Win ‘without’ Nash displays Suns’ evolution

Steve Nash wasn't himself in Game 6 against the Trail Blazers, but an evolved Suns team found a way to win without him. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Steve Nash wasn't himself in Game 6 against the Trail Blazers, but an evolved Suns team found a way to win without him. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

There was a time not so long ago, earlier this season even, that the Phoenix Suns’ fortunes paralleled the performance of their two-time MVP.

If Steve Nash was locked in, the Suns were locked in. If Nash was off, the Suns were off. The momentum of the team essentially lived and died by their offensive maestro.

But the Suns have evolved, particularly this season. They have evolved into a team that thrives when Nash is on, yet still finds a way to win when he’s off. Thursday’s Game 6 elimination of the Portland Trail Blazers was pristine evidence of this evolved group and their ability to get the job done “without” their biggest veteran leader.

Nash, in some aspects, may as well have sat in the locker room during this game he was suffering so badly from a strained hip. In the first quarter, Nash handed out four assists, but he scored ZERO points and to top it off racked up SIX turnovers.

In the second quarter, Nash spent some time getting to know the Rose Garden visitors’ bench. He entered at the 3:42 mark and within the minute scored his first point of the game, a free throw on a technical foul. Less than a minute later, he notched his season-high-tying seventh turnover. Final line for the half: one point, five assists, seven turnovers. Not exactly characteristic of a two-time MVP who averaged 16.5 points and 11.0 assists during the regular season.

The second half was better for Nash, as he tallied nine points (four from free throws, but five points from the field is still infinitely more than he scored in the first), an assist and two rebounds. Oh, and zero turnovers.

This analysis isn’t meant to simply Nash bash, though, as he did do some good things to finish with a plus 15, such as nailing a momentum-swaying three-pointer with 2:33 to go in the game and then after a stop drawing the defense for a nice dish to Amare for a bucket on the next possession to give the Suns an insurmountable 12-point cushion.

Of course the hip Nash strained before Game 3 was really bothering him during Thursday’s game, so there is that to explain the performance — but only to a certain degree.

So Nash had an off night. Even Michael Jordan had off nights (kind of). What matters more in this game was that the Suns didn’t collapse because of that off night. They found a way to make up for what was missing and grind out the victory.

Jason Richardson helped fill the scoring void by continuing his outstanding play that we’ve seen all series. Goran Dragic displayed some of the skills he’s learned from Nash as he efficiently ran the offense. And Jared Dudley provided a spark, as he often does, in the absence of Nash’s natural energy.

This is not a necessarily a new development, it is simply under a bigger microscope in the playoffs. Nash struggled at times during the regular season while battling back and abdominal issues, but that didn’t sink the Suns. Nash was shut down on occasion by elite defenders, but that too did not always break the Suns.

That the Suns were able to keep it together and find a way to win without a significant contribution from one of their star players is a testament to the well-rounded nature of the 2009-2010 Phoenix Suns. Moreover, it is an important departure from the Suns teams of old that leaned heavily on Nash’s efforts to carry them in crucial moments.

While it’s more than fair to assume Nash will not have many more performances like he did on Thursday night, it’s also fair to assume that this Suns team will be all right if he does have another off game.

Tags: Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis Playoffs Portland Trail Blazers Steve Nash

  • Tyler Lockman

    @Electromikey. Thanks, that's exactly what I meant.

  • Electromikey

    Huzzah for the Suns! Indeed, this team is MUCH more well-rounded than in the past. As a quick note, I think you may have meant to write “turnovers” instead of “assists” in the sentence “…scored ZERO points and handed out four assists. To top it off he racked up SIX *assists*” (asterisk emphasis added).

  • Pingback: Suns finish off Blazers with defense, Spurs up next| Valley of the Suns

  • Ace Phoenix

    Nice article Tyler. The reality is that this is all possible because of the development of Dragic and the bench as a whole by Gentry. I think Dragic should be playing even more minutes and should be the first guard sub off the bench for Nash or for JRich, before Barbosa.

    We are going to need Dragic to be big against the Spurs and Ginobili and Parker.

    Thanks for the article, Go Suns!

  • JoCaLa

    mmmm i love turnovers, especially apple ones.

  • Pingback: » Blog Archive » Suns Close Out Blazers In Game 6. Win 99-90. JRich On Fire.

  • Pingback: Steve Nash’s scorching first leads Phoenix Suns to Game 1 victory over San Antonio| Valley of the Suns

  • Pingback: Steve Nash helps Suns finish off the Spurs with six stitches in his right eye| Valley of the Suns

  • The Z. Man

    Very good piece.

    That was just like to my take on the game. Nash has guts. Played through the pain. This alone inspires the rest of the team.

    Suns have the best leaders. Besides Nash, we have Alvin & STAT & Hill. We have the best bunch of young guys who individually and/or collectively can take over the game. Atop all of this, we have clutch Laker killer Barbosa back.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!

  • Pingback: Goran Dragic looks to take next step in Year 3 | Valley of the Suns