The Suns can only hope this is rock bottom, because I’m not sure how much further they can fall after being embarrassed in Charlotte of all places on Saturday, 125-99.
Aside from changing the final score and the date, those are the exact words and title I wrote last year after the Bobcats waxed the Suns in Charlotte in a game they led by 34 and won by 22. Things were even worse this year, as Phoenix trailed by a season-high 39 points and lost by 26.
Last year I felt the Suns had hit “rock bottom” because it was their fifth loss in six games, with three of those coming to losing teams and two of the five losses via a blowout. Phoenix came up with a big win in Atlanta in its next game to ensure rock bottom didn’t get any deeper.
This year it feels like rock bottom because how much worse can it get? Instead of blowing a big first-half lead, the Suns decided to pretend like they had a monster lead at tipoff, as Charlotte scored the game’s first 12 points and led 43-22 by the time the first quarter concluded.
Of all teams, you would think Phoenix would know that no first-half advantage is insurmountable, but the Suns never mustered much of a fight, trailing 103-64 at the worst point in the third, their largest deficit of the season.
“We were never in the game,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “They scored at will and basically just did everything they wanted to do. I thought that after a game like last night we would have a little carryover, but it didn’t happen.”
The Suns did snap one streak, however. For the first time in six games they did not blow a double-digit lead, so at least they’ve got that going for them, although it’s not exactly good news when they trailed by double digits for the majority of the game. Combined with the shellacking against the Grizz to start the new year, a team has made a major run against Phoenix in every game this decade (2010).
I’m not altogether surprised that the Suns laid an egg. Phoenix has been terrible in back-to-backs all year (2-7 now), and I figured they would come out flat after such a draining loss like the one last night in Atlanta. But unlike earlier in the season when they were winning every game that they weren’t being blown out of, now they are dropping many of the close ones AND still not showing up once in a while.
Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson both had their way with Phoenix, scoring 29 apiece, and Charlotte shot 50.5 percent to Phoenix’s 41.7 percent, including 66.7 percent to the Suns’ 34.8 percent on long balls. The Bobcats have now won seven of eight and seven in a row at home.
Amare Stoudemire was the only Phoenix starter in double figures with 19, but that doesn’t absolve him from much blame when he was a minus 33 in 29 minutes. Steve Nash, Channing Frye and Grant Hill scored just 12 points combined.
The effort just wasn’t there from the tip when Charlotte raced out to its big lead and the Suns folded up the tents. You would think the Suns would have something to prove after losing in such a fluky fashion on Friday, but instead they may as well have had the Iowa Energy play this game. They would have had a better chance of winning considering the effort the Suns put forth.
If you want a silver lining, you can talk about the bench. Leandro Barbosa scored 17 points for just the second time since returning from his sprained ankle, playing with requisite aggression in garbage time when the game was long over. Robin Lopez also had another nice night with 14 points and three blocks, making his case for a rotation spot, and Earl Clark chipped in with 12.
Then the worst seemed to happen when Goran Dragic grabbed his left knee and winced in pain before having to be carried off the court in meaningless fourth quarter action, but Paul Coro reported that X-rays were negative and it’s just a bruised knee, so the Dragon is expected to suit up on Monday.
The Bobcats now have beaten the Suns twice in franchise history, and both were of the “rock bottom” blowout variety.
Afterward, Amare Stoudemire and Jason Richardson made a couple interesting comments to reporters.
Amare: “We started off flat and they started off hot. If you are a top team, other teams are going to be amped up to play you. That puts more pressure on us to bring our ‘A’ game every night. Once they got it going, it was hard to stop them. I think we are a much better team than what we showed tonight.”
And J-Rich: “It’s not a low point, but we have to be desperate now.” And later, “We stuck to our game plan and we did everything we were supposed to do, but they just hit shots.”
First to Amare’s point, “top teams” don’t get down by 39 to Charlotte and blow 24-point leads to Milwaukee and Indiana. If it’s any solace, the Suns won’t be getting other team’s best effort for being a “top team” anymore after what they’ve shown the last month and a half. He is right that the Suns are much better than they showed, but how could they be much worse?
As to J-Rich’s point, if the Suns stuck to the game plan, maybe the coaching staff does deserve more criticism. But I doubt there was anything in the game plan about not showing any semblance of fight.
Larry Brown could not remember his Bobcats playing a better offensive first half, and Brown’s 9-year-old grandson reminded him that Charlotte scored 59 points in a game earlier this year against Boston. They had 74 by halftime and 105 after three.
Yes, a Bobcats team that averages 98.6 points per 100 possessions put up 125 in 100 possessions tonight.
In all, this has been a disaster 24 hours for Phoenix sports fans considering last night’s loss to the Hawks and the Saints’ throttling of the Cardinals in the NFL Playoffs. The only thing worse than this 26-point loss in one of the Suns’ worst games of the season is the Cardinals’ 31-point loss in a game that ended their season. Oh well, at least the D-backs signed Adam LaRoche.
With every defeat the Suns fall down the Western Conference playoff board, slipping now to the No. 6 seed, only two games up on a playoff spot.
Their hot November has now been wasted, but the question remains if this really is rock bottom or if Phoenix’s free fall has just begun.