What a fitting way for Phoenix to enter the All-Star break.
In Wednesday’s 109-92 defeat in Cleveland the Suns suffered their worst turnover game of the year – which is saying something – allowed an opposing stud guard to set a career high, started strong but then faded and ultimately got blown out in a loss that pushes them to the outside looking in if the playoffs were to start today.
Because of all that I think everybody would be surprised if the Suns team that left Quicken Loans Arena will be the same Suns team that suits up Tuesday against the Clippers.
This team seemed to be playing some inspired basketball by getting out and running in the first quarter, but despite shooting 66.7 percent shooting and holding the Cavs to 39.3 percent shooting, the score was tied. Against a team as good as Cleveland, that certainly was a bad sign.
Then the turnover bug bit worse than it has all year, leading to a season-high 25 turnover day that includes 18 in the first half and 12 in the second quarter alone when Cleveland built a 12-point lead. That’s as many TOs as teams like Detroit and San Antonio average in a game.
“That’s the name of the game,” Amare told Suns.com. “Our turnovers tonight was what got us down. They scored 34 points off turnovers, that’s the ballgame right there. Turnovers have been something that have been happening all season long, so it’s nothing new right now.”
Goran Dragic led the turnover barrage with five in 21 minutes, followed by Shaq’s four and three from every other starter – Amare, J-Rich, Hill and LB. That’s not the kind of balance a team likes to have.
Of course, Steve Nash missing a game due to back, shoulder and hamstring issues (also a very bad sign going forward) left the Suns with little chance to win from the tip against a team that’s now 24-1 at home and plays such good defense. As we saw, Dragic isn’t up to such a challenge even playing backup minutes quite yet.
But even when Nash does play, turnovers have been a major issue all season, as only lowly Oklahoma City (16.4 per game) turns the ball over more frequently than Phoenix does (16.3), and barely at that.
What’s interesting is that even when the Suns ran more the past four years, their turnover numbers were much better. You would think a team as fast as the SSOL Suns would turn the ball over making risky passes pushing it, but maybe them shooting so fast prevented turnovers that come later in the clock.
Last year they ranked 17th in the league and averaged 13.9 turnovers per game, in 06-07 they were ninth with 14.5, in 05-06 they were third with 13.3 and in 04-05 they were seventh with 13.7.
They’re turning the ball over two to three times more per game this year than in previous years, and for a team that outscores its opponents by just 0.9 points per game, those are two or three pretty important possessions.
The second biggest reason the Suns lost this game is because of Mo Williams, who certainly has my All-Star vote after torching the Suns for a career-high 44 points on 18-for-26 points, and he’s not the only guard who has looked like an All-Star against the Suns this season.
Yes, just like Devin Harris, those two ugly words again, career high.
Williams certainly hit some tough shots but he was also given far too much space far too often.
“Mo was on fire,” Amare said. “Are you kidding me? We couldn’t contain him. He was coming off screen and rolls with a lot of space in between. He was just pulling the trigger, he had his shotgun cocked and loaded. He was on fire tonight, so props to him for how well he shot the ball. I think that was the momentum shift for them.”
But should this be such a big surprise? Mo torched the Kings for 43 just a few weeks ago, and has played like, well, an All-Star much of the season.
Williams pretty much did whatever he wanted all evening, and where were the Suns to throw a different look at him? Giving Wally Szczerbiak wide-open shots worked for a while in the first quarter, but it was a recipe for disaster against Mo in the second.
In general I believe a coach deserves at least a year, but head coach Terry Porter clearly isn’t getting this Suns team to play up to its potential.
They still lack a clear identity. They looked like the old SSOL Suns even sans Nash in the first quarter, and then went away from the running game much of the rest of the contest.
Part of me thinks Porter deserves a full year to implement his system, but it’s hard to tell what system that is with such a lack of identity. This team is clearly underachieving, and you’ve got to wonder if the players are tuning him out.
Still, I don’t think Alvin Gentry is much of an upgrade, and is there any coach out there that immediately would command the respect of the locker room and be able to put back the pieces of this broken season? I really don’t think so, and that’s why I bet Kerr sticks with his guy for the remainder of the year before possible axing him over the summer.
Instead the likely fall guy is, of course, Amare Stoudemire, and if this was the last time we see STAT in a Suns uniform, at least he put up a very Amare-like stat line of 27 points and six boards, complete with a team-worst plus-minus of minus 22 in 38 minutes. Meanwhile Cleveland’s All-Star starter, a guy by the name of LeBron, boasted a plus 22.
This is how bad things have gotten on Planet Orange, the Suns just went 1-2 on a road trip, dropping both of their losses in blowouts, and I wouldn’t consider it a horrible trip.
The way they have been playing I was very worried they would be heading into the break with three straight losses, so even the one win makes this trip at least decent.
When a 1-2 trip is considered a best-case scenario, that’s when you know your team has fallen from the ranks of the elite. (As if we didn’t already know that)
Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire