Even more conspicuous on the bottom of that list are the Suns. Yes, the NBA's Greatest Show on Hardwood, the league leaders in offensive rating each of the last two years, have been worse offensively than middling teams such as Chicago (23rd in the regular season) and New Jersey (22nd). And here we come to the crux of the Suns' problems.
What has gone wrong for Phoenix? Statistically, the drop can be traced largely to two-point shooting percentage. As much as we like to talk about the Suns' perimeter marksmanship, they shot 51.1 percent on twos this season, putting them second to only Miami (51.7 percent) without the benefit of a post player of almost any quality, let alone a dominant force like Shaquille O'Neal.
In this series, Phoenix is hitting on just 45.6 percent of two-point attempts; only Cleveland (44.1) and the Goin' Fishin' Nuggets (41.0 ) have been worse in the playoffs.
You might reasonably guess that the Suns are missing the easy transition buckets they got more frequently in the regular season, but Phoenix had 20 fast-break points in Game 3 and just six in Game 4, but shot 43.6 percent on twos in Game 3 and 46.4 percent Sunday, so there's definitely more to the breakdown. All-Star forward Shawn Marion clearly seems to be missing the gimme buckets, however. Top 10 in the NBA in accuracy during the regular season, courtesy of hitting 52.5 percent of his shots, Marion has dipped to 45.2 in this series.
But the most glaring explanation for Phoenix's problems sits right next to Mike D'Antoni at tip-off time: the Suns' bench. A big reason Phoenix overcame the absence of Amaré Stoudemire this season was that the Suns learned how to play with their bench in the game, particularly with Steve Nash on the bench. Backup guards Leandro Barbosa and Eddie House provided punch off the bench, with House strong early in the year when Barbosa was battling knee injuries, and Barbosa picking it up later in the season.
But Barbosa and House have been invisible in this series, combining for 9.5 points per game and a cringe-worthy 43.2 True Shooting Percentage. (During the regular season, Barbosa posted a 58.9 True Shooting Percentage, House 51.2 percent.) Forward James Jones, a starter in Game 4 because of Tim Thomas' sprained left knee, has been equally ineffective, missing 11 of his 15 shots and hitting just one three-pointer in the series.
If you count Thomas' Game 4 contributions with the Suns' starters, Phoenix's bench has contributed a combined 56 points and 17 rebounds in four games. Meanwhile, the Lakers, never known for their depth, have gotten 78 points and 39 rebounds from their reserves, including a stunning 16 three-pointers in 29 attempts. What should have been an advantage for the Suns has turned into a glaring weakness.
The Suns' problems go beyond shooting and their bench. The NBA's worst offensive rebounding team during the regular season, Phoenix has been embarrassingly bad on the offensive glass in this series, grabbing only one more offensive board as a team (21) than Sacramento's Bonzi Wells (20) has by himself. With elimination staring his team in the face, D'Antoni's only chance to climb back into this series lies with riding the Suns' starters hard, starting in tonight's Game 5.