Postgame Central: Suns vs. Kings - Mar. 28, 2013
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Lucky Number Stats
The Storm Before the Calm
By Ben York/ @bjyork
If I’m honest, I’m not sure what I expected to see tonight.
But I was pleasantly surprised.
Before continuing, I think it might help to provide some context. I’m a diehard Phoenix Suns fan. Always have been, always will be. And although I follow the Suns faithfully, my position within the organization is the Beat Writer for the Phoenix Mercury – which keeps me quite busy, especially considering the excitement of the upcoming 2013 season. Nevertheless, at least for one evening, I’ve moved across the proverbial aisle to write a guest column for Suns.com.
That said, even though I’m an employee and a fan, I’m not oblivious to the challenging season the Suns are having.
But at one point about midway through the first quarter of tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings, I had an unassuming yet, specific, epiphany.
When everything changes, change everything.
I don’t know where I heard that phrase, or why that thought entered my head at that precise moment. Doesn’t really matter.
But it did provide me, as a fan, with a comforting sense of clarity.
No matter whom your favorite team, there is an axiomatic ebbing and flowing of optimism and exasperation. When times seem dark, it’s fair to ask, “Does this have to happen? Why is this happening?”
The short answer is yes, it has to happen. Not to be melancholic, but like death and taxes, change is inevitable. Every organization – inside and outside of the sports world – experiences it. Very few people like change, and it’s understandable why. We live in a society where we associate change as always being a negative thing. And when we do finally open ourselves to the concept, we expect and prefer it to happen quickly.
But change doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. The key to moving forward in a successful and effective manner is how you choose to respond to change – it is, after all, a choice.
What I saw tonight was a conscious, measured choice from the entire Suns team not just to play basketball, but to fight for a win.
As a fan, that’s all I can ask for.
Take, for example, the situation the Suns found themselves in during the third quarter. Down close to 20 points with seemingly no bounces or momentum going their way, it would’ve been easy to just quit, especially for such a young team. Instead, they rattled off a run of their own to get right back into the game and trailed by just 10 points entering the fourth and final quarter.
“We got stops defensively, that was the big thing,” Kendall Marshall (nine points, 10 assists) added. “Our stops led to easy fast break points. A couple times, PJ Tucker got into the passing lanes and got out and got lay-ups, Luis Scola got a throw ahead and I got a lay-up. When you’re getting stops defensively it makes the offense easier.”
Then, after falling behind again by 14 points early in the fourth, the Suns went on a 7-0 run to cut the Sacramento lead to seven. At that point, on the second night of a back-to-back, the Suns simply ran out of gas.
“I thought our effort was there tonight,” Head Coach Lindsey Hunter said after the game. “I think our execution wasn’t. I think guys had mental lapses at times on different coverages and it resulted in them scoring especially at certain, crucial times when we had the game manageable to get a little closer. We made timely mistakes on rotations. Just the small things. Part of it is just because those guys haven’t played much together. You know, inexperience plays a part of it, but that is just what we have to work on.”
Ultimately, the Suns’ Achilles heel tonight was a rough game at the free throw line (12-23) and being out-rebounded 50-37. An incredible night from DeMarcus Cousins (34 points, 14 rebounds) didn’t help the Suns’ cause.
As Hunter said, tonight the Suns didn’t execute to the best of their ability – not unexpected for a team who is learning on the fly. Still, there is a difference between effort and execution, and the Suns’ effort tonight was undeniably there.
Conversely, if the effort was absent, there’s no way the Suns would’ve out-rebounded the Kings on the offensive glass (14-13), had eight more assists (29-21), fewer turnovers (9-18), more steals (11-5) and substantially more fast break points (29-19).
I can live with losses; they happen. But an uninspiring effort is difficult to swallow. Fortunately, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted, this Suns team has no quit in them.
That matters to me.