It’s been such a long time since we’ve had a good old fashioned butt kicking that I’m not really sure how I feel about it yet. As near as I can tell, the last time we got spanked by 20 points or more was January 7th, against the T-Wolves, in our one, really bad game of the new year. Now make it two.
There is something that I really don’t understand, some weird relationship between the new (old) found run and gun, seven seconds or less offense that the Suns are back to, and somehow becoming more intense on defense at the same time. How does that happen? How do you crank up the speed and play loose and free, and simultaneously get better on defense? It doesn’t work for Golden State. There’s no doubt this is the best defense the Suns have played against us in our three matchups, and they did it with small ball (less the big Shaqtus). The Suns started three guards (Nash, Barbosa and J-Rich), a small forward (Grant Hill) and Shaq, and the only other guys they used for the most part was Louis Amundson ( a natural power forward), Barnes and Dragic.
The answer seems to be sort of a pick your poison gambit: They assume they may get beat on the boards, and may not be able to protect the rim that well (even though they did), in exchange for a lot of fast and loose guys switching and playing the passing lanes like a bunch of hawks. It worked great tonight. The Suns got 14 steals, and forced 23 turnovers (and got 29 points off of them), and the Thunder never looked in sync except for a nice little run in the third. The rest of the time it was making my eyes bleed.
In the first quarter I had a pretty good idea that we were in for a long night when I counted the Suns getting to the rim on their first seven possessions. We are talking point blank shooting here. It was like the metaphor of the “matador” defense where the Thunder just shook the red blanket thingy at the bull and stepped aside letting it go right on by. The Suns scored 38 points on 71% shooting, resulting in a ridiculous offensive efficiency of 146. Meanwhile we shot 32% and had an offensive efficiency of 88.5. We were just terribly inefficient offensively while the Suns were quite the opposite. They had the most incredible ball movement most of the night. The Thunder may stop the first guy, but the Suns just knew how to get an open shot with a wide variety of give and go’s, back cuts, baseline cuts and dribble drive penetration.
To steal a page from Royce, one sequence in the first really summed up our offensive inefficiency:
(2:16 left, first quarter) Earl leading the break turns the ball over, getting stripped by Goran Dragic, resulting in a layup for the Suns. The next possession Earl jacks up a three pointer with 13 seconds left on the shot clock; a miss of course resulting in a defensive rebound for the Suns and a three pointer for Barbosa. The next possession Earl again calls his number and hits a little midrange jumper. The Suns score a field goal, and on the next possession Earl drives and attempts a little layup, which is blocked by Amundson, who gets the rebound and gets it to Grant Hill who scores. The net outcome of that little fiasco is 4 possessions, 2 points, 1 turn, 1 blocked against for the Thunder, 4 possessions, 1 steal, 1 block and 9 points for the Suns. It’s extra significant that Earl did this crap with Green and Durant both on the floor at the time. Just last week I was writing about how Earl had sort of gotten back in my good graces, playing so steady lately. Grrrr!
But that’s not all, since I’m picking on Earl, this also went down in the second quarter:
(9:03 second quarter) Earl again bombs away from three point land, this time at least with just 7 seconds on the clock and misses. Green gets the rebound and the ball winds up in Watson’s hands again who decides to drive it right at Shaqtus, who immediately blocks him and gets the rebound. After a Suns miss and a Weaver rebound, Watson again decides he’s a scorer and launches a long two which bricks. 3 more possessions with nothing to show for it.
The Thunder really only played one quality quarter tonight which was the third. The somehow found their strokes, and played some semblance of defense. I really got my hopes up that they would make a game of it when they cut the lead to six (after being down 28) in the early moments of the fourth, but then the Suns just took off and never looked back. Their offense is really just something to behold, especially in light of how this whole scheme just changed three games ago.
- Former Sonic Eddie Johnson was the color man for the Suns broadcast on League pass. He was very impressed with Durant and said that he was positive Durant would lead the league in scoring for 4 or 5 years during his career.
- Alvin Gentry has sort of done the “duh” thing by bringing back the 7 seconds or less offense. To me it’s like “uhhm, what took Steve Kerr so long to admit his mistake”?
- Leandro Barbosa still amazes me with his speed when I see him. If he isn’t the fastest player in the league I don’t know who is. The irony here is that while he just dropped 41 on us tonight, he was ours for the taking in 2003. We needed a point guard and we had the 12th and 14th pick. Hinrich and T.J. Ford were gone and we took Colly with 12 and chose Ridnour with 14. Barbosa fell to the bottom of the first round.
- Brooks tried to throw out anything to see if it would stick. He went small with his rotation, using Atkins, Watson, Weaver, Green and Colly. The Suns then went to a zone and befuddled us completely.
- Then Brooks went with Wilkins, Westbrook, Durant, Green and Krstic. I really am not a fan of Wilkins. Not to belabor the point, but in his five minutes in the first half he was -6. He couldn’t keep Barbosa in front of him, or stop him from launching dead eye jumpers either. However, nobody else had much luck either.
- On the other side, Nash couldn’t keep Westbrook in front of him either, but the Suns defense rotated and collapsed pretty well and kept Westbrook from doing too much damage.
- I could be wrong, but I think tonight was Krispy’s first start of the season. He was shaky with his jumper early but got it going later, finishing with 16 and 6 on 8/13 shooting.
- Durant couldn’t do anything to stop Richardson.
- Green seemed to disappear for a long stretch tonight.
- I was starting to get really angry at the Suns and Alvin Gentry. With 1:55 left and the score 133-116 and all the starters in, I felt like they were running up the score and trying to shove our noses in it in an attempt to be the first team since 1990 to score 140 points in three straight games. Shortly thereafter however, he did bring in Lopez and Dudley and Dragic. Barbosa still hit the magic number.
- The pace was breakneck of course at 104 possessions; one of our fastest games of the year.
- Despite the Suns running all the time, and the Thunder running selectively, we still had our chances at the rim. We had 117 scoring opportunities (FGA+FTA) and the Suns had 118. This game came down to efficiency. Well, all games do really.
- We dominated the boards (47-40), especially the O-rebs (19-10).
- We shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and getting picked. We had 23 turns and got picked 14 times.
- Our offensive efficiency was 113.5. Theirs was 134.6.
- Shake it off and get ready for another speedy game tomorrow night in Golden State.