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!