Quick - when was the last time the Suns lost a game in regulation by more than 2 points? It was 2 months ago, November 9th against Dallas. The Suns are 25-3 since then, with OT losses to Utah and Washington, and a last second 2 point loss to Dallas. To put this in some perspective, 25 and 3 is an .893 winning percentage, a pace to win a league record 73 games. Now obviously the 1-5 start puts the kaibash on that, but since Amare got back to say, 70%, they've been winning on a record pace. Furthermore, the league record for consecutive victories is 33 by the West, Goodrich, Chamberlain Lakers in 1972. The Suns are three bounces away from a 28 game streak. I know, I know, an OT loss is not a win, but 28 consecutive games that came down to the final possession is astounding in it's own right. I mean, most people view the 33 game streak as one of the few unassailable records in sports, in the Salary Cap era. The fact that the Suns have only lost to OTHER white hot teams (Utah had the best record in the NBA when they beat them, Dallas still has the best record, and Washington needed 56 points from Agent Zero) makes it all the more impressive. Even when they were 1-5, all the losses were by single digits. They do not have a double digit loss this year. That's amazing. These guys are good.
And yet they don't have the best record in the NBA. That honor belongs to the Mavs, who actually had a WORSE start than the Suns, losing their first 4. Since then, they are 28-4. Wow. The difference I guess is that the Mavs have been man-handled a few times this year (Houston beat them by 31 and the Clippers by 18 during the 0-4 start, Utah beat them by 22 and Detroit by 10 since then), but 28 and 4 is astounding in it's own right.
Quick - what former Clipper has the highest single game point total this season? If you guessed Lamar Odom's 34 points against Phoenix when Kobe was sitting, nice try. If you guessed Quentin Richardson's 31 in triple OT against the Grizz, another fine effort, but wrong. Andre Miller playing up-tempo in Denver? Nope, his season-high was a respectable 29. The answer of course, is Matt Barnes, who scored 36 in the W's recent L in Memphis. He also has a 32 point game to his name this season. Barnes began his NBA career on Jan. 19 2004, when the Clippers signed him to a 10 day contract. He was 2 for 13 on three pointers in his 38 game Clipper career; he's 61 for 142 (43%) with the Warriors this season. Amazing that with the league littered with former Clipper lottery picks (1st overall pick Olowokandi, 3rd pick Miles, 4th pick Odom, Wilcox, Ely, Taylor, etc. etc.), it's Matt Barnes that we wish we still had.
Speaking of the Grizz, looks like there are now officially no easy 'outs' in the West. OK, NOOCH is easy until CP3 gets back, but after that, you'll have to play every game. Playing fast break basketball under Goodfella/coach Tony Barone, Memphis blew out the Lakers last night. We are talking about a team that made the playoffs last season, and they have arguably more talent now (Pau Gasol is back, Damon Stoudamire is back, Rudy Gay is a major talent, Warrick got great experience while Gasol was out, and even Stro Swift looks good in the up-tempo). This is an interesting case-study for the basketball strategies diary Citizen John R posted last week. The Grizz went from one end of the tempo spectrum (Mike Fratello and Jeff Van Gundy are the standard bearers for the 'walk it up' school) to the other, literally overnight. Since Barone took over, the Grizz have averaged 117 points per game (they were averaging 94.5 before; Phoenix leads the league at 111). And yes, it's only six games, including some against high scoring / poor defensive teams like the Warriors and the Celtics, but they've also played Houston and San Antonio in there. I think what Jerry West is doing is brilliant. The season is already scuttled; Barone knows it's an interim gig. Why not go as far as possible the other way, and get as many data points as possible? West can evaluate the talent, evaluate the styles, and make a permanent coaching decision in the off-season using actual results under different offensive philosophies. He's a pretty clever guy, that Jerry West.
Finally, Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News reports today that the Sixers are finalizing their buy out of Chris Webber's contract. It is going to be really interesting to see where CWebb ends up. The guy can still play. I mean, in a league that produced 4 20/10 guys last season (Garnett, Yao, Brand and Marion), he averaged 20 and 9.9. In 75 games. This is last season... I'm not talking about 5 years ago in Sacramento. Obviously his body's breaking down, but that's been true for years. He can help somebody. Now, he wouldn't accept the buy out if he didn't plan to play somewhere, and he'll only want to go somewhere where he has a chance to win. Would Miami want another geezer? What's his body fat percentage, I wonder? I don't think he'll re-unite with AI in Denver or with Bibby in Sacto. It's an interesting one. All of the Western Conference contenders already have great power forwards, so it's hard to see him going to any of those teams. And it's pretty hard to characterize ANY Eastern Conference teams as true 'contenders' right now. I say he ends up with Shaq and DWade in South Beach. Stay tuned.