Are the Suns who we thought they were before the season got going? Certainly hope not, but after two blowout losses in as many nights, we're beginning to wonder.
Sure, the 107-90 road loss last night to one of the top teams in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers, wasn't as embarrassing as Tuesday night's 27-point pounding by one of the worst, Mike D'Antoni's New York Knicks, at Madison Square Garden. But it was definitely disheartening for Phoenix fans who were hoping against hope that the Suns' surprising 14 victories -- one against the mighty Boston Celtics in Beantown -- meant that a magical turnaround from last year's dismal showing was under way.
And we're certainly not at the point where we should give up on the Suns. They went 2-2 on this road trip, which isn't bad considering the team, with only five losses, is among the leaders in the league record-wise.
Yet we can't help thinking that the Suns are one puzzle piece away from being a legit contender in what has to be a twilight year for Sun two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash. Never has the slogan "the time is now" meant so much.
This may have been what Phoenix General Manager Steve Kerr was thinking when he, owner Robert Sarver, and former Suns Coach D'Antoni brought in Shaquille O'Neal a couple of seasons ago. But the Big Cactus was a big disaster.
Now O'Neal's with LeBron James and the Cavs, where he seems to fit in much better as the Big Shaquisition. Last night, he had a respectable 12 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes.
None of Cleveland's starters had major points in this game, even James, also with 12. They didn't have to. This was a team effort.
We've spent a lot of time talking about the Suns' vastly improved bench this season, but the Cleveland bench was stellar. In this game, Cavs' second-teamers had 49 points to the Suns subs' 22.
The game was painful to watch for Phoenix faithful. Cleveland had a 57-29 lead at halftime. And though the Suns pulled to within 12 points late in the fourth quarter, the well-rested and power-packed Cavs lineup of James, Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- not to mention Shaq -- were just too much for the undersized Suns playing for their second night in a row.
Four Suns starters were in double figures, though, with center Channing Frye the high-scorer in the game, hitting four three-pointers to finish with 22 points. The two Suns point guards, Nash and backup Goran Dragic, each had 14 points. Amar'e Stoudemire had 12 rebounds and 14 points.
The Cavs (now 13-5) surpassed the Suns in every category but three-pointers (Phoenix was 10 of 23, and Cleveland was six of 22). LeBron and Co. shot 48 percent from the field to the Suns' 40, had 51 rebounds to the Suns' 41, and -- startlingly (with one of the all-time NBA assists leaders, Nash, in the game) -- had 29 assists to the Suns' 21. King James, an assists great himself, had 10 to MV Steve's five.
Next up: The 8-8 Sacramento Kings starting at 7 p.m. Saturday from US Airways Center. Sacramento floors forward Andres Nocioni and 7-1 center Spencer Hawes, who are tough inside and score 10-12 points a game, but the team's real real threats are guards Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans, averaging 31 and 19 points a game respectively. TV: FSN Arizona, Radio: KTAR 620 A.M. For more information, go to www.nba/suns.com.
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