Remember the gritty, determined Phoenix Suns that never gave up, outworked their opponents and shed all those negative stereotypes about their team? Yeah, those guys were fun. But they're also, seemingly, a relic of the recent past, at least based on the first two games of the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers have stepped up their play, and the Suns, for the most part, have rolled over.
Naturally, this makes Seth Pollack of SB Nation's Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun very, very mad. Normally an optimist, Pollack's post-game wrap-up was scathing, as he pointed the finger at coach Alvin Gentry and Amare Stoudemire in particular.
What's worse, is a Suns team that doesn't look like they truly believe they can win.
It shows in the gimmick zone, fronting and double teaming defenses that were an early admission of defeat. I get the strategy -- let the other guys beat you -- but what message does that send right out of the gate? It was the kind of thing that the Suns were doing in the middle of the season when there was no confidence in the defense.
"Every time we made an adjustment to slow them down, they went somewhere else," Gentry said. "They're the World Champs."
All season long, Gentry has talked about how great this Lakers team is. How long they are. How Kobe is still the best player in the world.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are young and dumb enough not to know they didn't have a chance, but the Suns are too smart for that. They played like the know they can't win, and maybe that was always the case, but at least you want to see some more fight in the process instead of getting beat by a combined 33 points in two games. That's an embarrassing admission of defeat.
Forget about the offense. He should be ashamed of his effort and focus on the defensive end. His man was constantly moving behind him without the ball and getting wide open looks. How does that happen time and time again?
In two games on this big stage, Amare's ruined two or three months of trying to build his reputation as a complete player. He very well could have cost himself a max contract or at least being considered a guy who's worth that even if some team gives it to him.
Pollack also got on Amare for his post-game comments, which made it seem like he wasn't taking responsibility for his failures. That's probably grasping at straws, because there really isn't that much he can say to defend his play. But as far as his play goes? There's no defending him. The difference between Amare and Pau Gasol could not have been more evident based on last night. It got so bad that Kobe Bryant basically took a backseat to Gasol down the stretch, giving Gasol the ball in the post and getting out of the way. Could anyone see Kobe Bryant doing that under normal circumstances?
To be fair, a lot of that is on Gasol's brilliance. As Hardwood Paroxysm writes, Gasol might be the best big man in the NBA right now. He destroyed Carlos Boozer in the Utah series, and now, he's destroying Amare. At the same time, a lot of this is on Amare for his lack of effort on defense. The sad thing is, because of all the money out there this summer, someone will offer him a max contract. Based on what we saw yesterday, he's not worth it.
As for the Suns as a whole, they're definitely not talking like they believe they can win, just like the Jazz in the previous round. We saw how that turned out, and it wasn't pretty. Here's hoping this series turns out to be more competitive than that one.