The Long March to Lotterydom continues tonight at 9pm in Phoenix, and tomorrow we're off to lovely Sacramento. Here's what you need to know about the Suns:
-- In their last four games, they've scored at least 140 points three times, and the fourth game was against the Celtics' defensive juggernaut, against which they only scored 108.
-- Grant Hill has been starting at the four since Amar'e Stoudemire went out for the season with a detached retina, with Matt Barnes and old friend Jared Dudley spelling him. This could bode well for Boris, as he's generally more comfortable with guys who don't bang, and none of those guys will take him off the dribble, either.
-- Given Steve Nash and Amar'e as your cornerstones, how could anyone possibly think turning to a grinding style would win more games than a freewheeling, uptempo, style? I give Steve Kerr credit for setting his sights on a championship and nothing less, but in retrospect the truly gutsy move would have been to trade Nash or Amar'e in addition to acquiring Shaq, as a sign that the old way would not fly under new management.
-- The Suns are out of the playoffs by three games at the moment, but they're sitting in the nine hole, and it won't take much to get them there. The thing is, they're at an uncomfortable crossroads, having squandered one of Nash's few remaining elite seasons and having been unable to get the most bang for their bucks sunk into a rejuvenated Shaq. Look for them to undergo another makeover this offseason.
Do not hope for victory tonight. Hope for competence and that the Bobcats save some in the tank for tomorrow night in Sactown, a game they absolutely must win in order to maintain a shred of optimism that the playoffs are within reach. If they steal this one in the desert, all the better, but the odds remain long.
One final note: Is there anything Emeka Okafor can do to stop criticism? Seriously. Dude is in the middle of a stretch that would strain any big man, going up against Howard, Yao, Howard, Shaq, yet is still playing at a high level on defense and scoring in double digits every night on a team that doesn't ask him to be a primary option. So when Larry Brown complains publicly about Okafor's inconsistent screens, it smells like scapegoating for the losses and nitpicking a guy because it's something coach-y to say to a fawning press. The Bobcats are losing because they're playing really good teams that are more talented and, yes, better coached. Suck it up.