22 December 2009
Never turn your back until the game is done. Never walk away until it's won.
That sounds a little bit like a line from the Kenny Rogers song that tells us "You've Got To Know When To Hold 'em - Know When To Fold 'em". And it is a simple lesson to learn - but an essential one nonetheless.
Unfortunately - the Phoenix Suns tore that page out of their collective song book and never remembered the lines during Monday evening's terrible game that saw the Cleveland Cavaliers steal their lunch - and their bus fare too. The 109 - 91 defeat marks the Suns worst home performance of the year - but the score tells only part of the story.
The rest of this tale can be found in the Suns allowing themselves to fall victim to nine steals - including 3 at the hands of Delonte West and another three by Mo Williams. Apparently they both want to put together highlight videos and our Suns just had to oblige.
Yes - we've been part of the chorus that has paised the Suns for playing like the Kings of the Fast Offense.We have even listened in rapt attention to players like Jason Richardson offering the 'ol alibi that the Suns offense nails buckets so fast that it means "even our opponents get more touches".
Well - what looks fast against stragglers like the LA Clippers - just doesn't rate against the Cavs when they play at Monday's level. And the Suns must learn to ratchet-up their game when facing this kind of team.
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Now our guys tried - for a few minutes. That's why the Suns were on top by a point coming out of the first quarter and the 30 points they scored in the first 12 minutes put them on a path to a high-scoring 120-point game. But when they could not break free from Cleveland early on - an intimidation factor seemed to set in.
And it's real bad when the visiting team is looming over you - shadowing you - and intimidating you on both ends of the court.
Amar'e Stoudemire tried to respond and he tried to put the Suns on his back - to literally carry them over the finish line on his own. But it backfired as Amar'e piled-up fouls at an untenable pace and had four of them by the time he was halfway through the third quarter. That meant benching STAT - the Suns most explosive scorer - through much of the third quarter and nearly the first 5 minutes of the fourth quarter as well.
And when he returned to the game - Amar'e was a frustrated man. He was nailed with a technical shortly after trotting back onto the court - and our big man All-Star was also hit with a questionable fourth quarter offensive foul as it became apparent the Suns weren't going to challenge Cleveland in the waning moments of this contest.
Amar'e was not alone. The patented Steve Nash-led fourth quarter comeback faltered when he didn't score a single point in the final period despite spending six minutes on the court. And Jason Richardson proved to be as agile as a pair of winter boots on a sandy beach as he went just 3-10 from the field in 30:04 minutes on the court.
Hopefully - this defeat means more than just simple disappointment. It leads to a better day - and a tougher Phoenix Suns team - a team that can make there mark during the Western Conference play-offs.
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