the perfect opponent for the Phoenix Suns, who had lost on Sunday to the Sacramento Kings. With the 105--87 win over the Grizzlies, the Suns maintained the 3 game lead they hold over San Antonio for the 2nd seed in the Western Conference.

Phoenix was led by Raja Bell's 29 points, which included six 3-pointers, and Amare Stoudemire's double-double (27 pts & 12 rbs).

Shawn Marion had another off night, finishing w/ only 8 pts & 7 rbs. His performance over the past week and a half is cause for concern in my opinion, although he's probably just in a minor funk. I know Steve Nash and Stoudemire have been getting a lot of media attention lately (MVP talk, magazine covers, etc.), so Marion is probably feeling like the unwanted stepchild as he has in the past. The Suns are winning and look to have a good playoff run if Shawn gets back on track soon.  He's critical to their championship hopes, so he really needs to get his focus & strong play back in the game.

Interesting stat of the night... Memphis had no player with more than 4 assists (two players had 4), while the Suns managed to have four players with at least 4 assists: Nash (9), Barbosa (6), Diaw (5) and Bell (4).

The Phoenix bench wasn't used much despite the easy victory; not a good sign for a team hoping to win a championship. The starters minutes were around 30 on average, but they only used an 8 man rotation. Commentators on the broadcast indicated that coach Mike D'Antoni was hoping to get his team back on track & back in rhythm after Sunday's loss; this is the reason he put Nash and Stoudemire back in the game with only 4 minutes left.

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Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings got a bit of revenge this afternoon against the Phoenix Suns, defeating them at Arco 107-100. After getting throttled on Thursday 118-100, the Kings simply wouldn't let the Suns get the win in Sunday's rematch.

Mike Bibby led the Kings w/ 37 points, while hitting 9 3-pointers.  Ron Artest contributed 24 points in his return, and John Salmons put in 17. Kings guard Kevin Martin 1 point in 5 minutes before leaving the game w/ double-vision, resulting from a poke in the eye. I wouldn't expect him to miss any additional games.

The Suns actually played pretty well on offense, but it was the defense today that failed them. Shooting 36% in the 4th quarter probably didn't help either, but they couldn't stop Bibby and the Kings to compete for the win. Phoenix fouled way too much in the loss also, losing the battle of the charity stripe 30-13; Amare Stoudemire took 9 FT's and Steve Nash took the other four.  Pretty weak effort by the Suns as far as intensity and hustle.

Leandro Barbosa led the Suns with 27 points off the bench. At one point in the 2nd quarter, Barbosa had scored 17 points in a row for the Suns. Looking back, that scoring spree probably didn't help the “team“ effort... although the Suns wouldn't be in the game had Leandro not put on a show. Stoudemire put in 23 points and 11 rebounds, Nash 18 pts, 9 assists and 7 turnovers.

Are the Suns worrying yet?
Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni confers w/ Steve Nash & Boris Diaw - Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The loss puts Phoenix only 3 losses ahead of the San Antonio Spurs, who are just sitting and waiting for Dallas or Phoenix to stumble down the stretch. Look for the Spurs, Mavs and Suns all to be very competitive as the season winds down - homecourt is at stake and playoff matchups could be critical.

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Sacramento Kings

Amare Stoudemire returns to form against the struggling Sacramento Kings - scores 33 points and pulls down 21 rebounds in 118-100 Suns victory. One game after scoring only 4 points (still a victory), STAT blows up versus the short-handed Kings in Phoenix.

The key to this game was the Suns hussle on defense and attacking the boards. Phoenix finished with a 58-33 advantage on the boards - very unusual for them. In what has become the Suns calling card, they took over the game in the 3rd quarter and never looked back. Most teams can keep up with Phoenix during the first half, but the 2nd half is a different story. 

It also helped that the Suns were willing to pass the ball - they finished with a 27-9 advantage in the assists department. Ok, so how do the Kings score 100 points with only 7 assists??? Amazing...  Probably would've had a few more if they could shoot better than 39% from the field.

Watch highlights of the Suns/Kings game on 3/22/07

Steve Nash had another strong game, finishing w/ 17 points and 16 assists (& 6 rebounds). Boris Diaw seems to be getting his confidence back; he finished w/ 15 points and 14 rebounds off the bench. Shawn Marion is still in a bit of a funk, but at least Phoenix is still winning. He finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds, about 2/3 of his average in both categories, but did shoot over 71% from the field.

Friday is an off night for the Suns, but they have a rematch in Sacramento against the Kings on Sunday. Get ready for the game w/ your Suns fan gear or Kings fan gear.

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Minnesota Timberwolves

Phoenix ran to a pretty easy victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night 108-90, despite a horrible night by Amare Stoudemire.

I gotta be honest... I looked at the stat sheet several times in the 2nd half and wondered if Amare was injured or got T'd out of the game.  Much to my surprise, it was neither... he just had a off night (for him) w/ only 5 shots for 4 points. STAT did register 3 blocks, which is a bonus for fantasy owners who got screwed by his other stats.

With the win, the Suns clinched the Pacific Division title - players celebrated by putting on orange shirts before the game was completely over (what were they thinking?). At least give the opposing team some respect by waiting until the game is over to start celebrating.

The Suns rotation seems to be getting a little bit bigger these days, w/ Jalen Rose and Pat Burke getting some minutes yesterday. Rose finished w/ 8 points in 14 minutes, while Burke did his job as usual (nothing special). 10 Suns players made it onto the court w/ Burke getting the fewest minutes (3) - Rose was 2nd w/ 14 minutes.  Overall, good effort by the Suns bench, including Boris Diaw who was very effective (5-6 FG, 9 ast, 6 rbs).

Steve Nash was his usual self, finishing w/ 11 assists, but Diaw and Barbosa surprised w/ 9 and 6 assists, respectively.  The other Suns players all did their jobs - Thomas rebounded, Marion scored & rebounded, and Jones contributed 5 pts off the bench.

Minnesota was led by Kevin Garnett's great effort - 30 pts & 16 rbs - but it wasn't enough to keep up w/ the Suns.  No other player on the Timberwolves scored more than 14 pts, so KG's great night was for nothing (as usual). Minnesota is on the verge of being out of the playoff race - they're currently in the 12th spot, 2 1/2 games behind the red-hot Warriors.

The Phoenix Suns next game will be at home against the Sacramento Kings, who may be without Ron Artest, who was charged w/ 4 counts for his alleged assault a few weeks ago. Get ready for the game w/ your Suns fan gear or Kings fan gear. Authentic NBA Gear

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Denver Nuggets

One night after gettting abused by the Detroit Pistons, the Suns went into Denver attempting to recoup some of the excitement generated from their 2OT victory of the Mavs on Wednesday. What started out as a great idea ended up completely opposite - the Nuggets embarrassed the Suns 131-107.

Led by Allen Iverson's 44 pts and 15 assists, the Nuggets outplayed the Suns in the first 3 quarters so badly that the Suns starters were rested late in the game; no Suns starter played more than 33 minutes.  Denver's hussle is evident in the stats: 47-38 rebound advantage and 35-26 assist advantage. Leading by as many as 38 pts, Denver entered halftime with a 70-44 lead.  (Get an Iverson Nuggets' jersey)

Carmelo Anthony dunks against Phoenix on 3-17-07 in 131-107 victory - Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Carmelo Anthony dunks against Phoenix on 3-17-07 in 131-107 victory

Leandro Barbosa led the Suns w/ 25 pts, but no other player on the team was able to contribute close to that w/ Nash coming in next at 15 pts. Six players scored in double figures, but when Denver shoots 57% from the field (44% for PHX), it's almost impossible to win. Steve Nash only had 2 assists in the first half; his second straight game w/ 2 or fewer assists in a half. (Get an official Nash jersey)

Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni explains the great game by Denver:

"They made every shot in the world," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They are hard to handle when Anthony and Iverson are coming at you like that. They are hard to handle on any night.”

“They played great," D'Antoni said. "We're in a little bit of a funk right now. Discombobulated. We have the regroup a little bit."

Denver won its 4th straight game, but faces a tough task ahead w/ 8 of 9 games on the road.

"When you're in a zone, it doesn't matter if guys are on you or anything," Iverson said. "It just feels good. It just feels like throwing rocks in an ocean."

"That's another confidence booster for us," Carmelo Anthony said. "To beat a team like that. You know one of the top teams, if not the top team. To beat a team like that is really a great deal for us. So we can take that momentum from this game and from the previous three games and take it on the road with us."

Phoenix will look to rebound from this weekend's emotional collapse against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. Get ready for the game w/ your Suns fan gear or Timberwolves fan gear.

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Detroit Pistons

Updated end of game... Suns lose. Final score 105-83.

The Pistons come on the Suns homecourt and shut them down.  A game after beating the Mavericks in a classic 2OT game (in Dallas), Phoenix stinks it up against the Pistons. Phoenix scores a season low 83 points in the loss.

Amare finished with a great game (24 pts, 14 rbs), but it wasn't enough. Marion and Barbosa finished with a combined 14 points, despite my prediction they'd bounce back in the 2nd half (they didn't).

The Phoenix Suns are playing the Detroit Pistons in the 3rd quarter...75-64.

Detroit's Chauncey Billups suffered a groin injury in the 2nd quarter and has not returned in the 2nd half.  Despite the injury, the Suns still trail thanks to a great game so far from Flip Murray (19 pts).  The Pistons also hold a 33-8 bench scoring advantage on the Suns right now, which is key for their lead.

Phoenix is led by Steve Nash's 18 pts, Boris Diaw (12) and Amare Stoudemire (14).  STAT also has 13 rebounds in the game already, which is rare for him.  If he keeps it up for a few more games, he could overtake Shawn Marion for the team lead in rebounds per game - that would give him the scoring and rebounding lead for the team.

Marion and Leandro Barbosa are struggling so far, but they should pick it up before the end of tonight's game.

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The Phoenix Suns have played two terrible games against teams they should've plastered: New Orleans & Charlotte.  Fortunately, the Suns were still victorious in those games - definitely a good sign.  The games do leave something to be desired though, and that's to find out if Phoenix can really compete with the “big boys” onf the league.  Over the course of the next two weeks, we should get a better idea of just how good the team is and if they're shaping up well for the playoffs.

Starting tonight, the Suns will begin a pretty though schedule that includes games against the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Sacramento Kings.  I guess the only positive you can take out of that list is that San Antonio isn't on it - part of the famed “Texas triangle”.

Playing Time
There seems to be a number of discussions regarding the Suns roster and the number of minutes that the players are being used; and justifiably so...  Seldomly used players like Eric Piatkowski have seen increased minutes the past few games, an indication that the coaches are starting to give the starters a few more minutes on the bench.  That increased playing time hasn't translated to Pat Burke lately - not going to complain about that though (see my Pat Burke sucks article). Authentic NBA Gear

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NBA News

Dwyane Wade (Heat) - The Miami Heat guard has opted to rehab his injured shoulder instead of having season-ending surgery. The NBA superstar has decided that he might be able to return for the playoffs if he goes the rehab route; shoulder surgery would rule out the playoffs most likely.  Get Dwyane Wade's jersey here

I think it's cool that Wade is going to try and come back, but listening to Pat Riley explain why Wade was going to rehab his shoulder was almost revolting.  He made it sound like Wade “had” to do it for his teammates - whether it was good long-term for his career or not. Riley is an ass...

Ron Artest (Kings) - The controversies surrounding Artest never seem to end. This time, the Sacramento Kings forward was arrested at his house for supposed “domestic abuse”, including preventing a victim from reporting a crime. The Kings effectively ended Artest's season (though he's still going to get paid) via an “indefinite leave of absence“. Get Ron Artest's jersey here (while he's still a King :P)

Classic Ron Artest

Word on the street, is that Artest was leaving the house when the woman he's accused of abusing came out and broke the window of his vehicle; that's when police arrived. I'm not discounting the fact that Ron-Ron may have done something bad, but the actions of the woman are a little troubling as well.

Yao Ming (Rockets) - The Chinese center returned Monday night against the Cavs, and despite a decent performance in his first game back, the Rockets lost. Get Yao Ming's jersey here

Phoenix Suns News

Boris Diaw (Suns) - After missing games because of back spasms for nearly 2 weeks, Suns utility player Diaw will likely return to the court Wednesday.  Get Boris Diaw's jersey here

This is great news for the Suns who need to start building a stride as they head towards the playoffs. While Diaw's impact has probably not been noticed, Phoenix is desperate to get him back on the floor and prepared for a repeat performance this year... you might remember he excelled in the playoffs last year.

Shawn Marion (Suns) - Marion missed two games because of a bruised hand & quad, which he suffered against the Pacers over a week ago. The Suns were 1-1 with Marion out of the lineup. Get Shawn Marion's jersey here

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Philadelphia 76ers

Missing Shawn Marion (bruised hand/quad), you'd think the Suns could still handle a very young and raw Philadelphia 76ers team.  Well, think again...

Phoenix never led in the game and lost their bid to become the first team to sweep the Eastern Conference on the road (for a full season). Philly dominated in a 99-94 victory.  The Suns, led by Steve Nash, tried to mount a late comeback to win the game, but the 76ers were just too much in the end.

Without Marion, Amare Stoudemire picked up some slack finishing w/ 31 pts, 14 rbs & 6 TO's (ouch).  Nash finished with 23/9, while shooting 3/4 from 3-pt range.  No other Suns player scored more than 13 points.  Kurt Thomas helped on the boards, finishing w/ 10.

Philly was led by Andre Igoudala's 24 pts, 7 boards & 7 assists (& 7 TO's offset Amare's), and Willie Green (who?) w/ 20 pts.

The Suns really missed Marion's hussle and scrappiness... Philly won the battle of the boards 50-37, and shot 6 more times than Phoenix thanks to 16 offensive rebounds.

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