Sure, the Suns Were Robbed, but Turnovers are What Really Killed 'Em in Denver

Yeah, it was a terrible call.

In the last seconds of regulation against Denver with the score tied 103-103, Grant Hill drove toward the basket and was tripped by Nuggets forward Dahntay Jones. Hill hit the hardwood.

Tripped, and no call by head referee Dick Bavetta (pictured, the ref who famously raced Charles Barkley at the All-Star Game a couple of years ago and lost by a hair). Bavetta's in his 70s, and the word senile comes to mind. Or blind.

How could he and his crew miss that? Ticked about the officiating before the call (Bavetta & Co. had already fouled out Matt Barnes), Phoenix Coach Terry Porter almost exploded out of his his fancy blue suit.

The Thursday night game went into overtime, Phoenix couldn't buy a basket for much of the period, and they lost 119-113.

But there was much more to why the Suns fell than that back-breaking no-call.


Shaquille O'Neal, the star of the last several games, didn't play. It was part of Porter's plan to rest the 36-year-old in the first of back-to-back games. The Suns play the Minnesota Timberwolves and big Al Jefferson at 7 tonight at US Airways Center.

Turnovers, a problem all season, plagued the Suns. Taking care of the basketball is fundamental in the NBA, and the Suns had 27 flubs. Steve Nash, who's in charge of taking care of the ball, had 6 and Amar'e Stoudemire and Barnes had 5 each.

For Nash, the turnovers ruined an otherwise perfectly good night. The two-time league MVP had 20 points and 14 assists in Denver's mile-high altitude, including 4 of 5 from the three-point line.

Aside from Nash, three-point shooting was another Suns weakness. The team kept hoisting them up, and clank, clank, clank -- when they should have been driving to the basket, looking for better shots. No matter how good you are at shooting threes, it's a low-percentage endeavor.

The Suns went 7 for 27. What were they thinking? Were they thinking?

Recently acquired shooting guard (and we use that term loosely on this night) Jason Richardson was the worst offender. He put up 10 three-pointers and hit just 2. Barnes was only 1 of 6.

Here's an idea, Coach Porter, when one of your guys has already missed three from the outside, bench him if he attempts another. Nash was the only member of the trio who was judicious enough to be trusted from, as sportscaster Marv Albert likes to say, "downtown."

Still another problem was that Barnes and Stoudemire played out of control most of the game. That's how Matt managed to foul out. Amar'e had 21 points and 8 rebounds, but he  was in foul trouble almost from the start and was on the floor only 32 minutes.

There were plenty of bad calls, to be sure, but Stoudemire needs to stop getting so flabbergasted that he can barely function over every one against him. It only causes the refs to get it in for a player. Stoudemire, on a good night, isn't much of a defender, but he was a real dud at the end of this game because, with five fouls, he dared not jam a ball in anybody's face.

Leandro Barbosa was the Brazilian Bust against Denver. He hit 1 of 11 field goals, and was 0 for 5 from the three-point line.

Everybody's always asking why the hell these Suns can't hold a lead. They were up 14 in the first half, only to see the Nuggets get confidence -- because of the problems cited here -- and get back in the game.

Without Shaq in the lineup, Nuggets center Nene had his way in the paint, with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Robin Lopez was the Suns' starting center, but he was a stick-man to the big, buffed Nene. He got four fouls, a couple of them stupid ones, early and had to sit for half the evening.     

Here's a telling statistic. The Nuggets' Kenyon Martin had 7 steals to go along with 24 points. Martin only averages 13 points a game, and when a big power forward manages to snake away 7 balls, you're in deep trouble.

Here's another: At one point in the fourth quarter, the Suns failed to score on nine offensive trips down the court. No wonder they fizzled out and lost in OT.