Be honest. You weren’t watching the first quarter. Not when the Knicks and Celitcs were deeply engaged in what has been the game of this young season. Who could turn their attention elsewhere while Amar’e Stoudemire bounded and astounded his way through, around and over our beloved K.G.?
Sorry, not this guy. That’s what DVR’s are for.
With minutes left in lower Manhattan’s celebration of their not so triumphant return to relevancy, the Garden faithful erupted into that ubiquitous three syllable chant every athlete longs to hear. Surprisingly enough, he actually deserved it.
At this point we’re all familiar with Stoudemire’s repertoire: his increasingly potent face-ups, nimble drives and those oh so contemptuous assaults on the rim, but it’s been the willingness to address his foibles that has catapulted him into MVP status. A newfound defensive aggression, determination on the glass and eager embrace of accountability have seemingly transformed him into an actual leader. What was previously an underwhelming collection of spare parts are now thriving alongside their $100 million man, most notably fellow signee Raymond Felton, who is walking with the unshakable confidence of knowing the neighborhood bully is his big brother.
As much as the Lakers and Celtics dominance is a hallmark of the NBA, nothing bodes better for the league’s future than the return of it’s flagship franchise. So enjoy it Spike. You’ve certainly earned it.
Anyway, let’s get back to our other contest.
With Amar’e's absence, we were facing a relatively favorable matchup with Phoenix, mired in a three game losing streak after their signature stroke from beyond the arc had all but deserted them. Couple that with their undersized front line and the league’s top rebounding team should’ve been licking their chops. Or fangs. Whatever. Given both squads lackadaisical defense, blistering pace and propensity to shoot the three, some would say that Minnesota and Phoenix bear a striking resemblance, making this an opportunity to measure ourselves against a kindred spirit . If it weren’t for that pesky issue of production, they might be right. The Wolves have recently tightened up their sloppy play to become the league’s 21st most efficient team. The Suns however, are second. And the difference lies beneath the greasy hair and spry fingertips of Amar’e's former benefactor.
STAT or not, Steve Nash is still Steve Nash.
As he always does, last week our friend Ben eloquently stated the responsibilities of the modern point guard. Nash is entirely postmodern. In a game of angles, actions and reactions, he has an uncanny ability to anticipate them all to the point of symbiosis not only with his teammates, but the ball itself. Thirty foot bounce passes skip with just the right trajectory, alley oops are mid flight before the defender or recipient realize they’re available, behind the back passes render double teams useless and not once will a teammate have to strain himself in order to catch the ball. It’s nothing short of captivating. Always the right decision and always right in the hands, Steve Nash always delivers. There are but a handful of lead guards who can dominate a game with 19 assists alongside only four shots and the league’s preeminent hipster remains the cream of the crop.
Meanwhile, our rudderless ship coasted its way through another three quarters-and a good portion of the fourth-before another late lead was lost. The season’s narrative may suggest that it was due to a lack of offensive production, but on this night the Suns simply caught fire. Now whether it was an issue of strategy or execution is still unclear. The results were: 15-27 (55.6%!) from three, including five bombs that sparked a 19-4 run and sealed the game. So much for that dry spell. There were several perplexed looks and late rotations that led me to believe our pups were confounded by Phoenix’s ball movement, but regardless, such sharpshooting shouldn’t be expected. Even here. If the Suns miss a normal amount, perhaps their surprising edge on the boards (46-39) disappears and we take advantage of the extra possessions.
Or maybe that slippery little bastard takes five shots instead of four and breaks our hearts anyway. After all, that’s what MVP’s are for.