Suns, Grizzlies winning with unorthodox approaches
Posted: Monday December 5, 2005 2:48PM; Updated: Monday December 5, 2005 2:48PM
Hawks import has given the Suns more reasons every game to ask, "Who's Joe Johnson?" this season.
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You'd think that, after a week of "preparation," I'd have cobbled a better intro together than the one you're currently reading. Sadly, this isn't the case, and for that I sincerely apologize. Thankfully, the sincerity ends here, as do most journalistic conventions -- so here, the week that was and will be in the NBA ...
Three weeks ago, the Suns were stuck at 4-5, and Steve Nash was dragging, averaging 16.3 points on 42 percent shooting and looking worse for wear toward the end of games. Since then the Suns have ripped off six wins in a row, Nash has raised his scoring average a full two points while shooting at a 48-percent clip. With 16 games in December, the good times could be short lived for a team still learning how to survive without Amaré Stoudemire. But with each W, Phoenix looks increasingly capable of more than treading water until their big man returns from microfracture surgery after the All-Star break.
The addition of Boris Diaw to the starting lineup has helped Phoenix's return to heartiness. The former Hawks castaway has done it all in a five-game starting turn. Pulling off that center-forward-guard-Rover thing that Magic Johnson gave birth to in Philly a while back, Diaw averaged 14.6 points on 59 percent shooting, with 7.8 assists, 6.4 rebounds, two steals and 1.4 blocks per game last week. He's everywhere and nowhere all at once, allowing his teammates to shine brightly in his absence before appearing out of the ether to dash off an assist, make a weak-side block or start the break with a timely rebound. Shawn Marion's 19 points, 12 boards and two blocks per game this season aren't hurting, either.
The goings-on in Memphis aren't nearly as spectacular, but Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello will take the results. His team has won five straight, nine of 11 overall and are scaring both little children and league executives alike with their brand of bore-ball. You won't see much of them on national TV, but I dig this slog stuff. On offense, they work from the outside-in, shooting more than 21 3-pointers a game, an average that becomes even more significant when you take into account their snail-like pace. This is the third-slowest team in the league, so to put up the third-most treys per game is quite an accomplishment. And unlike the teams ahead of them (Golden State and Seattle), the Grizz are nailing more than a third of these chucks -- 38 percent, to be exact. Throw in some hard-nosed defense and a cast of veterans who aren't long for fooling around, and the results seem obvious: the second best record in the West.