by Micah Hart
As everyone knows by now, the compressed NBA schedule will force every team to play three games in three nights at least one this season (42 times in total). With only 66 games to stake a claim to a playoff spot or seed, how teams perform during these killer slates could have a large impact on how their seasons turn out.
With that in mind, we’re going to keep track of each of the 42 three-plays to see which teams take advantage and which teams fall apart. Up next, the Phoenix Suns, who played three straight from Feb. 13-15.
While I have your attention, I’ll step aside from the task at hand for a moment and agree with the presiding opinion going around the Internet and say: Free Steve Nash.
The Suns have stated they have no interest in blowing up their team, and that is their right, but if their reasoning is that it alienates fans, I have to respectfully disagree. Fans want to win, clearly. But what they really want is to compete for titles, and most intelligent fans are willing to tolerate a year or two of losing as long as there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Look no further than the Indianapolis Colts, who are most likely about to part ways with Peyton Manning — more an institution in his city than Nash is in Phoenix — and their fan base couldn’t be happier because they have Andrew Luck waiting to take his place. Suns fans know that Nash’s time is coming to an end regardless of where he plays, and as much as they’d hate to see him go, if they get some young prospects in return that help set them up to return to contention, they’ll take that deal all day long.
Why do I bring this up? Because the Suns joined the Detroit Pistons as the only two teams to lose every game in their three for all:
Game 1: Warriors 102, Suns 96 - One player the Suns shouldn’t trade is Marcin Gortat, who has evolved into one of the best centers in the NBA (though that does speak in part to the paucity of legit big men). The Polish Hammer had 25 points and 12 rebounds in the loss in Golden State. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for Phoenix against Golden State. -2 points
Game 2: Nuggets 109, Suns 92 - Phoenix sat Nash and Grant Hill for this one, trying to conserve their energy in the midst of the brutal stretch. So yeah, they really didn’t have much of a chance in this one. Markieff Morris had 21 points, which reminds me that in college, I always thought his brother Marcus was the hot shot recruit, and that he (Markieff) was sort of the Robin Lopez to his brother’s Brook. I mean, Marcus was Big 12 Player of the Year, and a second-team All-American. Then Markieff got drafted first (Marcus went to the Rockets with the very next pick), and now I question everything that happened to me in the last two years. Was it all just a dream? -1 point
Game 3: Hawks 101, Suns 99 - No one should get much grief for losing a third in three, but the Suns did lead by 15 points in the second half. Josh Smith had an absurd line for the Hawks (30 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and three blocks), and when all is said and done I still expect someone’s injury to put him into his first All-Star Game next weekend in Orlando. 0 points
Time to face facts, Phoenix. The Nash-Era Suns are long gone, and the sooner you turn the page the better off you’ll be. -3 points for the Suns.
Up next: The Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers play three straight Feb. 14-16.
Three for all Top Ten:
— Miami Heat (15 points)
— Chicago Bulls (13 points)
— OKC Thunder (12 points)
— Atlanta Hawks (8 points)
— Houston Rockets (7 points)
— Portland Trail Blazers (6 points)
— L.A. Clippers (6 points)
— Philadelphia 76ers (6 points)
— Denver Nuggets I (6 points)
— Orlando Magic (5 points)