What The Crap Was That Crap?

Ok, so I started this post last night, and it was originally called “Come On, STAT!”  But an evening of sleep and a morning of surreptitiously scanning the InterWebs while at work have helped me figure a couple of things out.

Everywhere you look this morning, people want to hang this loss on Amar’e.  And let’s not sugarcoat things; Amar’e had a shit game.  He didn’t play very well at all on either end of the floor, didn’t get to the line, and fouled out (!) after doing so twice all season.  That was bad.  But let’s be quite clear; this was a team loss.  The starters were mostly crap.  The bench was crap in the second half.  Alvin’s coaching left something to be desired.  The Suns lost this game.  How, you ask?

Let’s start at the start–with the starters.  With the exception of the third quarter, the starters shot the ball like absolute garbage.  As a group they were 7-of-27–that’s right, seven-of-twenty-seven in the first half.  They got on track in the third quarter and shot 11-of-18, which is to say that they took nine fewer shots in the quarter than they did in the first 24 minutes.  Not surprisingly, that meant they won the quarter (29-26) and took a two-point lead into the fourth.  Unfortunately, momentum seems to be something of a foreign concept as they proceeded to crap out a 6-of-14 4th quarter shooting performance.  Ugh.  All in all, that adds up to a ghastly 24-of-59 (40.7%).  Now, that certainly doesn’t mean they just pissed away the game; Hill and STAT had 8 boards apiece, and Richardson had 10.  They were fighting for the ball and grabbing boards since they couldn’t put it in the bucket.  It was just bad, bad shooting.

How about the bench?  They had a solid first half, shooting 10-of-17.  That was good.  Kept ‘em in the game and went on those runs they needed.  The second half?  4-of-15.  FAIL.

Let’s talk about rebounding.  The Suns, if you can believe it, outrebounded the Blazers for the game 47-44, including–are you ready for it?–SEVENTEEN offensive rebounds.  The Suns ORB% (Offensive Rebound Percentage) was 33.3, meaning they snatched a third of the available boards when they were on offense.  Now, I’m no math whiz, but that means there were 51 available rebounds when the Suns were on offense.  Now that is a padload of missed shots.  And as long as we’re talking about rebounding, let’s talk about Camby (and his weird, amazing mustache.  Seriously, what’s going on with that thing?  It’s very nearly Hitleresque, only if Hitler’s mustache had had a child with John Waters’ mustache.  Yeah, that’s it…it’s a Hitler-Waters hybrid mustache).  A lot of the talk leading up to this game was that the Suns needed to keep Camby off the glass.  I disagreed.  I thought they’d survive just fine, no matter how many rebounds Camby got, as long as they kept the other guys off the glass.  Every Blazers player got at least 3 rebounds.  Camby got 17 in a typical Camby game (4 pts. and 17 boards).  But every Blazer was getting to the glass.  I mean, there were loads of rebounds to be had, but still…

Oh, and the line.  The Suns shot 16 free throws.  The Blazers?  31.  Great googly-moogly, that’s bad.  Now, I don’t think that was any kind of intentional imbalance (because you know that I’m a great believer in NBA conspiracy theories and I know that Papa Stern wouldn’t be above giving a little bump to a franchise he appreciates for “doing things the right way” as I wrote recently here), but just the fact that the Suns didn’t get to the line.  Jumper after jumper after jumper.  And it’s not like (with the exception of Camby) the Blazers played great defense.  The Suns took–and missed–a LOT of wide-open shots.

So…coaching?  The thing that bothered me was that Alvin coached this game like it was, well…every other game.  I mean, there’s something to be said for trying to stay steady and not panic.  But when the starters are getting shellacked and the bench is running over the other team, don’t you consider riding the hot hand?  When Nash is getting torched by Bayless, don’t you put one of your speedsters (Barbosa or Dragic) on the man for a couple of defensive possessions?  You think Nash doesn’t know he’s not fast enough to stick with Bayless and keep him out of the paint?  How about a little coaching on the fly, Alvin?  You don’t have to keep your rotations just because they’re your rotations.  You don’t have to play your starters because Portland’s playing their starters.  In fact, Nate McMillan, who I was riding the other day because I think he’s a little lazy as a coach, rode his hot hand (Bayless) who got it done big time.  That’s coaching on the fly!

So, all in all, just a blah performance from the Suns, right?  I have to imagine that a lot of it will take care of itself.  The Suns won’t again shoot 74 points below their season average.  They won’t shoot 68 points below their season average from 3.  They’ll regress to the mean (progress to the mean?).  I’ll be back later with my thoughts on how the Suns can rectify this situation for Game 2 and Beyond!

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  • blazed

    I agree, the Suns missed a desert-load of wide open shots that could have drastically changed the outcome of last night’s game. There were lots of good looks that just didn’t go down. The bench also, while looking really good in the first half and keeping them in it, disappeared when it really counted in the second.

    But, apart from ‘Dre, Bayless and Nic who brought their hard hats to the valley of the Sun, Portland didn’t have such a fantastic game either! Aldridge didn’t shoot very efficiently and, as you pointed out, they got beat on the boards.

    They practically tried to give it away a number of times towards the end there. Missed free-throws, more than one stupid bail-out fouls and a bricked breakaway dunk by Marcus “the rebound machine” Camby almost did the TBs in. A team that is truly competing for the title would have taken that inch of daylight and made the Blazers pay!

    But here’s the stat that made me feel confident that the Blazers truly earned game one. FOUR fast-break points by the Suns, who’s nearly 16 ppg average in this category is 6th most in the league. Not that a 12 point discrepancy in season average for one category will make or break an entire game, but that simple stats tells me that Portland dictated the pace of play. And they did this with their team defense. Portland switched on screens efficiently and forced the Suns to make adjustments with their match-ups. They held the Suns 10 pts below their scoring average and mustered up enough offense themselves to score in excess of theirs.

    I’m thrilled by this outcome but I’m honestly not shocked. This Portland team is deep and has grit and determination that has helped them have amazing success despite drastic setbacks this season.

  • blazed

    I will say I’m not getting too high off last night’s victory. They pulled out a close one that they maybe didn’t deserve. But the Suns will be coming in to game two with a chip on their shoulder. And an angry STAT could be scary.

  • dekko

    The suns did miss open shots, but saying outside of Camby they were not playing good defense is missing what the Blazers forced them to do.
    They all played good team defense. They forced those long jump shots because that is how they play percentages and part of the game plan.
    They prevented Amar’e from getting the ball where he wanted it if at all. For much of the game his scoring was off of offensive rebounds. (Ball denial and forcing long jump shots worked the other way on LA too. Although he usually makes more of those 18 foot open ones)

    But I think coaching was the edge. Alvin did a major change up when he gave Richardson the assignment on ‘Dre. It worked in that Nash was not exposed by Rudy and not run out of gas guarding the more physical Miller.

    However Hollinger noted it took Richardson out of his offensive game and forced Nash to try to carry the load on offense.
    I would add that I think Nate just saw that as a different type of mismatch to be exploited, what was lost in strength was made up for in quickness and craft by ‘Dre.

    Alvin should have adjusted at the half. But I am not sure how? Put Nash back on ‘Dre? Start someone besides Richardson?

    I expect the next game to look quite a bit different. I would not be surprised to see Bayless start to make Nash guard one of them. Or start Webster to make Nash guard ‘Dre, because unlike Rudy Webster would just post up Nash.

    When you made light of Nate in the matchup post I started to answer but just let it ride. If he was not innovative this team would not have won 50 games with 17 different starting lineups and at times no Roy and the entire bench Blake and two 2nd round pick rookies that were just coming back from surgeries too.

    My favorite sign last night was “If You Did Not Vote for Nate, Slap Yourself!”

  • http://sunngun.com nate dion

    blazed-
    I’ll agree with that…both teams played pretty assy games. But that’s how Portland generally plays (ha!). Seriously, though, they were right on or better than their season averages in just about every statistical category. Seems to me that Portland played their way and, once again, forced PHX to play their way. The reason I’m nervous? The Suns’ offense is predicated on two things: buckets in transition and knocking down the open trey. The Blazers gave the Suns one of those, and completely denied the other. The Suns failed pretty epically at shooting the open three. If they’d've shot their season average from three, they’d've finished the game with 106 points. Huh.

  • http://sunngun.com nate dion

    dekko-
    The percentages say that Phoenix shoots the ball from 3 at a high percentage (41.2%). So if it was Portland’s game plan to allow lots of open threes to guys who make a lot of threes, well…that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I get what you’re saying; they weren’t gonna get beaten by STAT, so they collapsed to help Camby’s already good defense. But the Suns should’ve knocked down those threes; that would’ve been the difference.

    I don’t really know what Alvin needs to do to adjust, but something needs to happen. And I guess I don’t understand what Richardson was so tired from; Andre scored 117 points. It’s not like he was playing good defense on him…maybe bad D is more tiring.

    About Nate…I don’t know. Sure, he deserves some credit for leading the Blazers to a good season even with all the injuries. We’ll see how I feel after watching him coach a few more games. I am glad he made me eat my words though; after ragging on him for being a wuss and too conventional, he stuck with the hot hand (Bayless) while Alvin pussed out and stuck with his rotation. Whoops.

  • dekko

    From Paul Coro

    Portland coach Nate McMillan was not satisfied with how the Blazers defended the pick-and-roll. He said they were “a little soft” on pick-and-roll and switched defenders on Nash too much.

    “We have to do a better job of controlling the ball and not letting them get into the paint,” McMillan said. “They got the shots they wanted and they didn’t make a few of those and a lot of those were open looks. If they knock down those shots, it may be a different ball game. You’re trying to defend the 3-point line and they still got off 32 3s.”

    ==============
    As too allowing the 3s, no defense can stop everything. They did close out on a lot of them, others the suns just missed.
    However the Blazers defense had the outside guys getting the ball later in the clock and so slightly being pushed out of their normal rhythm.

    But you play the percentages, if you make them take lower % shots and they make them (as Dunleavey once said) “well then bless them they win’.

  • dekko

    “The Suns shot 16 free throws. The Blazers? 31. Great googly-moogly, that’s bad. Now, I don’t think that was any kind of intentional imbalance”

    Sure there was… no conspiracy needed though…8 or 10 of the Blazers FTs came on intentional fouls to stop the clock at the end of the game. =)

    Other than that the Blazers shot near their average number of 24 and committed 2 less than their average 21 fouls.

    • http://sunngun.com nate dion

      Yeah, that’s true about the intentional fouls. I was really just trying to point out what an awful job the Suns did of getting to the line, and saying that I didn’t think it was because fouls were being committed but not called. Now, last night’s Nuggets-Jazz game was a different story altogether…

  • dekko

    Oh I think lots of fouls were committed and not called. On both ends. I think playoff level ‘letting them play’ was the culture of that crew.

  • dekko

    Game two Refs

    Zach Zarba, Scott Foster, Derrick Stafford

  • dekko

    If the series extends out 6 or 7 games Roy could be back:

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/behindblazersbeat/2010/04/trail_blazers_remain_open_to_b.html

  • dekko
  • dekko

    On the ref tonight:

    covers.com has it as I posted before

    nba.com has it…
    M. McCutchen T. Washington G. Willard

    and the first group on the lakers game