So let me get this straight, the freaking Cardinals of all teams are hosting the NFC Championship Game on Sunday and the Suns can’t even beat a Minnesota team that entered today 0-14 against the West’s elite?
And what does that say about the Suns being among the top teams in the Western Conference?
I still think the Suns are and should be at least one of the best five or six teams in the West, but you wouldn’t have known it Friday night, when Phoenix dropped a 105-103 decision.
Sure, Minnesota has been much better this month, winning six of seven in 2009 after a 6-25 start in 2008, but it’s imperative for the Suns to win home games against bad Western Conference teams.
I wrote last night about the importance of games against the West’s other top eight teams, but that was presuming the Suns would be able to take care of business against the Sacramentos, Clippers, Oklahoma Cities, Memphis’ and Minnesotas of the world.
You could argue it’s even more important to win these games, just because you should; there’s really no excuse for losing to a bad team at home.
The game wasn’t lost on the last play, but when a contest comes down to one possession everything on a final play will be magnified.
Head coach Terry Porter gave his club the order to attack on a long rebound, and that’s exactly what Steve Nash did after getting the ball from a rebounding Grant Hill with about six seconds left and trailing by two.
Normally I would love Nash in that situation, with a couple seconds to pick apart the defense, but Minnesota did a great job of beating Phoenix down the court, and thus there was no appeasing option. At this point Nash started calling for a timeout with 2.3 seconds left and the clock stopped at 1.7 although Hill rebounded with a good seven seconds remaining in the game.
“Hindsight is 20/20 and it was kind of crowded, so Coach had said, ‘Look to see if you’ve got something and if not, call a timeout,'” Nash told Suns.com. “We did that and it didn’t really work to our advantage this time, but it might have and hindsight is easy to second guess.”
Nobody would have first guessed Porter telling Nash to push, but with the way things turned out 1.7 isn’t much time, unless you’re Danny Granger or Roger Mason.
The Suns ended up getting a falling out of bounds three-pointer from Jason Richardson that fell just short. Randy Foye was right up in his grill because 325-pound Shaquille O’Neal didn’t set much of a pick on him.
“It was tough,” J-Rich told Suns.com. “I definitely want to be one of those guys that take those shots – it’s tough that it could have won the game. But I accept the things that come with missing a shot like that. I could have won the game with that shot.”
Watching the final play on replay, Hill may have had a lob to Amare at the basket, and that may have worked if Kevin Love hedged up on Nash, the second option popping out to the top of the arc after back screening.
But like last night, the Suns didn’t lose because the final seconds didn’t go their way.
They lost because Minnesota grabbed 10 more offensive boards (Love had seven), and the Suns’ fast-break defense once against left something to be desired.
“We didn’t deserve to win tonight,” Nash told Suns.com.
A night after putting up a sparkling 20-14-7 in a season-high 46 minutes, Nash recorded a modest 6-4-4 in this one in 34 minutes. He missed a pull-up three with 31 seconds left that would tied it, a shot I just feel would have swished through the net the other night in Denver.
Nash looked like he hadn’t lost much of a step from his MVP years Thursday night, and then with the quick turnaround just wasn’t that player again on Friday.
A night after scoring a season-high 25 points in 43 minutes (second highest of the season), Hill wasn’t the same offensive force either, scoring just six points and taking five shots in 24 minutes.
It’s kind of sad that the Suns rested Shaq for this one while sitting him against the mighty Nuggets only to fall to the hapless Timberwolves anyway.
But at least you can’t blame Shaq in this one, as he recorded 22 points, 11 boards and four dimes while hitting nine of 13 shots. His plus-minus of plus 10 led the team.
Amare put up a solid 19-7-5 with three blocks but was a minus seven, the only starter to be a negative, and LB bounced back from his 1-for-11 Thursday night to tie Shaq’s team high of 22, but the Suns were minus eight with him in the lineup.
Hill proclaimed after the Atlanta game that he thought the Suns were “here now,” a proclamation that seemed a tad premature after a game Phoenix played just OK in following a run of victories mainly against patsies.
Now with consecutive losses following that statement, the only place the Suns are now is eighth place in the West.