Observations on Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, Jan 19, 2009
Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 21, 2009
1. Our seats are nine rows behind the visitor’s bench, even with the baseline, great place to watch pre-game, on-court preparations by the players. The Suns warmed up at that hoop before the game. Nash stood in the far corner talking to some guy in a suit, hoisting up three-pointers while they chatted. I’m assuming but I sure don’t know, that Nash had been out there earlier in the evening doing a more focused routine. One thing I noticed and had noticed before, is how far back Nash’s shooting hand sits before the release. It’s almost flat or ninety degrees to his forearm. Not entirely unusual but it became even more pronounced when I watched Shaquille O’Neal’s warm-up shooting form. He does not have any bend-back in his shooting hand at all! None. Whereas Nash’s fingers are pointed almost directly backwards before the ball goes up to be released on a jumper or free throw, Shaq’s fingers are pointing straight up! No wonder there is no backspin, no rotation on the ball. (Is there somewhere on the Internet that says that Shaq broke his wrist or something, some physical explanation for this?) Go ahead, put your shooting hand up in the air, point your fingers straight up, palm, in other words facing forward, and imagine shooting a jumper or free throw that way. This was the form he used while warming up/practicing his shot just inside the free throw line. I want to emphasize this was NOT a jump hook or anything he was shooting. This was his form. Unworkable. Unless he has some physical deformity, this is inexcusable. He basically pushes the ball at the hoop.
2. When Shaq caught the ball low, back to the basket and he was being defended by fellow LSU matriculant, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Shaq was unable to back Big Baby down. Never could he while dribbling, back to the hoop, gain hardly more than an inch. Dribble-pound, dribble-bump, dribble-grind. Three hundred twenty-five pounds plus and going nowhere. My guess is that no one else in the league could do that to Shaq. Davis was down low, center of gravity way down low, forearm in Shaq’s kidney. Shaq got called for one charge (Davis drawing it); Shaq traveled; Shaq missed; Shaq missed again; Shaq fell; Shaq dunked once or twice. On this night, anyway, rather amazingly, I thought, not a go-to match-up;
3. When at the beginning of the game, Brian Scalabrine was matched up defending Amare Stoudemire, I kept turning to my wife and saying, “G-a-w-w-d-d-d! There’s the match-up the Suns will go to!” I mean, there have been times in the past few years when you’ve been tempted to put Stoudemire top ten. Right? At times dominant, on big-time rolls. Forty points the norm. Alas, on this night, if Stoudemire caught the ball, matched up with the only guy on the Celtics who voted for John McCain, ten times, he failed to score ten times. His only basket on a three point scoring night was when KG was matched up with him and KG left him to double on Shaq (which elicited a “why did you do that?” look from Big Baby when Shaq found Stoudemire for a dunk). I just could not believe that he couldn’t take him. Another match-up that was going no where. Honestly, it had me wondering whether the offensive schemes for the Suns under Terry Porter are taking advantage of their players’ strengths;
4. Rondo vs. Nash. Nolo contendere. Kudos to Rondo. One sequence: from somewhere around the right wing, Rondo found himself isolated with Nash with a live dribble, Rondo threw about seventeen of the most heart-stopping, ankle-breaking, stomach-turning, head-spinning moves on Nash, sixteen of which Nash stayed with. Lay-up Rondo. Once again, what Phoenix was running was leaving Nash’s hands tied. Hands tied is not good for point guards. For one thing, Nash is among the best at transition passing. This Phoenix team (save Grant Hill occasionally) does-not-run. Secondly, Nash and the pick-and-roll? Non-existent in this game. Rondo (and the Celtics) in a rout. (It has to be mentioned that Rondo took three jumpers in this game, each out of team and ball movement, each in rhythm. Each went in. Previously, Rondo was taking jumpers either as the shot clock wound down, or when defense was daring him or embarrassing him by backing off and he had to shoot. Here, on this night, he was just a shooter shooting. Really nice to see development like that in a player.