Around the Association . . . A look back at January
Posted Feb 28 2007 2:25AM
IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Feb. 1, 2007 – You may not believe me, but I really didn’t want to spend another month writing about how well Mike D'Antoni has his Phoenix Suns playing. I got that out of my system the last time my words graced this space.
But then the Suns decided losing in January wasn’t something they were interested in doing, and Steve Nash continued to play at an MVP level, and my plan crumbled from there.
I’ll get the obvious critique out of the way: They lost their last January game Monday in Minnesota. But it took a super-human effort from one of the Association’s marquee talents to finally turn them away, as was the case when their 15-game run ended in December.
"Our big thing is if we get beat, it's going to be the other team that beats us," D'Antoni said following a 115-100 victory in Cleveland on Jan. 28. "We're not going to beat ourselves. We're going to come every night and play as well as we can, and if they beat us, they beat us."
After Kevin Garnett erupted for a season-high 44 points, 15 of which came in the fourth quarter, and single-handedly stopped Phoenix in its history-making tracks, the All-Star coach’s prophecy came true. But I’m not going to let one little loss – no matter how ill timed – rain on this parade.
The Suns won 17 games in a row, the longest streak in seven years, 15 of 16 in the month (had they taken care of business in the Mini Apple, they would have become only the third team in history to finish a month 16-0) and 33 of their last 36. Not too shabby.
At 36-9 overall, you’d think Phoenix would be running away in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, there’s a team in Dallas that's pretty good too.
While the Suns were busy ripping off win after impressive win, the Mavericks stealthily went about their business, happy to fly under the national-media radar after their loss in The Finals last year. But it’s getting harder to ignore them, especially when they have the NBA’s best record (38-9) after a 16-2 January.
Like Phoenix, they have a phenomenal coach in Avery Johnson and a legit, top-tier MVP candidate in Dirk Nowitzki. And they, too, have been compiling victories at a prolific pace, winning 24 of their last 26 outings, the most significant of which came Jan. 21 in Miami, when they notched a demon-exorcising victory over the defending champs.
But, as Jason Terry pointed out before that pivotal win, the Mavs don’t get a ring for doing in one game this season what they failed to do in four at the end of last. If they want the hardware, they need to get it done come playoff time.
And something tells me those desert-dwelling juggernauts may be laying in waiting when the second season rolls around. Stay tuned.
Is there any team in the Assocation on the Suns and Mavs' level? Was there a bigger story this month? Drop me a line and tell me what you think.
Also making headlines in January ...
Have your own thoughts on the month that was? Disagree with my January highlights? Send an e-mail and let me know.