I still miss Mike D’Antoni, but at least the Suns made sure he left town with a frown instead of that smug grin we all grew to know and love so much after the Suns won, 111-103.
As expected, the game was played at about as quick of a pace as Phoenix has faced all season, but the difference in the game was that the Suns did a nice job on New York’s three-pointer shooters as the Knicks missed 32 of their 37 shots from deep, hitting a measly 13.5 percent.
If the Knicks would have missed just 29 of those shots, still a shade under 22 percent, than they would have been victors. At times they acted like they needed a three-pointer to tie the game in the closing seconds the way they were chucking up long balls left and right.
The Suns hoisted 22 threes of their own, hitting nine of them for a 40.9 percent clip, but they didn’t get into a shooting war that we’ve seen a number of lesser teams try to do against the old Suns. That’s just not a game you’re going to win against a Mike D’Antoni-coached club.
Instead Phoenix threw it inside where it enjoyed a literally sizable advantage with Shaq and Amare over David Lee and Al Harrington, and thus the Suns’ big guys combined for 44 points and 26 boards. Whenever the Suns needed a basket, they knew they could dump it down low and at least get free throws out of it.
“We knew they were going to maintain their speed and tempo, but we also knew we had to throw it into the post and see what they were going to do and really try to punish them down there and see if we can get the ball to take it out of the net more often than off our turnovers or missed shots,” Suns head coach Terry Porter told Suns.com.
I continue to enjoy watching the sped-up Suns. They’re playing more to their strengths and allowing Nash to create, while also pulling things back and going to the post-up game when there’s no need to push.
The Suns established the post with Shaq baskets to start both halves, yet also did a nice job of getting into transition when those opportunities presented themselves.
“I think we’re finding a better balance,” Nash told Suns.com. “Terry has encouraged us to get back to running the way we did last year and moving the ball and playing at the pace and tempo that benefits our talent, and at the same time we can go into Shaquille and use him since he’s been playing really well.”
Phoenix also enjoyed another balanced scoring game, with the starting lineup all scoring in double figures and taking double-figure shots. Shaq scored 23, Amare and Nash 21, J-Rich 16 and Hill 11. Five different players also chipped in with at least six boards.
As was no surprise against a D’Antoni team, the Suns reeled off a 22-4 run in the first quarter to take a 17-point lead but the Knicks were in it to the end, making their own run whenever Phoenix threatened to pull away.
The return of D’Antoni
The story of the night still was former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s first visit to the Valley as the New York Knicks’ head man.
He deservedly received a rousing ovation from the crowd when he was announced during pregame introductions as Phoenix fans thanked him for these past four blissful seasons.
Nash for one was glad his fans delivered such an ovation.
“I was proud to be a Suns player and a Phoenician – to hear the response Mike got,” Nash told Suns.com. “I thought it was a classy response after a little bit of controversy in his exit. People really needed to brush that aside and really look at what he contributed to this city and franchise and how much fun we’ve had over the last four years – so I thought it was very deserved and very classy on the part of the Phoenix fans.”
Added D’Antoni to Suns.com, “I’ll definitely be back every time. It was really nice. Just seeing the players again…it was good.”
It will be nice for all sides to move past this game and the distractions and drama it stirred up.
The Suns needed to win this contest to prevent D’Antoni from winning it, which would have made the naysayers come out in full force.
I still wish Mike D’Antoni were coaching the Phoenix Suns, but I understand it just wasn’t working and had to end, and I’m willing to give Terry Porter a chance. I feel Porter’s done a nice job adjusting to his personnel, and I have confidence he will be a good coach for this organization in the long run.
Now it’s time to stop worrying about who’s not coaching the Suns and just focus on the rest of the season.
It was ironic that D’Antoni was in town on a night Porter played a D’Antoni rotation.
Only eight players even took off their warmups and only the Big Seven saw substantial time, along with five minutes of Lou Amundson.
Amare played 42 and every starter logged at least 35 minutes, including 39 minutes for Nash and 37 for Grant Hill.
D’Antoni got blasted by Suns officials for not using his bench or developing rookies, but Porter has pretty much stopped playing rookies Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic except when Lopez starts when Shaq sits.
I can’t say I completely disagree. I think the Suns need to settle into an eight-man rotation with the top seven guys and one out of Lopez, Amundson and Jared Dudley, with a ninth getting some spot time as well depending on the game.
I have no confidence in Dragic (and it doesn’t look like Porter does either), but I’d like to see Lopez a bit more.
I wonder if D’Antoni made a crack to Kerr about Porter’s use of his bench before he left the arena.