The NBA: Setting Sun

Steve Nash is the brightest Sun on a
slowly flickering roster.
*All images are by the Associated Press.

“To be honest, it pales in comparison to getting the win. The things that really matter about (the record) is: One, to be up there with Kevin, who was a great, great player and deserves a lot of credit for what type of player he was. And then the other one, just I love the city and organization and to do it for the Suns is a real honor. But other than that I’m just glad the team got the win.” – Steve Nash on surpassing Kevin Johnson’s all-time Suns assists record and beating the New Orleans Hornets

Damn right Steve’s more glad about the win than passing KJ.

Damn right the two-time MVP is concerned about his team’s chances rather than his own personal triumphs.

Damn right, Steve.

You deserve better.

You deserve more than the current 8-13 record of the city you love.

You deserve more than what looks to be your team’s second-straight losing season.

You deserve to be in the playoffs.

You deserve to win.

But you aren’t, and won’t. Not many games, at least.

Steve Nash is fine not being his team’s leading scorer. That’s never been his job. He is a playmaker first. Always was, always will be. But something HAS to be wrong when Marcin Gortat, at 15.3ppg, is the best possible scoring option for the Phoenix Suns.

Where and when did everything go downhill?

Apart from last year, the only other time the Suns failed to go into the playoffs since Nash’s return in 2004 was in 2009, and even then Phoenix won 46 games out of 82 (that’s an impressive 56%). They were second in their division, and, had they been in the East, they would’ve been the 5th seed. If they were in the East last year, they would’ve been able to slip past the Pacers for the last postseason slot.

This year, however, things have really gone bad. Not even relatively bad. Just plain bad.

The current 8th slot in the East belongs to Milwaukee with 10 wins. Phoenix is 2 games behind them. They’re even further down in their own conference, as they are 4.5 games behind the Lakers for the 8th spot. The rise of the Clippers has also almost assuredly demoted the Suns to, at best, 3rd place in the Pacific Division. That hasn’t happened since the 2003-2004 season, when the NBA still had only 4 divisions and the Pacific had 7 teams.

By all intents and purposes, the Suns are fading – have faded. And now that he’s in his 15th season, with a team that’s devoid practically of anything positive aside from himself (the Suns are top 10 in just one stat – FT% – but they are dead last in FT attempts, so that doesn’t help much), don’t be at all surprised if he hangs up his laces soon.

Simply put, the horizon just doesn’t look very good for this setting sun.

Or he can always move to the New York Knicks.

After the JUMP, key stat-stuffers for today’s games:

ORL over WAS, 109-103 - The Magic came into this game losers of four straight, and with dropping morale. Good thing it was the Wizards they met. Ryan Anderson’s 6 threes helped him get 23 points and, more importantly, their first win in what seemed like a lifetime.
PHI over CHI, 98-82 – Many felt the Sixers’ relatively “soft” schedule helped them pad their win-loss record. Well, now that they’ve beaten both the Magic and the Bulls in the space of a few days, perhaps some more respect will go their way. They can claim legit status by beating Miami on Friday.
NJN over DET, 99-96 – Deron Williams has scored in double digits in every game he played so far this season. His 26 points makes this his fifth straight 20+ outing. Best player on a bad team? No doubt.
BOS over TOR, 100-64 – The Cs led by as many as 40 points in the second half, and were content to have the bench mob take care of the scraps in the fourth quarter. R O U T. In other news, Pauk Pierce is just 60 points away from Larry Bird as the Celtics’ #2 scorer of all time.
IND over MIN, 109-99 – The Pacers breached the 100-point mark for just the second time this season. Good thing they did it against the usually high-octane T-Wolves. Danny Granger got the better of former Team USA teammate Kevin Love, scoring 29 of his 36 points in the second half to lead the Pacer win.
MIL over MIA, 105-97 – Brandon Jennings had 31 points, 8 assists, and, more importantly, 0 turnovers, as the Bucks repeated over the Heat. They withstood LeBron James’s 40-point outburst, and have now won their 3rd game in a row.
OKC over DAL, 95-86 – KD and Jet Zero combined for 56 points, but even more impressive was Serge Ibaka, who blocked TEN shots to add to his 11 rebounds for a well-rounded effort. This win also enabled OKC to snap the Mavs’ 3-game winning run.
PHX over NOH, 120-103 – In only the Suns’ fourth win on the road, Steve Nash was more scorer than facilitator. He made 30 points to lead Phoenix past the Hornets, but his 10 dimes also enabled him to pass Kevin Johnson as the Suns’ assist king.
SAS over HOU, 99-91 – Tim Duncan went back in time, scoring 16 third quarter points to help the Spurs overhaul an 18-point deficit and eventually defeat the Rockets. This win gives San Antonio their 11th win in 12 home games.
POR over CHA, 112-68 – Excuse me. This IS the NBA, right? The Blazers scored a season-high while limiting the Cats to their season-low. Charlotte tumbles to its 10th defeat in a row, and, well, they sure as hell won’t win any more games the way they played here.
LAC over UTA, 107-105 – For the first time since 2003, the Clippers finally won one in Salt Lake City. CP3 and BG both topped the 30-point mark for the Clips, who have won just 2 of 6 on the road this season.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
LeBron James (MIA) – 40
Danny Granger (IND) – 36
Chris Paul (LAC) – 34
Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 33  

Wade and James lost to the Bucks. Again.

Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Dwight Howard (ORL) – 18
Kevin Love (MIN) – 17
Blake Griffin (LAC) & Ersan Ilyasova (MIL) – 14

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Greivis Vasquez (NOH) – 12
Chris Paul (LAC) – 11
John Wall (WAS) & Steve Nash (PHX) – 10

Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
Dwight Howard (ORL), DaJuan Blair (SAS), & Brandon Jennings (MIL) – 4

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
Serge Ibaka (OKC) – 10
Marcus Camby (POR) – 5
A LOT with 3

Vinsanity was the recipient of one of Ibaka's
TEN blocks of the night.
Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Brandon Jennings (MIL) – 7
Ryan Anderson (ORL) & Kevin Martin (HOU) – 6

Feb. 1, 2012 First Five
C – Al Jefferson (UTA) – 27pts, 12rebs, 4asts, 1stl
F – Blake Griffin (LAC) – 31pts, 14rebs, 3blks, 2asts, 1stl
F – LeBron James (MIA) – 40pts, 8rebs, 5asts, 4 treys, 2stls
G – Chris Paul (LAC) – 34pts, 11asts, 5rebs, 3stls, 3 treys
G – Steve Nash (PHX) – 30pts, 10asts, 2rebs, 1stl, 1blk

Honorable Mention:
Brandon Jennings (MIL) – 31pts, 8asts, 7 treys, 4rebs, 4stls
Danny Granger (IND) – 36pts, 7rebs, 5 tryes, 2asts
Dwight Howard (ORL) – 23pts, 18rebs, 4stls, 3asts

Brandon Jennings's 7 threes propelled the Bucks to
a 2-0 head-to-head slate against the Heat.

For a full summary of the day, here’s today’s NBA Daily Zap:

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