The Suns horrify me. And I think the main reason why is my ego. Back before the season started, I picked the Suns to win it all. Since then, all types of crazy things have happened - the Celtics have far exceeded expectations, the Lakers got Gasol, and Phoenix traded Marion for Shaq. Yet in my own exasperating mind, I still get the scary feeling that Phoenix will be holding the trophy in June. In defense of myself I will say I have predicted the champion before the season started for two years running - but that hardly makes me a Kreskin, more just like a cocky bastard. And it is highly unusual for so much turbulence to happen during the playing year, which you would think would effectively minimize any such predictions.
Yet my faith in the Suns remains. I was rather blase about the Shaq trade (on a talent level at least, the money is another thing) and it is now pretty clear as to where Kerr was leaning: he only cared about the playoffs. He figured (probably correctly) that it is more worthwhile to have a serviceable center than a star swingman who often disappears in a big series. Especially when you have Grant Hill to almost duplicate what Marion does anyway. And make no mistake - the Suns are a dangerous team, at the end of the day they still score as efficiently as anybody, and are as hungry, too.
All of these strong points were hammered home in the first half tonight. Try as they might, the Celtics' defense couldn't contain the Suns' attack. Phoenix can hang with you because their offense is that good, and if they play solid D you're in trouble. For the first time since microfracture, you can argue Amare looks as important as Nash, and that is quite a spectacle to behold. Offensive sustenance and veteran stamina are why they have yet to lose more than two games in a row. And stylistic grace has been replaced with veteran grizzle. What the Celtics can do to opponents defensively, the Suns can do offensively. The term "transition team" is now completely misleading, and almost mocks the hardened offensive thoroughness this team can present.
Amare really appears devastating, there is little he can't do within fifteen feet. Yet KG & gang were somehow able to contain him in the second half, and Pierce led the way offensively with his exceptional driving. So the game turned into a blowout. The Celtics by the end of the evening did indeed look like the better team - more grounded and opportunistic. And maybe Phoenix really isn't that frightening - with inconsistent defense, no backup point guard, and creaky veterans -but maybe that was just tonight. All I know is that if the Celtics are to meet the Suns in the Finals I will be terrified of destiny knocking.