Clunky, Chunky Win Against the Celtics
It’s hard to believe Suns-Celtics was even the same sport as Suns-Lakers. Whereas that game ebbed and flowed with excitement, this one clunked and chunked with exasperation.
In case you’re not catching my drift, let me put it another way: The Suns, Celtics, and Basketball had a little triangular meet, with the Suns finishing first, the Celtics second, and Basketball a distant third.
The Celtics couldn’t shoot straight and neither team could pass straight.
The Celts missed four more shots than the Suns took in the first period, and sharp shooting All-Stars Paul Piece and Ray Allen wore out the rims with a combined 5-for-25 shooting. Not only that, Celts shot 32 percent as a team through the first three periods.
The teams combined for 44 turnovers, 24 by the Suns. But while the Suns had the “edge” in quantity the Celtics got the nod on quality, as many of theirs belonged in a lowlight reel.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, this was a very good night for the Suns in terms of playoff omens, because they won with defense and rebounding, and went toe-to-toe with the Celtics in what Coach Mike accurately described as a “knock down, drag out” affair --- all “necessities” the experts have been saying the Suns lack for success in post season basketball.
Of course, that was in the pre-Shaq era!
Acquiring Shaquille O’Neal was like putting the whole team through a Charles Atlas Course.
The Big Cactus had 14 rebounds himself in just 26 minutes, but what’s even more encouraging is how the whole team seems to be banging away on the boards (and everywhere else for that matter).
The Suns pounded the team with the NBA’s best record 50-32 on the boards, and had a 17-5 edge in second chance points. And it should also be noted that although they lost to them, Phoenix out-rebounded the Lakers 46-33 and had a 19-10 edge in second chance points.
Talk about a personality transplant!
Shaq’s arrival has also had a remarkable effect on Amare Stoudemire. He wasn’t exactly chopped liver BEFORE the Big C plunked himself down in the middle of Planet Orange, but since the deal STAT has actually taken his game to the next level.
“What can you say about him?’’ asked Coach Mike, who then proceeded to answer his own question. “He’s doing everything. He’s scoring, rebounding, running the floor, and defending. He’s just been great.”
Shaq chipped in with an “Amen” on that.
“Before we even start to talk about anything else,” he said, “I want to tell you Amare Stoudemire is the best big man in the game, and he’s just 25. To be honest, I didn’t know he was that good.”
Although Shaq is not given to understatement, I’m kind of with him on this one, especially when you factor in age. Andrew Bynum of the Lakers, who’s much younger, may one day reach that level, but he’s quite a ways from there yet.
As good as the Suns were defensively, their offense was probably as out of kilter as it’s been in quite a quite a while. But not to worry. The offense is understandably a work in progress, and there is no reason to doubt that once Coach Mike figures out how to work Shaq in, it will start flowing again.
The biggest problem right now is that the Suns are thinking too much. At times you can almost see the players trying to figure out their next move, and that kind of hesitation will short circuit any offense, especially a free wheeling one like theirs.
The bottom line: Although he’s only been here a couple of weeks, The Big Answer has already solved so many problems you wonder if he could lend a hand with the illegal immigration issue.