The good news is the Suns are now playing offensively like they did through the last four years of offensive bliss.
The bad news is they played defense like they did the past four years as well in Thursday night’s 124-119 loss in Portland.
You never should lose when you shoot 56.9 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from deep and 86.2 percent from the line while staying close on the boards (minus three) and having a manageable although not great turnover night (16).
But the Suns allowed Brandon Roy to take over the basketball game, and his career-high 52 points ultimately represent the reason they lost for the first time in 12 tries against Portland.
“We gave another game away,” Shaq told The Associated Press. “We’re not getting loose balls, and you can’t have 16 turnovers. And you’ve got to stop somebody. You can’t let a guy go for 52. It was not acceptable.”
Roy brought the Blazers back in the third when they turned a 12-point deficit into a five-point lead and then hit the go-ahead three to reach the 50-point plateau.
A star guard killing the Suns is now becoming a trend, as Phoenix has yielded three of the top seven scoring games this season, with Devin Harris and Dwyane Wade also burning Phoenix. That’s extra bad when considering Amare’s 49 is also in the top seven, and it doesn’t even count Dirk’s 39.
The Suns just don’t have a stopper, the type of guy you can throw on the other team’s best player and know he’s going to at least have to work extra hard for his points.
In years past, although the Suns were never close to a defensive juggernaut, you at least had a Shawn Marion and a Raja Bell to throw a blanket on Brandon Roy when he was just hitting everything.
Although I’ve been terribly supportive of the J-Rich trade, it certainly results in a downgrade defensively at shooting guard, and nobody on the Suns stopped up with that killer mentality on defense. Then once B-Roy got going, there was nothing J-Rich, Matt Barnes or anyone else could do about it.
The Suns were also killed by a quick 10-point stretch by Steve Blake that kept Portland in the game in the second quarter, and then late in the third Travis Outlaw scored eight points in under three minutes, but aside from those bursts and a dose of LaMarcus Aldridge, this night was all about B-Roy.
Offensively, it was a different story for the Suns.
They were running for open shots and relied on the more fluid offense we’ve seen in recent weeks. The running and gunning Suns are back, and it was great to see J-Rich throw in four threes on a 17-point night.
Shaq scored 17 in the first half and looked dominant but ended up with just 19 as the Suns stopped looking for him.
I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but Phoenix may have been wise to go to Shaq a bit more in the halfcourt. We all know the human foul machine Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla can’t guard him, so why not feed the beast when the game starts getting out of hand?
Other than that the Suns had seven players between nine and 23 points, led by Amare, Nash went for 15 and 11, and the Suns hardly resembled a crew playing just its third game with this lineup.
Well, at least on offense that is.
Amare looked to be on his way to one of those few and far between monster board days after tearing down five caroms in the first quarter and a sixth early in the second, but he finished the game with just eight.
In the first quarter he was clearly bringing it, basically saying, “I’m getting this rebound no matter who’s in my way.”
I don’t know if it was the two quick fouls that brought him to three or what, but he didn’t have that aggressiveness on the boards the rest of the game.
Still, you can’t fault Amare for this loss as he dished out a nifty eight assists for a spiffy 23-8-8 line.
It appears Suns head coach Terry Porter favors basically a seven-man rotation with a touch of Robin Lopez (seven minutes) and Lou Amundson (five).
Again, I’d like to see Jared Dudley earn some time, but it makes sense that he may need to get a few more practices under his belt to get acclimated to his new club.
As much as I want Lopez to earn time, he just hasn’t so far.
In this one he was terrible on defense. Aldridge was getting any kind of look he wanted against the rookie, and on the other end he was getting stuffed by Przybilla.