If Monday’s “showdown” in Boston was to serve as a measuring stick for how far off the Suns are from playing championship-caliber basketball, then Phoenix’s 104-87 loss made the Suns look like a squad that doesn’t even deserve an invitation to the 16-team dance.
No, the Suns aren’t as bad as they played in this one – hell I’m not sure if the Clippers are as bad as Phoenix played tonight – but when the lights got bright in Boston, Amare Stoudemire and crew faded away.
This game wasn’t nearly as close as the 17-point final score would suggest, as only a 14-point win of the fourth quarter with the bench emptied prevented the final score from being utterly embarrassing.
Better indicators of how Phoenix played would be the 64-34 halftime deficit and the 35-point lead Boston built with three minutes remaining in the third.
I honestly can’t remember the last time the Suns played such a horrendous half.
The 24-minute joke show featured the same number of Phoenix turnovers as field goals (15), more Boston assists than Phoenix field goals and more turnovers than rebounds (13, to Boston’s 26).
Worst of all, the Suns took a mighty uppercut from the defending champs but instead of fighting back just whimpered back to their corner of the ring. The Celtics brought physicality, and the Suns backed away from the fight, looking like the “soft” team Phoenix has been dogged for being so many times over the years.
With Shaquille O’Neal patrolling the paint alongside Amare Stoudemire such labels were supposed to be gone the way of shots in seven seconds or less, and after a November game against Portland, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge even referred to the Suns as bullies down low.
Just don’t expect Kevin Garnett and Co. to buy that now after the only bullying the Suns did was directed toward the zebras.
“It was a good old-fashioned ass whooping and there is nothing more to say,” Shaq told Suns.com. “Period. That’s it. Good old-fashioned ass whooping.”
Added Nash, “They put on a clinic for us tonight.”
There’s no shortage of reasons as to why the Suns lost this contest, but Amare’s failure to show up ranks at the top of the list.
Amare did not make a single shot, scoring three points on free throws while missing all seven of his field goal attempts in 30 minutes, marking his lowest-scoring contest since April 2003 when he was running with Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway.
He also grabbed just a single rebound, did not record an assist or a steal, turned the ball over four times and committed four fouls, and this was against the defensive force known as Brian Scalabrine much of the night.
After scoring 31 points Sunday in Toronto, Amare told The Arizona Republic, “I’m about to get my gorilla game on. It’s more striking fear in an opponent’s heart, trying to dominate.”
As it turned he played more like the Suns Gorilla.
With Garnett on the other end of the court patrolling the paint, I couldn’t help but think back to the trade rumors centered around Amare and KG before the Big Ticket was eventually dealt to Boston.
At the time I vehemently opposed the deal because I just didn’t think you could replace a scoring force like Amare, especially a player of his age and potential.
But at least you know KG is going to give 110 percent each and every night, whereas somehow a 6-foot-10 force of nature only grabbed a single rebound tonight, and this isn’t the first time we’re talking about Amare and lack of effort on the boards.
Watching what KG has done to this Boston franchise really makes me wonder what the Suns could have done last year with KG alongside Nash.
It also sickens me that the Suns dealt away the draft rights to Rajon Rondo, and all Rondo did in this one was go for a game-high 23 points, seven assists, five boards and some stifling defense on Nash.
The future of the Phoenix Suns point guard spot would be bright with Rondo, and the Suns could actually afford to rest Nash once in a while with a tough, defensive-minded backup who’s starting to become a force on offense as well.
“Well, we’ve had a few draft-night trades to stay under the salary cap that were difficult in the big picture,” Nash told Suns.com. “Our franchise is built on a business model that tries to stay under the cap as much as we can. It’s just how it’s been.”
Sounds like I’m not the only one frustrated by the Suns’ frugality.
Looking on the bright side – and there’s not much to look at – Lou Amundson kept running around like a madman until the final horn as he collected a career-high 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with three blocks and a pair of steals, and at least the Suns haven’t been clobbered like this since Jason Richardson was acquired, with a month and a half passing since their last blowout loss, Dec. 4 in Dallas.
So although this was the Suns’ worst defeat of the season, I remember a certain football team from the state of Arizona that came to Boston and got clobbered 47-7 in the snow last month, showing as much fight as the Suns did in this contest.
I wouldn’t exactly start saving up for NBA Finals tickets just yet, but the Arizona Cardinals certainly recovered quite nicely from that embarrassing blowout.