It's hard not to think the last little bits of hope that the Phoenix Suns would save their season died with the two losses to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday and the Philadelphia 76ers tonight. Finishing 3-2 on an East Coast road trip against four teams with sub-.500 records (plus the New York Knicks who fell in the first stop) can only be seen as the last opportunity lost. Instead of returning home one game over .500 and felling the smell of the chase, the Suns fall to 20-23 and remain firmly ensconced in 11th place in the West.
The culprit tonight, as it's been in the past few games, has been the lack of cohesive flow on the offensive end and the resulting horrible defensive performance that's typified this 2010-11 Suns team. The two-point egg that Vince Carter laid (in the nest already occupied by his previous three stinker games) didn't help either.
The Suns started this game on a nice little run and with a seven-point lead halfway through the first period it looked like the misery of the blown fourth quarter from Detroit was going to be washed away like the melting spring snow. But a series of substitutions turned the game in opposite directions for both teams.
Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young came in for the Sixers while Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley came in for the Suns. From that point on, Philadelphia reeled off a 14-4 run in the final 4:40 for the open quarter and they never looked back.
Turnovers, 16 of them leading to 30 points for the 76ers, are the stat that will get the most attention, but the bottom line here was the Suns didn't have the talent on the floor to compete with their young, athletic and skillful opponent. Certainly, they weren't going to get it done with Vince Carter giving his "half man, half former amazing player" performance.
Thaddeus Young led all scorers with 24 points off the Sixers bench while Suns were blessed with a 23-point show from Jared Dudley who seemed at times to be the only player in purple showing any fight. The 105-95 final score was somewhat deceiving as the garbage time battle was won by the Suns but the reality is this was a 20-point loss even if the box score doesn't show it.
The Suns now return home for 10 of their next 12 games starting with an improved Charlotte Bobcats team on Wednesday and the Boston Celtics on Friday. While the travel schedule eases up, the quality of opponents does not.