How the Phoenix Suns shut down Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony

The Suns held Amare Stoudemire to 7-of-22 shooting on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

It’s no surprise to see Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony have inefficient shooting nights.

Even Spike Lee would admit that STAT (40.8 FG%) and Melo (41.1 FG%) are high-volume chuckers with awful shot selection.

But it was somewhat shocking to see a Phoenix Suns team that just allowed 118 points to the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls hold Amare and Carmelo to a combined 35 points on 12-of-44 shooting and seven turnovers in Wednesday night’s win.

Yes, the Suns team that let Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson combine for 54 points on 22-of-33 shooting on Tuesday essentially shut down Carmelo and STAT, on the tail end of a back-to-back nonetheless.

And Anthony and Stoudemire are the type of players who usually give the Suns problems.

Amare averaged 32.0 points in two games against the Suns last season, while Carmelo posted 16.7 points and 11.7 boards in three contests. They would take advantage of Phoenix’s lack of an interior presence and minimal perimeter defenders. But not this time around.

So how were the Suns able to stonewall Amare and Melo and regain the defensive form they had earlier in the season? Here’s an in-depth look at how the Suns handled each player:

Amare Stoudemire

Marcin Gortat and the Suns’ weak-side defense made Stoudemire look like a shell of the player who barreled down the lane for highlight dunks in US Airways Center for eight seasons.

Gortat, Robin Lopez and Channing Frye combined to block four of Amare’s shot attempts as they anchored the paint and turned STAT into a jump shooter. The Suns’ bigs held Amare to 2-of-5 shooting at the rim, where he shoots 64.1 percent on the season, and 2-of-8 shooting from 3-to-9 feet.

Phoenix turned away both of Amare’s dunk attempts and forced him to shoot seven shots between 16 and 23 feet, where he made only two. The Suns took Amare completely out of the game in crunch time as the explosive power forward didn’t attempt a shot in the final 4:48. Here’s a look at Gortat and the Suns’ defensive performance against STAT:

The Suns forced Stoudemire into six turnovers, mostly because of help defense and Gortat’s ability to stay in front. Here Markieff Morris is on Amare but gets caught in the pick and roll. Gortat rotates over to pick up STAT, giving Morris time to recover and trap.

With Nash dropping down to take Chandler, a new wrinkle in the Suns’ defense with Elston Turner, Stoudemire has to drive baseline where Gortat holds his ground and forces STAT to step out of bounds.

Although the play above isn’t out of the pick and roll, Gortat does the same thing here as he keeps Stoudemire from turning the corner along the baseline. STAT gets caught in mid-air and turns it over. Great individual effort by Gortat.

After proving he can stay in front of Amare, Stoudemire opted to run through Gortat on the two plays above. But Gortat does a great job stepping in to take the charge, one play in help position and one playing on-the-ball defense.

More great help defense here as Gortat sends away STAT’s layup attempt. Frye does a poor job recovering to Stoudemire out of the pick and roll, which gives Amare an open lane to attack. But Gortat steps over and meets STAT on the other side of the rim to pick up the block.

Chalk this up to stellar man-to-man post defense by Gortat. He doesn’t bite on the spin, stays with Stoudemire and contests Amare’s airball. Gortat’s footwork and physicality allowed him to best Amare in one-on-one situations.

Here Amare tries to take Gortat at the end of the first half. Gortat keeps Amare in front until Frye does a great job stepping over to double STAT as he gets his shot blocked to close out the half.

This is where the Suns have been lacking in the past. Usually, Amare would blow by Hakim Warrick — as he does above — and throw it down along the baseline. But Lopez is in perfect position to slide over and meet Amare at the rim. The Suns have been hurting for weak-side defense and shot-blocking, but they flaunted exactly that against the Knicks.

This was Stoudemire’s last shot of the game, a runner to his left that didn’t draw iron as Gortat and Frye were in his face. STAT took a few questionable shots on Wednesday night, but to hold him to 0.68 PPP after Boozer torched the Suns gives Phoenix and its interior defense hope moving forward.

Carmelo Anthony

Locking Stoudemire down was impressive, but the number Hill and company did on Anthony was even more admirable. The 39-year-old forced Melo into 12 points on 5-of-22 shooting, his worst clip of the young season.

Hill contested every one of Carmelo’s patented mid-range jumpers and often pushed him off of his spot, forcing him to operate from unfamiliar areas. The Suns also did a great job swarming Anthony on the block or out of the pick and roll.

Anthony made only 3-of-8 shots at the rim, his second-worst percentage all season as he shoots at a 67.2 percent clip at the hoop. Melo also missed all four of his attempts from 3-to-9 feet, forcing him into a jump shooter. But with Hill in his grill, Anthony shot a porous 1-of-7 between 16 and 23 feet and made one of his two triples. Here’s a look at Hill and the Suns’ defense on Melo:

The Suns did a great job forcing Melo out of rhythm, which they did here as Gortat and Hill trap Anthony out of the pick and roll, moving him near halfcourt before he can go into his offense. He beats Hill off off the dribble but Gortat steps over and helps as Anthony’s shot isn’t close. Driving floaters definitely aren’t Carmelo’s bread and butter, so that’s a win for the Suns.

This time Hill forces Melo out of position by himself. Anthony tries to post up at the left elbow and go to work against the 39-year-old. But Hill fronts Carmelo and eventually pushes him off of his spot, forcing Anthony to operate just inside the three-point line. Melo jacks up a contested jumper with Hill right in his face and misses short.

Hill battles Carmelo in the post again above. Gortat shadows Anthony as Hill gives up no ground, forcing Melo into a bad shot that misses short. Another great individual effort by Hill.

On this play Melo has good post position against Hill. But Frye realizes that and comes down to help. With Frye on the high side Hill cuts off the baseline, giving Anthony nowhere to go but down. He falls and the Suns take over possession.

Carmelo finally gets into the lane here out of the pick and roll. But Frye, who’s laying back in help position as he plays both Melo and Chandler, blocks Anthony’s shot at the rim. Anthony is able to grab the ball and put it home eventually, but this play shows how nothing came easily for Anthony and the Suns swarmed him early and often.

The Suns’ offense and defense have stalled late in games so often this season, but not against the Knicks. With New York needing a bucket down five, Hill again gives Melo no daylight as he has to double-pump on his jump shot that misses well short.

It’s one thing to take away STAT’s post game, but to also limit Melo to 0.5 PPP is a testament to Hill and the Suns’ defensive potential when they’re right. The Suns may never be the Celtics or Heat on the defensive end, but to shut down both Carmelo and Amare is encouraging moving forward.

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