Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Suns Shine, Wizards Whipped

Well, I found myself all alone in the basement with the Wizards once the Suns went up 41-23 in the first quarter last night. Not even the dog wanted to watch as the rest of the family abandoned me for Randy, Paula and Simon. Just me and several baskets of clean laundry to fold - an activity that can be quite therapeutic when you are watching your favorite team get the Charlie Watts treatment.

Actually, that's not quite fair. The Doc did wander down at one point, around halftime. Coincidentally, at that moment, some guy named Sundance was wowing the Idol judges. And then we switched back to the game and watched the Suns dance all over the Wiz.

Yup, Phoenix really showed Washington what an aberration the Wizards' win in Arizona was. They made six three-pointers in the first quarter and stretched the lead as high as 29 in the second. The Wizards, meanwhile, got off to a slow start, especially Gilbert Arenas, who missed six of his first seven shots. He then made his next four, including two treys, but at the half, the Suns led 76-51 and the only suspense was whether they could score 150.

Caron Butler led a third quarter effort with two powerful dunks bracketing a three point play that got the home crowd riled up and the Wizards within 15, but two quick Phoenix baskets by Shawn Marion quashed any hope of a comeback. In the fourth, it was Antonio Daniels who sparked the Wiz to cut the margin to 13, but again the Suns calmly executed their passing offense to perfection. In some games, teams make a big comeback, only to run out of time at the end. This was not one of those games. You got the impression that Phoenix would have turned back every Washington rally for the rest of the week.

Steve Nash's two MVP awards have correctly bestowed the credit where it is due. Amare Stoudamire was in foul trouble, personal and technical, that limited his minutes, and while Marion and Leandro Barbosa are marvelous basketball players, Nash puts this team way, way over the top. He is never hurried, never panicked, the ball goes exactly where he wants it to go, and he rarely chooses to put it in the wrong hands. He doesn't scare you as a defender, but he puts pressure on your offense to score because you know he is coming to get his two or three at the other end after your team is finished. A British soccer coach I know once described his own diminutive star player as a "wee magic man," and it was this thought that kept coming back to me as Nash and the ball would disappear into a crowd of players and the ball would reappear in the hands of a wide open Sun for an easy bucket.

So,the Wizards reign as Eastern Conference leaders ended quietly. They have the chance to seize it right back with home-and-home against Detroit and a trip to Boston coming up. For no good reason at all, I like their chances.

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