So far it’s been all ups and downs. And I’m ok with that. The downside has been mostly all about finding a way to lose while shooting sixty percent. Just a week ago I was ready to see some wholesale changes - starting lineup, player trades, fire the coach. It was like being halfway up the steep incline of the first part of a rollercoaster, when the gears are pulling up all that weight in a herky-jerky fashion, and you start to wonder if you’re going to make it to the to top. There just seemed to be too many holes to fill defensively. Bosh was doing a good job of doing what he could, but when he stepped out to disrupt the perimeter, he would not be around the net for the rebound. When he stayed at home with his man, he still needed to battle against Bargnani’s guy half the time, and then the perimeter would tend to break down too easily leaving both bigs exposed. That’s not to say that certain lineups weren’t proving effective. It was just disappointing to see too many weaknesses exposed.
Well they must have all gone to Magic Mountain while in LA. The game against the Clippers encapsulated the season thus far, all within the 48 minute allotment. A first quarter of confused defenders, and what looked like too many spectators. But then suddenly the team seemed to make it to the top of that first climb, and the real fun has now officially begun. What were spectators before, now seem to have some sense of rotations and proper help. There is good contesting on the perimeter and containment of penetration. At least there is enough of all of that to allow them to really compete throughout a game.
Phoenix provided further evidence of positive growth, although the ride of choice might have become the tilt-a-whirl, with Steve Nash making everyone look a little dizzy at times. Belinelli ended up behind his man a little too often, and was seen literally running in circles on one occasion. But the overall energy allowed for all the switching to work pretty well. Nash did a masterful job of finding people late in the clock when everything looked shut down. If I was that guy in the crowd with a Raptors jersey over a lime green golf shirt, I might not come home. Watching Nash on a game by game basis would be better than an entire winter of golfing, or anything really.
That was a great game, and a terrible loss all the same. If Hedo’s toe had not been on the line for a three-rather-than-a-two-point shot, had Jose not followed that up with a bad foul on Nash to allow him to add another point, had Bargnani or Bosh been a little stronger finishing in close, or had any of the shooters really caught fire a bit, then that one turns out so much better.
But what a nice measuring stick. The Clippers game is one we’ve all seen our side come out on the wrong side of - big lead, and embarrassing loss at the end. And the Suns game is one that in the past, they would have needed all of those details I listed to go just right in order to change the outcome, not just one as was the case. And they can still see further improvement on defense over time. A week ago I didn’t like the idea of Reggie Evans needing to fix everything himself. Now that isn’t what they are faced with - he can actually come in and help solidify what the team is slowly building.
I’m still enjoying the ride, and I’m happy with the way Triano is allowing the team’s personality to grow organically. He is gaining as much of an understanding of the players as they are gaining an understanding of what he is looking for, and that could be just what they need for a long season with so many new guys. They are just starting to get an idea of what this team is, and more importantly, what it could be. I’m looking forward to a stretch of the season where it’s all downhill, in a good way, in terms of potential energy being wholly converted to kinetic energy. When that happens I’m going to be screaming like a valley girl on crack.