I had the pleasure of watching two different basketball games this weekend. Unfortunately, both were tainted by shoddy officiating, with the wrong calls being made at the most inopportune times.
“Four free throws at that point in the game for what could have been a good defensive stop and a fast break was tough for us to overcome.”
Those are the words of Suns leader Steve Nash, whose team fell to the Thunder.
“Nobody wanted to lose this game. That’s what I was thinking. We just wanted to win.”
Those are the words of Arizona sophomore Kevin Parrom, whose team outlasted California to win in triple overtime.
Is there any wonder as to why the Suns are fading while the Wildcats are rising? It may sound a little cliché, but the college team’s will to win and unwillingness to accept defeat could be the key to a magical season, whereas the Suns’ fragility has been and likely will continue to be one of the main reasons for their downfall.
Let’s be honest here: As bad as the referees were in the Suns’ loss to the Thunder, by the time Kevin Durant finished shooting what amounted to four free throws the teams were tied. Of course, Grant Hill made a three on the Suns’ next trip down the court, giving them a lead with a few minutes remaining. Oh, and they were at home, with a suddenly angry crowd behind them. Still, after the game the team’s leader made sure to mention the referees, who absolutely had a rough night.
You know what? Deal with it, get over it, whatever. Just win the damn game.
That’s what Sean Miller’s Wildcats did Saturday in Berkeley. Despite what my friend and colleague Jon Bloom would have you believe, while the officiating was standard for a Pac-10 basketball game, they very heavily seemed to favor the home team. Time after time Arizona was on the wrong end of questionable-at-best calls, including one where the team’s best player and Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate Derrick Williams fouled out.
Throughout it all the Wildcats remained resilient, believing they could win and ultimately pulling out the victory in what will likely be remembered as one of the best games in Arizona basketball history.
What I learned from watching the two teams deal with adversity in their respective ways is that while the Wildcats were ready and willing to fight for a win, the Suns were content to fight with the refs, slipping into the mindset that they had no chance with everything conspiring to work against them.
That’s what makes teams great; not necessarily talent, though that certainly helps. And coaching, for all its importance, is not the deciding factor when it comes to deciding a victor.
I do agree with one thing Nash said, though, when I asked him if the team has been a bit more chippy lately, showing fire and emotion.
“I think we’re fighting, we’re playing with more competitiveness and battling,” he said. “I think it’s very important for our team because we’re not, you know, I don’t know if we’re as talented as we’ve been in the past, so we’ve got to find a way to scrap.”
The Suns are not as talented as they used to be, meaning conditions must be pretty much perfect for them to beat the league’s elite. The Thunder, while good, are not in that category, and the Suns still could not muster the necessary fortitude to overcome a bad break and win the game.
No, instead the Suns were left wondering about what could have been, if only one moment had gone their way. I’m sorry to say it, but that’s how things go sometimes, in life and in sports.
In fact, Rocky Balboa said it best when he said, “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
Wonder why the Suns haven’t done much winning lately? They could learn a thing or two from Rocky, or, if they need real life inspiration, those NCAA ballers down south.