Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Suns-Warriors 113-110

Steve Nash shook off back spasms that forced him to sit out the last two games, to will the Suns to a victory over the super-hot Warriors. Nash had 7 assists in the first nine minutes of the first quarter, as he led the team to a 31-27 lead. The rest of the team responded by showing him how much they need him when they failed to score for the next six minutes Nash was on the bench. The Warriors (who were without their best player Baron Davis) had a 43-31 lead when Nash took the floor to finish the half. The first half ended with the Suns trailing 52-57. Nash already had a double double.

The Suns players were feeling it this night, as they did a good job of sinking open jumper after open jumper. Monta Ellis was huge for the Warriors, wreaking havoc with his jumpers and repeated forays to the hoop. He had 15 first half points. If he continues to get this kind of playing time, he could be one of the front runners for the 'Most Improved Player' award.

Phoenix erased the lead with a crisp third quarter where they outscored the opponents 37-27. In true Suns style, they let the Warriors back in, early in the fourth quarter and the game was a tightrope walk from here on. Raja Bell's jumper started falling in the fourth quarter and he scored 17 points in the period. Barbosa, who's missed crunch time layups in almost all of the last few games bricked both his free throws at the 1:30 mark in the final quarter, when the Suns were ahead 108-107.

There were a rash of lane violations in the last period and the Suns were fortunate to benefit from one such call against the Warriors in the dying moments of the game. With the score tied at 110 each and just four seconds left, Steve Nash buried a 3 point shot to clinch the game for the Suns.

Sure, I'll take an ugly win over a beautiful loss (which is all the Suns have been doing so far) any day. But the Suns have a lot of issues to sort out before they can stretch out and enjoy this win.

The most important lessons:
(1)We need to play some respectable defense. We've lost way too many double digit leads late in games. Your jumpers are not going to fall all the time and when that happens to all players on the team at once, we need to shore up the defense to keep the lead.
(2)Give Amare the ball : our biggest malady so far, has been the inability to close out games. translation - horrible clutch shooting. Amare's one guy in this team who can score every time he gets the ball. Surprisingly, we haven't run the pick and roll with him and Nash, as often as one would've hoped. Further there seems to be an unwillingness on the part of teammates to defer to Amare.
But yeah, Amare is just working his way back into the team and needs to earn his teammates' trust in game situations. I believe this is an issue that will get ironed out over the course of the season.
(3)Give Marion electric shocks every time he launches a jumper. He's been chucking an outrageous six 3 point shots a game so far. That's an insane amount for someone who has a jumper uglier than Sam Cassell.

The string of horribly officiated games for the Suns continued. Against Jazz, Barbosa got called for a phantom 3 pt foul on Okur the other day, while no foul was called when he got hacked on his drive to attempt a potential game winning layup. The Suns got the short end of the stick once more, this time against the Warriors.

Last point to remember : we pulled off the win against a Warriors team that did not have their leader Baron Davis, who has been playing out of his mind so far this season. Take this win as an OK one. Not as big turning point in the season. Not yet.

Suns are now 4-6 and occupy the basement of the Pacific Division.

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