When haven't the Phoenix Suns blown a double-digit advantage in a game this season? Damned if we can remember.
Though they won 105-101 at home last night over the Michael Redd-less Milwaukee Bucks (Redd's out for the season with another knee injury) to go 24-14 on the season, they looked much worse in this game.
After running up a 36-15 score at the end of the first quarter, the Suns were in a nip-and-tuck battle with the lowly Bucks, now 15-20, through the final period.
Suns Coach Alvin Gentry was so pissed at his players that he could barely speak during his post-game press conference. After saying several times that he didn't have much to say, he finally let loose:
"I'm disappointed in the pattern we've set for ourselves. We've got to do better than that. We can't play like we're world-class for 15 minutes, and then give it all back."
His comments to reporters were mild compared to what he was screaming at various points during the second half -- when he was detonating expletive-bombs and throwing his clipboard to the hardwood. He angrily wind-milled his arms at his starters. As in: Get your asses back down the effin' court and play some defense!
It wasn't like everybody played badly. Steve Nash had a great night offensively, with 30 points and 11 assists. He started knocking down shots in the final period, as he's done so many times before, to push his sometimes-listless teammates to victory. Once he got in this take-over-the-game mode, the smallest guy on the court even managed to pull down seven rebounds
Looooooou Amundson was also a sparkplug. He scored two points and had three rebounds in 11 minutes, but he blocked a shot at a pivotal point and committed strategic fouls (that is, he gave the Suns some muscle under the basket: no pussy layups on Lou's watch). This isn't to mention his tipping passes and bothering the hell out of shooters.
As we've said many times before, the guy's impact on the game never shows up on the stat sheet.
Speaking of STAT, Amar'e Stoudemire had 23 points and 10 rebounds, but he's the Sun who absolutely must get better. Stoudemire can be an impact player who puts up nearly twice the numbers -- if he keeps his head in the game. We're saying he's good, but ne needs to be the great player he's promised us he would become.
His injuries should be behind him. He needs to pour it on if this team's to be more than one and done in the playoffs this year. It's time to Stand Tall and Talented, dude. Nash can't do it without you.
And the two of them aren't enough to win four-out-of-seven games against any elite team in the NBA. It's true that the Suns have beaten Boston (twice), the Lakers, Orlando, and San Antonio this season, but we doubt they could do it again unless Jason Richardson, Channing Fry, Grant Hill, and the bench play consistently.
On both ends of the court! For four quarters!
Richardson had 23 points against the Bucks but has been streaky this season, to put it mildly. He hit four of seven three-pointers in this game, but we've winced during lots of others when he's hoisted one up from outside the arc. Clank!
The same's true whenever Hill, who had just six points in 28 minutes last night, puts up anything but a fast-break dunk or layup. He ain't what he used to be; Coach Gentry, maybe it's time to start somebody with more gas in his tank, like, say, Jared Dudley (who's a much better shooter and a bulldog on D).
Fry's as streaky as it gets. One night, he can't miss from outside, and the next, he's stone cold. He had four points against Milwaukee.
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As for the usually productive bench, they had just 19 points to 55 for Milwaukee's subs.
The Suns head east on a four-game road trip, with the first stop in Indianapolis to take on the 12-25 Pacers. They should run this team out of Conseco Fieldhouse, but who knows if the Suns will show up energy-wise for the second half? The Pacers have been hobbled by injuries, but forward Mike Dunleavy's back in the lineup after 10 months with a knee injury. Indiana eeked out a four-point home victory over the better-but-middlin' Torono Raptors last night.
Tip-off's at 5 p.m. Wednesday our time. TV: My45 HD; Radio: KTAR AM. For more information, go to www.nba/suns.com.