When the Phoenix Suns played the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, it was their third game in four days and their eighth 11. Seven of those games came on the road. The Spurs are the best home team in the Western Conference. Phoenix had just won an important and emotional game against the Houston Rockets.
No one actually thought that the Suns would beat the Spurs. Apparently the players themselves didn't think it either. They fell behind immediately and managed only four points in the first six minutes of the first quarter. Alvin Gentry was furious and pulled all his starters.
But the thing that was most troubling? No one looked upset at all that they were playing so poorly. Once they fell behind, they packed it up.
The only player that looked like he was trying the whole time was Sebastian Telfair. He ended up with 21 points. Of course, there is the possibility that he was simply happy to stat pad and get shots up that no one else wanted to take.
Strategically, it sort of makes sense to mail it in in a game they really stood no chance at winning, especially since they will need their energy and focus for almost every single one of the final six games of the season.
But the issue is that even once behind at the start of the game, they didn't fight to try and get back and then give up when they couldn't. It didn't even look like they tried.
Is that the type of team fans want to watch down the stretch run of the season, where almost every game matters when it comes to making the playoffs? Probably not.
The thing is that if Phoenix makes the playoffs, they will be playing a number one or number two seed -- teams they will not beat in a seven-game series. Should they then mail it in and not try to win? That is absurd. As Herm Edwards once said, "You play to win the game."
If you don't think you have a chance in the game, why even bother showing up?
That was the biggest issue when the Suns played the Spurs. They know they have to play with heart. They are going to have to show that game after game.
If they are going to mail it in like they did against the Spurs, then expect them not to be in the playoffs.