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Suns Pound Kings (Where Else?) Inside, Win 114-102

On Wednesday, the Spurs went 24-27 from within five feet of the rim. Of course, the Spurs have Manu Ginobili (a brilliant slasher and finisher), Tim Duncan (a brilliant post player) and DeJuan Blair (a brilliant offensive rebounder). The Suns have ... Amar'e Stoudemire. And yet, the Suns also dominated the paint, going 16-19 en route to a 114-102 win that wasn't really that close. Phoenix had an effective field goal percentage of .843 near the rim. They shot .432 everywhere else. PROBLEM!

The Kings, near the rim, against that porous, thin, weak Phoenix defense? 17-26, for an eFG of .654, which isn't too bad (like the Kings offense in total) but sure as hell ain't making up for the devastating weakness at the other end.

With the Kings defense playing so, so poorly, everyone basically needs to shoot the moon out of the sky. But the team went 3-13 from long-range (0-4 combined from Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin). The team went 5-21 on the worst shot in basketball, the long two-point jumper. (Donte Greene, who set a career high with 31 points, was brilliant going to the rim. Back here, from about 20 feet? Three of eight. He took one fewer long two-point jumper -- worst shot in basketball -- than the number of shots Martin took from anywhere.)

But really, again, it's the defense. This was a Chuck Person's Defense level of open threes for Phoenix. The Suns only shot 7-22 from deep, but they very well could have hit half of them. Ten of Phoenix's 16 at-the-rim buckets were assisted, six of those assists coming from Steve Nash (of course!). Nash shot well, as always, but you always make him create (for himself or a friend) out on the perimeter. It's amazing to me that teams can gameplan effectively against a rookie like Evans (pack the lane) but this team, the Kings, cannot adjust to limit the penetration of a guy who has been around some 13 seasons, a two-time MVP and eternal All-Star. It's amazing to me. Really, it's as if the Kings had never seen the Nash-Amar'e pick-and-roll before. I'm not even talking about defensive execution, which was piss-poor (aka Jon Brockman can't guard no pick-and-roll). I'm talking about basic strategy. There appeared to be none. If there was and I missed it ... well, there you go. That's how good it was, I guess. So good it was completely invisible to observers.

***

I enjoyed Donte, as always. But this was not his best game. Statistically, yes. 31 points, seven rebounds, one truly outrageous block on a shot that was going out-of-bounds anyway (and another fun block didn't feature a ball flying across the court). The shot selection, though ... eeeek. Even Antoine Walker thought a few of those were out of line.

But going to the rim? Kid's incredible. If Tyreke Evans is looong (he is), The Show is loooooong. Grant Napear appropriately pointed out that outrageous Greene baseline lay-up in which Donte's body was literally on the far side of the rim before he reached back on layed it in off the glass. Plays like that aren't physically possible for most dudes. And The Show is figuring out how to implement those physical gifts into a sensible game. He's not quite there (really, he's often an off-balance jumper waiting to happen) but it's building.

***

I don't know what on Earth to do about the defense. I assume no one in Natomas does either. It's getting worse by the second.