The Philadelphia Sixers defensive game play against the Phoenix Suns pick and roll was simple -- make Nash prove he can score. It was a game plan employed frequently by the Dallas Mavericks back in the days when the Suns were the best offensive team in the league and they felt having Nash score 40 was better than him getting his teammates involved.
Nash is no longer capable of scoring 40 points except perhaps on a rare occasion (his season high last year was 28). So, instead of letting him pick apart the traps to create open opportunities for Marcin Gortat rolling to the rim or to find open shooters at the three-point line, the Sixers went under the screen and stayed home with the roll man and gave Nash the space to shoot.
The plan worked, as Nash went 2-7 in the first quarter and with that the entire Suns offense ground to a halt.
"I think the way they were playing the pick and roll tonight it was important for me to make them pay a little bit. There was some space in the paint and I was getting in the lane (but) I wasn't able to get it done tonight. I think that put a lot of pressure on the offense. We couldn't loosen them up or break them down and create easy opportunities," Nash said.
Steve put the blame on the slow offensive start on any number of things including the shortened training camp and lack of familiarity with new teammates, but the end result is not being in rhythm.
"That was about as bad a game as I've had personally and team-wise, obviously as well. We've shown over the two games that we're struggling to find a connectivity and rhythm together. All you can do is continue to work hard and find a way to be optimistic and positive and hopefully the break through will come soon," he said.
Nash scored less than five points in three games last season. The Suns lost all three. The year before on a team with Amare Stoudemire and Jason Richardson, the Suns won three games with Nash scoring five or fewer points.
It's both unusual and highly troubling to see Nash struggle with his shot this much, this early in the season. Perhaps he's still working himself into game rhythm with the lockout aborting his normal preseason routine.
The alternative is that a 37-year-old Nash has finally lost what made him special. Let's hope that's not the case because this team does not have enough talent to win very many games if Steve Nash isn't getting it done.