TNT analyst and noted Suns fan Charles Barkley uttered these words about his former team at halftime of Thursday’s TNT telecast when the Suns trailed, 64-46, on their way to a 112-97 loss.
The way the Suns have looked the last week, during which time the Suns have lost four straight games for the first time since the beginning of the 2006-07 campaign, Barkley couldn’t be more right.
“We were never able to break them off their rhythm offensively,” Suns head coach Terry Porter told Suns.com of Thursday’s game. “They got whatever they wanted, [got] where they wanted to get to and when they missed shots … they ended up getting the offensive rebound. Had too many breakdowns in pick-and-roll situations and that really hurt us and got us behind the eight ball to begin with.”
Most discouraging is that Shaq Diesel laid an egg when he should have been fresh with three days off since Sunday’s loss to the Nets.
Shaq finished with just four points on 1-for-6 shooting and five boards in 26 minutes, his 325-pound frame barely making a dent on the game. The Daddy only scored less points in the Indiana game in which he only played 12 minutes, and besides the Detroit game rejection, only his putrid one-board performance at Utah was worse in that department.
That Utah game, Shaq’s worst of the season before Thursday, deserved a bit of an asterisk in that he was playing a back-to-back, which we all know is not a good situation for him.
This time around Shaq has no such excuse as he sat out Wednesday’s game for rest and has not even practiced since Sunday. That could mean Shaq’s knee (the official reason for him sitting out Wednesday) is bothering him more than anyone cares to admit, as Shaq had averaged an 19.0 and 9.8 line on 62.1 percent shooting in his previous five games on multiple days of rest.
With Shaq doing almost nothing on the boards, the Suns were killed again on the backboards, this time by a 48-35 margin to put the Suns at minus 29 in the rebounding department during the past two losses.
“Sometimes it’s the big has come over to help and his guy ends up with the ball offensively and that hurts sometimes rebounding-wise,” Porter told Suns.com. “But other times we’ve got guys there and they just outwork us and get them. So, that’s an area we’ve got to do a much better job at. These last two games we’ve allowed teams to outwork us on the offensive boards and that really hurt us.”
You could say the Suns enjoyed a balanced effort on the boards with five players grabbing at least five rebounds, but that’s not a good thing when Matt Barnes for the second straight day led the team in rebounding, this time with six boards.
As for Sir Charles’ other point, the Suns have now yielded 43 points to Dwyane Wade, a career-high 47 to Devin Harris, 24 and 15 to Chris Paul and now 39 to Dirk Nowitzki. Sure, those guys are studs, but the Suns have been essentially defenseless against those players through this four-game losing streak.
“Just haven’t done a good job of taking initiative and taking a challenge,” Porter told Suns.com. “We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to get back to taking a challenge and guarding your guy. Sometimes it’s scheme situations where guys haven’t helped, but other times initially it all starts with you as an individual first. I know there’s no doubt we’ll get better at it.”
Offensively, Amare went for his customary 28 and Nash finished with a solid 20 and 10 line, but they got no help, with only Boris Diaw joining them in double figures.
The Suns have been blown out in three of their four losses and have lost by an average of about 13 points per game in their nine losses, largely because of an inability to defend and rebound.
Where have we heard that before, right?
And that’s a big problem with the Suns’ formerly-potent offense still searching for an identity.
Goran Dragic resurfaced in the backup point guard role after a seven-game hiatus of only playing in garbage time or not at all.
Sean Singletary took his place out of the rotation, playing just the final 1:20 when the game was long decided after seemingly taking over the backup point guard spot from Dragic.
Dragic showed some of the aggressiveness he’s lacked much of the year, forcing the issue for seven points, three assists and two rebounds in just 10 minutes. That’s just three boards less than Shaq and Amare.
Basically sitting out these past couple weeks could be good for Dragic to really see the entire floor without having to worry about making mistakes, kind of like how a rookie quarterback often sits and watches a veteran for a year or two before taking over the reins.
It doesn’t seem as though Porter is sold on either Dragic or Singletary quite yet, but Dragic may still be an asset this season if plays with the confidence he did Thursday night.