Here are the particulars:

Offense

The Suns unleashed only five in-a-hurry shots — one each by Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire and three by Leandro Barbosa. Other blasts from the past included the Suns' two money plays — isolations for Stoudemire off some kind of motion and screen/rolls-or-pops pairing Nash and Stoudemire. In fact, it was the superb coordination of Nash and Stoudemire in the waning minutes that accounted for the Suns' winning margin.

The Suns also borrowed a double-high-post alignment that D'Antoni frequently used. Nash always dribbled off of Stoudemire's screen, while Shaq made a forceful dive-cut into the pivot — and Stoudemire faded to the middle. This play was also effective, if rarely used.

A few handoff weaves that led to corner isos for either Barbosa or Stoudemire were also quite successful.

Instead of running pell-mell, the Suns were very selective (and very effective) in pushing the ball. No surprise that these opportunities were more frequent when Shaq was easing his old bones on the bench.

If Shaq often blasted his way from the top to the bottom of the offensive sets, he also demonstrated a fondness for a favorite old ploy, i.e., simply setting up on the left box. When he did this, there was absolutely no movement in the offense.

For the game, Shaq had only 12 touches in the low post and was far from being dominant there. The big fella seldom set sturdy screens, but he did run a pair of screen-and-rolls (where he slipped the screens) with Nash wherein his determined cuts produced a pair of easy buckets. Aside from his working in tandem with Nash, O'Neal did most of his damage on offense by hitting 5-of-8 from the stripe when the Spurs opted to play Hack-A-Shaq. It's significant, however, that in the endgame when the Suns took over the game, Shaq was on the bench.

Nash carried the ball into the paint only eight times, a far cry from last season when the middle was open and he had the ball on a string. As ever though, Nash's decision-making in screen-and-roll situations made the difference down the stretch.

The Suns also had great success curling Barbosa off of single-and/or-double weak-side screens.

Otherwise, Grant Hill was the designated scorer (mostly on isos) with the second unit — Barbosa, Boris Diaw, Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic (who never tried to penetrate and was somewhat shaky with the ball whenever Nash took a blow).

NBA roundup

Forgetting about defense, I'd pick Yao Ming for the following reasons:

  • The big man in a center-based triangle attack (as opposed to a high-post attack frequently used by the Lakers when Karl Malone and Pau Gasol manned the middle) has to be able to establish and hold his position in the pivot. Nobody except Shaq does this any better than Yao.

  • The big man must also be an accurate and mindful passer. Even though Yao is often overrated in this department, he's still an unselfish and savvy passer.

  • The big man must also be a threat to score in the low-post. That's Yao.

  • Also, given Yao's ability to sink mid-range jumpers, he would add an unstoppable degree of versatility to the triangle.

  • Yao's team-oriented attitude would also be a perfect fit.

    To defend the triangle, the wings must be crowded and denied. The center-release used to counter this strategy (whereby the center comes to the foul line, receives a pass from a guard, then looks to make a dummy pass to the backdoor-cutting wing) can itself be nullified by having the wing-denier maintain contact with his man. This is exactly what the Celtics were able to do.

    Also, jumping into a matchup zone after the first pass has been completed will also stifle the triangle.

    Travels with Charley

    I was 15-years-old, a senior at Roosevelt High School (in the Bronx) and a proud first-time member of the varsity basketball team. We had just finished routing Grace Dodge Vocational High School in an afternoon home game, and I was even more ecstatic because I had come off the bench to score my first varsity points — five of them on a put-back layup, an elbow jumper and a free throw.

    Must-read:

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    Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: October 30, 2008

  • News » Same old Suns remain over-reliant on Nash


    Same old Suns remain over-reliant on Nash


    Same old Suns remain over-reliant on Nash

    Game time: Suns 103, Spurs 98

    Let's start our annual tour around the league with a scouting report on the Phoenix Suns.

    With Shaq on hand from the get-go and with Mike D'Antoni replaced by a defensive-minded coach in Terry Porter, Phoenix showed the Spurs something old, something new, something borrowed and nothing blue except the Suns' road uniforms.

    Charley's NBA tour

    Charley RosenDuring the first half of the NBA season, Charley Rosen will analyze at least one game involving every team and offer a scouting report. He begins tonight with his look at the Phoenix Suns.
    • Next: Rockets (Thursday at Mavs)

     

     
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