The Suns won the game by 25. That means, according to my bet with Dan from Bright Side of the Sun, that I owe him 25 sentences on the beauty of Suns basketball. Here we go.
Let's just start off by saying that few people seem to understand how good, how phenomenally good, how historically good this Phoenix team is. With Steve Nash healthy and Amare Stoudemire somewhere close to 100%, the Suns went 37-5 over a stretch of 42 games. During those 42 games, they lost a grand total of one game by more than one possession. They played 37 consecutive games where they won 34, or lost in overtime or at the buzzer. The all time NBA record for consecutive wins was set in 1971 by an LA Lakers team that featured Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan and Michael J. Fox as the Teen Wolf - I'm just saying, that Lakers team was good. And this Suns team was a basically three bounces away from breaking that seemingly unbreakable record.
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, let me explain that I watched Steve Nash as a freshman at Santa Clara during the 1993 WCC tournament in San Francisco. Nash didn't start for the Broncos that season, but he came into the semi-final against regular season league champion Pepperdine and absolutely took over the game, bad haircut and all. He destroyed my mighty Waves that night, and I've been a fan ever since.
The Suns play superior basketball. Nash is so good on the pick-and-roll that he makes Pat Burke look good. He's so good on the pick-and-roll that I find myself watching the game and thanking the FSM whenever they decide to run something other than pick-and-roll. Even if the other play works (and it usually does), I'm still relieved; the Suns pick-and-roll just represents a special level of torture for opposing teams (and their fans). It reduces the opposition to bumbling idiots. I swear I thought one of the Clippers was going to pop Tim Thomas at some point, they were all so frustrated.
Shawn Marion (who scored 31 points tonight without a single play being run for him) has got to be the quickest player to the ball in the league. On the post game radio show in LA, Clippers assistant Kim Hughes was lamenting a lack of hustle on the part of the team, and broadcaster Ralph Lawler pointed out (correctly in my opinion) that it wasn't a lack of hustle - Marion just gets to balls more quickly than anyone, whether you're hustling or not. Marion's shot chart from this game is exactly what Mike D'Antoni wants - 8 layups and dunks, and 3 corner 3's.
The Clippers took an early 8-4 lead in this game, and then the Suns went on a 13-2 run. It included a Stoudemire dunk off a feed from Nash that was simply astounding. Micro-fracture schmicro-fracture. The game was over as of that moment.
Finally, I have to praise coach Mike D'Antoni. Obviously, as we again saw before the All Star break, it doesn't work nearly as well without Steve Nash, but equally obviously, it's not just Nash (if it was, those Maverick teams with Nash and Nowitzki would have won every title). The ball never rests in Phoenix's offense - players are driving or passing or shooting. There are no isolations (unlike 29 other teams in the league). And every single player on the Suns is bought in. One of my favorite hypocrisies from NBA announcers is the old 'Never leave your feet unless you know what you're going to do with the ball' chestnut, which of course they only say when a player leaves his feet and then gets caught. They never seem to say it when a player leaves his feet and then somehow finds a way out, as when Nash or Barbosa goes flying into the lane and then passes not to the first option, nor the second option, but the third or fourth option. There's always a cutter coming (invariably Shawn Marion) and he's ALWAYS ready for the pass. And there's someone at the rim. And there's someone else in the corner. And someone else at the top of the circle. And Nash knows that. And it's all by design.
Well, I think I've gone beyond 25 sentences at this point. But it's not a chore. I could write all day about this team. Dan, if you go on vacation and need a guest blogger, I'm your man.