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How did Amare Stoudemire Go 16-19?

Bill Walton watched Amare Stoudemire last night, and he's talking about championships. He tells Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:

"I think Phoenix is the best team in basketball," Walton said. "And I think the difference is the championship for Phoenix is not in Steve Nash's hands. It's in Amare Stoudemire's hands primarily, and to a certain extent, Shawn [Marion's] and Raja Bell's.

"They're the ones who have to finish. And Amare has a chance to be one of the truly unique players who redefines basketball."

Really? Is that your final answer? Consider this question in the comments of the post about last night's Phoenix vs. Dallas barnburner:

Can Marion or Amare play a post game? Are they totally dependent on getting setup by one of the greatest passing point guards the game has ever seen? Just curious.

One answer to that question is: does it matter? They do play with Nash.

But that's a little too easy. Let's leave Shawn Marion out of this for a moment. It is sure tempting to think that Stoudemire is making all of those baskets as the beneficiary of playing alongside Steve Nash, who gets him the ball in excellent scoring position time and again. Couldn't just about anyone score many of those buckets? How hard is it to be open, catch a pass, and lay it in?

On the other hand, lots of smart people, including Walton, are convinced Stoudemire is truly special. I'd hate to short-change him if he really is, right? I wanted some knowledge, to help answer that question. I fired up every single one of Amare Stoudemire's possessions from last night on Synergy Sports, and I took notes. Here's what I can tell you:

When Stoudemire went to work on his own the results were (productive possessions in bold):

  • A putback dunk.

  • A turnover.

  • A long made jumper off the dribble.

  • Drive and score from isolation.

  • Drive and score from isolation.

  • Drive and score from isolation.

  • Offensive foul from the low post.

  • Offensive foul when doubled.

Those four makes in a row were crucial and impressive. The other four possessions were not impressive. He's helping his team on half the possessions. That strikes me as average enough that if Stoudemire were on a team that relied on isolations and post-ups, they might not want to go to him constantly--partly out of fear that he might get in foul trouble.

Then let's consider the thirteen possessions when Steve Nash gave Amare Stoudemire the ball in scoring position:

  • An offensive foul.

  • Catches the ball at the rim, misses.

  • A pass on the break for an easy basket, plus the foul.

  • A pass in the lane for a basket.

  • A lob for a basket.

  • Nash in a crowd, finds Stoudemire near the basket for a bucket.

  • Nash in a crowd, finds Stoudemire near the basket for a very tough bucket and a foul.

  • Nash finds Stoudemire for a open jumper, which he makes.

  • Nash finds Stoudemire rolling to the bucket and he's fouled attempting a tough shot.

  • A pass in the lane resulting in a miss.

  • Nash finds Stoudemire for a dunk in traffic.

  • Nash finds Stoudemire for an amazing dunk in traffic, plus the foul.

  • Nash finds Stoudemire who is fouled in the act of shooting.

Wow, on these plays he's successful in scoring and/or getting fouled 10 out of 13 times. A practically unstoppable combination. Some of these are gimmes, but most of these baskets, to my eyes, are the result of exceptional work from both players. Nash sees the opportunity and creates the seam, but Stoudemire is long and strong, moves to the right positions, and attacks the rim hard. (It's no coincidence that the few times he hurt his team on offense it was almost always with an offensive foul. He errs on the side of aggression, which is the way to go when you're job is to be the hammer. He also got some pretty tough calls.)

It's worth pointing out, by the way, that there were other possessions too:

  • Stoudemire "and one" on a nice pass from Raja Bell.

  • A beautiful sequence in which Nash found Marion on the move with room the hoop, and Marion drew Stoudemire's defender, and shoveled to Stoudemire who was fouled.

  • Another Raja Bell assist.

  • Catching a simple pass from I believe Diaw, Amare hits a jumper.

The second one of these, you might as well credit to Nash, because he created the opportunity. The rest of that play was pretty simple.

So, what can you learn from all that? Last night Amare Stoudemire was an unbelievable finisher when he caught the ball on the move in scoring position. He does that very well, and that's what makes him a perfect fit for this Phoenix team, which, thanks largely to Steve Nash, creates an unreal number of those opportunities. Would someone else do more with those same opportunities? On some nights, certainly, but probably not last night.

Now, does this mean you could stick Amare Stoudemire on the Knicks and expect him to shoot 16-19? I don't think it would ever happen. It really seems to be, based on one night at least, that Stoudemire's unique offensive skill--to make the most of a good scoring opportunity--is perfectly matched to playing with Steve Nash. It's symbiosis.