What a difference a Shaq makes.
A day after watching his Suns get throttled in Chicago from the sidelines with a staff-prescribed day of rest, Shaq turned back the clock to lead the Suns to a 104-96 victory in Milwaukee to end the road trip a successful 3-1.
Shaq missed his first 30-point game since last March by a point, scoring 29 on 12-for-16 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing four assists.
“The big fella was great for us tonight and obviously had a serious presence in the post tonight,” Suns head coach Terry Porter told Suns.com. “I’m all for that day off. He had a lot of energy tonight, and when we needed him to be a force for us he really was a force for us.”
I’m not sure if a vintage game like this supports or harms the theory of Shaq resting during one of the back-to-backs.
On one hand, if resting him every so often makes him feel good enough to look like the old Shaq and not just old Shaq, that’s arguably reason enough to do so.
“I felt fresh,” Shaq told Suns.com. “Usually after two days off I feel fresh thanks to the upper management and their decision. You never know until you really get out there, but two days off you can’t complain about that.”
But if Amare gets no help, the Suns are crushed on the boards like the pre-Shaq Suns and teams get a motivational edge that seemed to be on display in Chicago with the Suns resting him against the Bulls (I mean, that stuff just doesn’t happen in sports and it’s dream bulletin board material), the Suns will really have to swallow hard about all that if they really believe the rest will make that much of a difference.
Since you’ve got to believe the Bulls game was just an off contest for guys likeand , the rebounding worries me the most. The Suns have outrebounded their opponent in every game Shaq plays but were destroyed on the glass by 14 in Chicago. Coincidence, I think not.
“I think if Shaq is playing the way he is it’s great,” Nash told Suns.com. “It defeats the purpose if he’s always on the sidelines, but we definitely want him to feel good and maintain during the season.”
I continue to wonder how the Suns will make the decision concerning what end of the back-to-back to rest Shaq because you can always use some sort of a zone to hide him in a bad defensive matchup, and if he’s got a mismatch disadvantage on defense you know it will be a hell of a mismatch advantage for him on offense.
A parade to the foul line
The Suns dominated Milwaukee in the post, with the Bucks afraid to double team much of the game due to the threat of the Suns’ outside shooters.
And at that point they couldn’t guard Shaq and Amare, who hit just three field goals but still went for 24 thanks to an 18-for-20 performance at the line. For the game, the Suns shot 32 more free throws then the Bucks, hitting 81.5 percent of their 54 attempts.
As for Amare at the line, this is getting ridiculous. He’s now hit 49-of-53 (that’s a Nash-like 92.5 percent) in his past three games. That’s a month worth of free throw for a lot of guys.
“Amare at this pace is going to be breaking all types of records,” Porter told Suns.com.
Amare is hitting 87 percent of his foul shots to date this year and has gotten better at the stripe every season since entering the league as a bad free-throw shooter as a rookie, hitting just 66.1 percent. He surpassed the 80 percent barrier last year for the first time in his career and looks to be on his way to another career year at the line.
That’s a very good thing for the Suns because nobody in the NBA, not even LeBron, has gotten to the charity stripe as often as Amare this season.