The Phoenix Suns are flat out balling. They are Leading the league in scoring at 108.9 points per game after returning to their familiar run and gun.
The surprising thing is that they are doing it without their leading scorer, Amare Stoudemire. In addition to losing Stoudemire, the Suns have lost Leandro Barbosa to a hyper-extended knee for a couple of weeks.
The suns are not only scoring again, they are playing a scrappy, "in your face", high energy defense that is leading to turnovers and fast breaks.
After their season was pretty much left for dead, the Suns have sizzled with a season high six-game winning streak. It was kept alive after defeating Utah in a scrappy nail-biter on Wednesday night, 118-114.
So it begs the question, are they playing better without Stat?
Is it just a matter of desperation, and fear of missing the playoffs?
Is it a matter of the bench playing at a much higher level since Alvin Gentry has given them more minutes?
I have to cop-out and say a little of each.
We can't ignore the fact that Amare has become a Diva as of late. He constantly whines about not being a big enough star, and wants to be the man. He only wants to play offense, and pad his Stats, while giving lip-service about wanting to be a defensive master.
He plays an Ole! type of defense in the paint unless he can get a Sportscenter highlight block.
I have to imagine that team chemistry is much better with Amare gone.
Steve Nash can now just pass to the open man without worrying about Stat getting his touches. Now it's a team without big egos that just wants to win.
Lou Amundsen doesn't have Amare's skill set, but he plays great defense and does whatever it takes to win. Shaq isn't the player he used to be, but he's still a play maker. Rarely do you ever see Shaq try to force his way through three defenders. When he's covered, he is one of the best at finding the open man.
I think the key on offense, is that Amare was a ball-stopper on offense. This makes it difficult to keep a flow going. Plus, with Shaq and Amundsen playing hard on defense, it makes for alot more easy transition buckets.
Honestly, I can't remember the last time the Suns played this hard on Defense.
Whatever the reason, I like the way Phoenix is playing right now. Hopefully Amare is taking notes on how to play like a team.