The Post Up: Suns Take down Spurs

by March 10, 2008
9

By: Holly MacKenzie

Eastern Conference

1. Boston 49-12
2. Detroit 46-17
3. Orlando 40-24
4. Cleveland 36-27
5. Toronto 34-28
6. Washington 30-32
7. Philadelphia 30-33
8. Atlanta 26-36
————————
9. New Jersey 26-37
10. Chicago 25-38

Western Conference

1. LA Lakers 44-19
2. San Antonio 43-19
3. Houston 42-20
4. Utah 42-22
5. New Orleans 42-20
6. Phoenix 41-22
7. Dallas 40-23
8. Golden State 39-23

—————————-

9.Denver 37-25
10. Portland 33-30

“If I’m Miami, I’m saying that is not the Shaq that I traded”
-Mark Jackson

This statement is so frustratingly true. Where did this newly invigorated Shaquille O’Neal come from? From his first game in Phoenix, where we saw him running up and down the floor with ease it was evident that while Dwyane Wade was damn near killing himself in Miami (albeit unsuccessfully), he had quit on them. Seeing him leap into the stands, springing into action full-force, risking both his body and the lives of a few small children sitting courtside all in an effort for a loose-ball was quite the sight. It was something I didn’t think I would see again because I didn’t know if he had that sort of effort left in him. Turns out he does and he gets his Superman theme played and the Phoenix fans on their feet while all of Miami continues to give him the middle-finger.

Also, did anyone else notice just how long he looked when he was stretched out in the air as he dove into the stands? Did you notice Duncan smile that crazy smile when the camera was on him while he waited to check into the game at the scorers table? That made me giggle.

Speaking of children sitting courtside, remember the year that Kidd crashed into TJ and he ended up with a broken collarbone? I am not about to start making fun of a child getting injured, I’m just saying it was pretty bizarre.

One more thing about the Suns team. I am sick of hearing about the Suns medical staff. If they are this good, they need to pass around their secrets because we all deserve superstars who are healthy and for those in their decline being able to prolong their careers as long as possible. I watched a video of Raja and his wife showing their house for Phoenix fans (shut up, you’d be watching too, the man is engaging, his wife is sweet, she still plays soccer and the two of them seemed refreshingly normal in the world of wild nba relationships), and when the interviewer mentioned that their training staff has the reputation for being the best in the league Raja looked at her, completely surprised. Thought that was funny considering all we ever hear is how amazing they are.

The entire Spurs and Suns game was fantastic. Close game, big shots from the Suns in the clutch, Amare and Shaq playing the fourth quarter with foul trouble, it was good all-around. With the way that Phoenix has been struggling, a win against an opponent like the Spurs is a great way to begin trying to right things.

Speaking of the Spurs, they dropped a big game against Denver on Friday night. After winning 11 straight they have now dropped two in a row and I don’t expect them to lose a third. The Nuggets were fantastic on offense in the contest Friday night, but as usual their defense was as bad as their offense was good. Giving up 49% shooting isn’t the best way to guarantee victories, regardless of how well your own shooting is.

The match up between Houston and New Orleans was fantastic. 18 straight for Houston. 41 points for Tracy. 6-0 without Yao. People can say what they want about the opponents they have faced, what will happen in the playoffs, etc. No one can deny that the Rockets confidence is just on another level right now and McGrady is doing his best impersonation of his old self in leading them to big things. I swear someone printed off a conversation we had about him in the Post Up a few months ago and passed it along to remind him of how talented he is. The Rockets now hold the 3rd best record in the West and are sitting pretty at 42-20.

Chris Paul with 37 and 11 falling to McGrady and his 41 and 9 was a treat to watch.

Actually, Paul and Tyson Chandler playing together on the same team is the treat. The chemistry between those two on the floor is brilliant.

It seems I cannot mention the play of Paul without also mentioning Deron Williams. I’m sure the two are used to being mentioned in the same breath, but I can’t help it because Deron needs to be mentioned. The Jazz look good and their offense is rolling. They are clicking on all cylinders and Deron is the leader of the pack each night. Even the loss of Kirilenko with the hip injury hasn’t slowed them a beat.

Russ attended both Detroit and Portland @ the Knicks this weekend and he will have more from us. Nate with 45 on Saturday but the Knicks lose again. Rip with the hot-head on Friday, Sheed not in the game, and the Knicks lose again. Eddy Curry may be out for the rest of the season with a cartilage tear in his knee and yes, the Knicks will continue to lose. Hang in there, New York fans.

Besides Nate’s big night in the loss, Kevin Martin dropped 48 in a loss to the TWolves. It would suck to score a career-high in a loss. Especially a loss to one of the worst teams (at least record-wise), in the league.

There have been some big numbers and high-scoring games going around lately, especially in the West. Teams topping 120 points? Maybe its a sign of lax defense, but it can be really fun to watch. Not so much in games like the Celt’s 119-89 rout over the Grizzlies or the Lakers annihilating the Clippers 119-82. Those are some gross scores and they were pretty awful games to watch.

I did enjoy the Lakers game though. It’s always fun to watch your team grab the W, even in a blowout. I actually think it is more fun, although less satisfying, than a close, hard-fought win against a great team. Best part of the game was definitely the crowd cheering “Coby” for Coby Karl before he knocked down two three-pointers in the final minutes to make STAPLES go crazy. Immediately after, Ronny Turiaf almost knocked him over by jumping into him.

Switching over to NCAA for a moment, I watched the Duke/UNC game on Saturday (thanks Izzo!). That was fun, I’m sure all of you Duke-haters enjoyed it as well. While we gear up for the tourney, please feel free to tell me the background stories that I should be aware of before it gets underway. You know, the stuff besides who is great. The stories that make me feel like I need to root for certain players.

Sounds like some serious changes are coming to Indy this offseason. While we are in the midst of one of the most exciting races to the playoffs that I can remember, the offseason looks to have almost as much excitement. It’s a good time to be an NBA fan. During the Suns/Spurs game, they mentioned that since January 1st, there have been more than 50 players that have switched teams.

And, about the Lakers loss to Sacramento last night. This was the first Laker game I have missed in it’s entirety since, well, I honestly cannot remember. Coincidence? I don’t believe in them. You’d better believe I will be moving mountains if needed in order to catch the rest of their games.

Okay, there are still a lot of games, teams and situations to be discussed but it’s Monday and I doubt if many of you will make it this far, let alone through the rest of the thoughts in my head. Let’s get the discussion rolling.

Phoenix 94 San Antonio 87

After dropping their last three home games, the Suns had to face the Spurs as they tried to avoid their largest home losing streak in It was a close battle all afternoon, with neither team leading by more than eight points and the game going down to the final possession. The two teams expected nothing less from the match up and the Shaquille O’Neal experiment looked good in this game, as he finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds while sharing the task of trying to stop Tim Duncan with Amare Stoudemire. While Phoenix went ahead by as many as eight points late in the third quarter, by the start of the fourth the Spurs led by one and went on to hold a five-point advantage with five minutes remaining. Pressure situations have not been kind to the Suns as of late, but they charged forward yesterday and took the Spurs down. First, Steve Nash hit a pull-up three to cut the lead down to three points. Next, Phoenix turned up the defense and forced a shot-clock violation on San Antonio before Stoudemire knocked down a shot to tie the game with three minutes remaining. It would be Stoudemire who would score the next three points for the Suns, all coming from the free throw line. While Manu Ginobili knocked down a shot to bring the Spurs within one point, offensively, the Suns were solid. Grant Hill knocked down a long two-pointer, while the Spurs struggled as Ginobili missed on three consecutive possessions, Raja Bell sealed the victory with a three pointer. O’Neal led the Suns with 14 points and 16 rebounds while Steve Nash had 19 points to go with 14 assists, Stoudemire scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and Hill added 16 points. Ginobili had 22 points for the Spurs as Tony Parker added 21 points, Duncan scored 17 points to go with 11 rebounds and Kurt Thomas added 11.

Houston 106 New Orleans 96

After winning 17 straight games, the road to 18 was not going to be easy for Houston as they faced Chris Paul and the Hornets. Thanks to Tracy McGrady’s will and desire to grab the third spot in the Western Conference, it didn’t matter and Houston dropped the Hornets by ten, 106-96. McGrady was fantastic for the Rockets, scoring 41 points on 17-27 shooting, as they held on to the large lead they built thanks to a second quarter that saw them outscore the Hornets 39-23. After leading by 13 at the half, the Rockets managed to stretch their lead to 17 points early in the fourth, thanks to their hot three-point shooting. While Paul tried his best to rally his team back into the game by scoring 16 points in the final quarter, the Hornets would hover around 10 points the rest of the way through as they could not stop McGrady. Besides McGrady and his 41 points he contributed 9 assists for the Rockets as Rafer Alston scored 20 points and Shane Battier added 10 points. Paul finished with 37 points and 11 assists for the Hornets while Tyson Chandler had a 15-point, 16-rebound double-double. Peja Stojakovic scored 13 points and Morris Peterson added 12 in the loss.

Utah 132 Denver 105

While the Houston Rockets notched an NBA-season high 18 straight victories on Saturday night, the Utah Jazz grabbed their 18th straight victory on their homecourt, defeating the Nuggets 132-105 in an offensive explosion. After outscoring Denver 34-26 at the end of the first quarter, Utah exploded for a 43-point second quarter while holding the Nuggets to only 28 points, taking a 77-54 advantage into the break. The Jazz continued their dominance of the Nuggets into the third quarter as they outscored them by ten in the period and stretched their lead to as many as 37 points in the blowout. Denver never lead in the game and their fatigue from playing the night before was evident. They trailed 108-75 at the start of the fourth as Utah pulled their starters early on in the final period. The Jazz finished the game shooting 60% from the floor and 735 from the three-point line as Mehmet Okur knocked down six triples himself. This hot shooting was compared to 45% from the floor and 24% from beyond the arc for the Nuggets. Denver was out-rebounded 43-30 in the game and racked up only 17 team assists while Utah’s offense was flowing, giving them 36 team assists in the contest. Okur finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, going 9-11 from the floor. Deron Williams scored 14 points while dishing 16 assists, Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Paul Millsap scored 16 points and CJ Miles added 13 as seven Jazz players reached double-figures. Allen Iverson scored 28 points to lead the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony finished with 23 points, JR Smith scored 16 and Linas Kleiza added 14 in the loss.

Washington 110 Toronto 106 OT

On Friday night the shorthanded Wizards faced the shorthanded Raptors. While Washington has had to learn to try to survive without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler for significant amounts of time this season, the Raptors were without leading scorer Chris Bosh. The extra games without their superstars paid off for the Wizards in Toronto as they were able to hang on in overtime to down the Raptors, 110-106. While the Wizards went up by as many as 11 points in the contest, the Raptors went on a 16-0 run in the third quarter, outscoring Washington 29-15 in the period to turn the game around and take a six-point lead into the fourth. After their lackluster performance in the third, the Wizards shoot it off and outscored Toronto 30-24 in the fourth thanks to a 10-point effort from rookie Nick Young. While the Wizards were up two in the final seconds, Andrea Bargnani knocked down free throws with 13 seconds remaining to force overtime. In the extra session it was the Jamison show as he scored six of the Wizards final eight points in the period to finish with 26 points and 16 rebounds as Washington survived the storm to get the victory. Besides Jamison’s big night, Roger Mason scored 18 off of the bench for the Wizards, Young and Darius Songaila added 14 points apiece while Andray Blatche and Brendan Haywood added 12 points each.

Portland 103 Milwaukee 101

After suffering a slump as of late, the Portland Trailblazers find themselves staring up at the packed Western Conference while sitting in the 10th spot. As they try to fight their way back into the playoff picture they need to grab every game against those opponents with losing records. Thanks to a jumper by LaMarcus Aldrige with 2.4 seconds left in the game, the Blazers escaped with the win in Milwaukee on Friday night, defeating the Bucks 103-101. A close game throughout, the Bucks went up by eight in the first minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Blazers kept on fighting and regained the lead, 92-91 with 3:45 remaining in the game. While Portland would go up by 97-91, Redd brought the Bucks back and his free throw with 43 seconds remaining tied the game at 101. On the final possession for the Blazers, Aldridge hit his jumper and Portland got the win. Aldridge finished with 29 points, Brandon Roy scored 20 points to go with 10 assists, Steve Blake scored 21 points and Martell Webster added 17. Redd led the Bucks with 25 points, Charlie Villanueva scored 16 points, Desmond Mason and Charlie Bell scored 15 points apiece and Andrew Bogut and Royal Ivey each added 12.

Sacramento 114 LA Lakers 113

Coming into the game looking to avenge a loss to the Lakers last week, the Sacramento Kings were able to deal LA a rare home loss and only their third loss since acquiring Pau Gasol over a month ago. With a 40-point second quarter, the Kings led 71-60 at the break after putting together a 17-5 run in the period. A strong third quarter from the Lakers allowed them to cut the lead to 62-89, at the start of the fourth. The final period saw the Lakers continuing to try to keep up and they would tie the game at 100 on a jumper by Gasol midway through the period. The rest of the way through the Kings would cling to the lead until Gasol gave the Lakers a one-point advantage with 15 seconds remaining. After Beno Udrih calmly sank two free throws with four seconds on the clock, the Kings knew where the ball was going for the Lakers. With a chance to win it for LA, Kobe Bryant was short on his final shot attempt, a fadeaway jumper as the buzzer sounded. Udrih was solid for the Kings, finishing with 25 points and 10 assists. Kevin Martin scored 21 points, Ron Artest scored 17 points and Francisco Garcia added 15. Spencer Hawes and Mikki Moore added 14 points apiece with Moore pulling down 9 rebounds as well. Bryant finished with 26 points for the Lakers as Gasol had 25 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Lamar Odom scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Sasha Vujacic added 15 off of the bench and Derek Fisher added 13.