Observations from the five basketball games I watched Wednesday, February 19.
Suns beat Boston 100-94
Good teams find a way to win when they don't play well. In back-to-back games, the Phoenix Suns have earned zero style points and two wins. The Western Conference is so tightly packed, there are no apologies for how the win is earned. It is a yes-or-no question: did you win? The Suns did.
After making the bucket to send the Denver game to overtime, Markieff Morris poured in 18. I don't care how many Markieff scores as much as how he scores. Versus Boston, his buckets were earned taking the ball to the hole and not settling for lazy jumpers. Ever since his conversation with Jeff Hornacek challenging his effort level, Morris has only had one "clunker" of a game.
The key is Morris making up for the continually disappearing Miles Plumlee. Plumlee put together another single-digit performance with four points. His spin move looks slower. His second jump is not as quick as it was earlier in the year when he was a monster on the offensive glass. It's hard to gauge if Plumlee has hit the wall or is being exposed.
Arizona beats Utah in OT, 67-63
Utah had only lost once at home and it was in overtime. Arizona's Aaron Gordon was a disaster -- fouling out with three points. Utah only shot 59% from the free throw line and left the game thinking they should have won. Good teams have bad nights. As I said about the Suns, good teams win even when they don't play well.
At the beginning of the year, every high-profile analyst wanted to include Aaron Gordon as a top freshman nationally. However, Gordon wasn't the best freshman on his own team at the beginning of the year. Every game, Gordon improved. Gordon had the game and the strength. He had the desire and the intelligence. Gordon had to work on enforcing his will. He's such a good kid, he doesn't want to offend his teammates by taking over a game. He gradually increased his numbers as he accepted the responsibility his talent demands. After an atrocious performance against Utah, I don't think the regression will continue, it will just be a reminder. Colorado won't enjoy Gordon Saturday.
ASU loses to Colorado 61-52
With Utah's success at home this year, the Colorado game was not the one to lose on this Pac-11th team and Pac-12th team road trip. The lack of intensity was stark. ASU was outrebounded by 21. That's a complete team defeat and clearly thinking beating U of A was enough to get a free win.
The big three for the Devils all laid eggs. Jahii Carson had five turnovers to only one assist, abysmal for a point guard. Jermaine Marshall had only seven points and missed just as many three-point attempts. Unfortunately for ASU, neither of these two played more poorly than Jordan Bachynski. It seems impossible to be 7-foot-2 and get three rebounds in 40 minutes of basketball. Actually, he only played 29 minutes because of foul trouble. With Carson turning the ball over and doing little to get others into a rhythm, Marshall missing shots and Bachynski doing nothing, ASU had no chance.
Syracuse upset by Boston College, 62-59 in OT
I admit, I'm not a BC expert. This was the first BC game I've seen all year. Before the game, they had only beaten one team this year that is currently above .500.
BC showed why picking Syracuse to do well in the NCAA Tournament is so tough. Any team that gets hot from three is a threat any time they play Syracuse. BC shot 50 percent from beyond the arc and they pull off the biggest upset in over 60 years.
Creighton beats Marquette, 85-70
I've seen Creighton's Doug McDermott play live six times. I'm impressed every time. He will be so undervalued when he enters the NBA next year. He might not even do well early in his career as he speeds up his shot prep. Having said that, he will average 14 points and eight boards for the next 10 years without ever being anything but a great teammate. I hope he becomes a Sun with one of the four first-round picks Phoenix has accumulated in the 2014 draft.