Friday, May 12, 2006

Shooting Stars (because the Sun is also a Star)

So, I've gone on at length about how this series is all about how the Suns shoot, and that the defense is not going to have a huge impact on that. As it happens, Nash tends to agree with me. He didn't think the Clippers did anything differently in game 2 - he thought the Suns missed shots.

It would also seem that the first quarter has a HUGE impact in games involving the Suns. In 6 games between the Clippers and Suns this year, the team that has won the first quarter has won each of the 6 games. Not only that, the margin in the first quarter has determined the rest of the game. In three games featuring big first quarter leads, the game has never been in doubt.

It's a cliche, but it also happens to be true. The Suns feed off of their shooting. They are an offense first team. Their offense gets their defense going. Their offense gets their rebounding going. If they're not making shots, they look like a totally different team out there.

In the first quarter of game 2, the Suns missed a LOT of shots. This had nothing to do with good Clipper defense. They just missed shots. Shawn Marion absolutely KILLED them. He scored on the alley-oop on the first possession, and then proceeded to miss 4 straight, including a lay up and some of the worst looking jump shots you've ever seen. Raja Bell started the game 0-5, including wide open looks on blown coverages. The cold start was the cold shower on the Suns prom night - they just couldn't get up for the rest of the game, if you catch my drift.

But I crunched a few numbers to back up my point. If you apply the Suns' shooting percentages from game 1 to their shots from game 2, guess what happens? Instead of 9 three point makes, they have 11 (plus 6 points); instead of 27 two point makes, they have 32 (plus 10 points); and instead of 16 free throw makes, they have 22 (plus 6 points.) That's 22 points - they lost by 23, and they were down 19 when they gave up with 6 minutes to go.

So, even with the Clippers complete domination on the glass, if the Suns had shot as well in game 2 as they did in game 1, it's a close game with 6 minutes to go (which of course is exactly what we had in game 1.)

Of course, there' s big gap between 54.7% (Suns game 1) and 45.6% (Suns game 2), so the real question is going to be, who wins when the Suns shoot 49% or 50%? But for some reason, the Suns tend to be feast or famine, at least against the Clippers. They have shot around 55% in all of their wins against the Clippers this season (55% in the first half in the game in January, though not in the game.) Can they shoot 55% in three of the next 5 games? I hope not.