A little less than a month ago, it was Amare Stoudemire who admitted that he allowed the constant trade speculation to affect his play. But after a day in which new variations to Amare trade rumors evolved seemingly every hour, it was the other Suns not named Amare that seemed caught up in STAT’s potential departure, resulting in a 107-97 loss to the Mavericks.
Stoudemire exploded for 17 points and 12 rebounds in the first half, and eventually 30 and 14 on the game to go along with three ferocious blocks. But Amare’s teammates didn’t bring that same intensity and seemed to stand and watch while Amare tore up the Mavericks’ defense.
No other Sun besides Stoudemire hauled in more than seven rebounds and scored more than 19 points, and you have to think some of that has to come from reading constant reports staying that tonight would likely be STAT’s last game in purple and orange.
Sure, Robin Lopez was fairly solid all game long — 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks — and Jason Richardson brought a ton of energy and scoring in the fourth quarter where he scored 12 of his 19 points, but it wasn’t enough for Phoenix to overcome Dirk Nowitzki’s 28-point effort and Jason Kidd’s “turning back the clock” stat line of 18 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and a career-high seven steals.
The Phoenix Suns not named STAT, J-Rich and Lopez went 11-of-33 from the field. At one point in the second quarter, the bench was a combined 0-of-8, and players outside of Amare and Lopez were a combined 6-of-25 from the field. The Suns as a team shot 22.7 percent from distance (5-of-22) and yielded 19 points off of 19 turnovers — not exactly a winning recipe for a team that needs so many things to go right to win on a nightly basis.
They jumped all over the Mavs in the opening minutes and led 23-17 with 3:25 left in the first quarter, but Dallas stormed back and ended the quarter on an 11-0 run. The Suns struggled to stay within 10 during the second quarter and went into the American Airlines Center locker room down 56-49.
But Dallas opened the second half on a 16-4 run, building the lead up to 19 points. The Suns finally woke up in the fourth and final period, but it proved to be too little too late, as they could never cut the deficit below five. They had the ball, down seven with 3:24 to play, but a quick Richardson turnover out of a timeout resulted in a Jason Terry jumper and ultimately five unanswered Mavericks points.
Former Sun Jason Kidd thoroughly dominated Steve Nash in the individual bout between the NBA’s elderly, as he posted a fantasy basketball manager’s dream stat line. Nash, on the other hand, went 4-of-13 from the field and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, but did manage to hand out 12 dimes.
The Suns simply weren’t in sync at all throughout the meat and potatoes of the game and relied far too heavily on jump shots and three balls (what a surprise).
The keys for this team, and virtually every team in the NBA for that matter, are defense, rebounding and limiting turnovers. If the Suns can do that, they are a damn good team. But Nowitzki is just about the worst possible matchup for the Suns, and when you defend for 24 seconds only to give up an offensive rebound — which the Suns gave up 16 of — it is extremely deflating.
The Dudley-Richardson-HIll combination made Dirk work for his points — 11-of-24 shooting — but the open shots that came from Suns double teams killed Phoenix in crunch time.
One positive that did come from the game was the play of Stoudemire. You could kind of feel a monster game coming from STAT, who undoubtedly used the game that he believed would be his last in a Suns uniform to showcase himself to potential suitors, while proving to the Suns why they are wrong for shopping him.
He played just about as hard as I’ve seen him play in quite some time, both defensively and offensively. He had a trio of monster swats, including a “get out of my house” block on streaking ex-teammate Shawn Marion, who for some reason thought it was a good idea to try and make a poster out of STAT. If the Suns can somehow keep him happy and motivated so that performances like this are more of a regularity, I believe that they could make some noise in the playoffs this season. But those are all big ifs.
As for tonight, it’s always tough to lose to a conference foe , especially when you are looking up at them in the standings. But Dallas is a very solid team, especially with the addition of Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to the lineup. However the Suns have proven that they can beat anyone in the league, but they simply didn’t show up as a team tonight.
STAT brought his ‘A’ game, Lopez was solid once again and J-Rich came on late in the game, but you can’t play one full quarter of basketball and expect to win games. While Stoudemire was the one constantly in the headlines, it was his teammates who seemed disinterested tonight, resulting in Phoenix’s second loss in its last three games.
- It is no secret that Jason Richardson is one of the biggest keys to the Suns’ success. Phoenix is 15-2 when he goes for 20 points or more, and he came up a little short with 19 tonight. But you could see how he led the charge in the middle of the fourth. That extra scoring threat from the perimeter opens up the offense that is usually so fixated on Nash and Amare, creating open looks for guys all over the perimeter.
- Tomorrow is judgement day for STAT. Will he stay? Will he go? If he goes, where is his destination? If he stays, how will all of the speculation impact the locker room and his relationship with management for the final 27 games of the season? Only time will tell.