Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 6th, 11:59 pm
PHOENIX — Quick transition push off a rebound? Hit Gerald Green for a three. Inbounds play? Make sure he comes off a screen somewhere, anywhere really, atop the three-point arc.
It’s an easy game to play when a shooter like Green is hot. And hot he was on Thursday night. The Suns shooting guard scored a career-high 41 points on 12-of-22 shooting and 8-of-13 accuracy from behind the three-point line.
The outburst pushed Phoenix past the class of the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder, 128-122. Jeff Hornacek’s team stuttered at times but thrilled at others, making for the loudest eruptions a snoozing U.S. Airways Center has heard all year long. It was an important win for the Suns in terms of the playoff race, but it was a perfect picture of how this season has gone.
Mostly, the season has gone so well because of player development, and that was a similar theme to how the Thunder have built a dynamic franchise in a small market.
“We’re an organization that’s trying to mimic ourselves to being the same type of team they are,” Green said afterward, as usual reluctant to speak too much about himself.
Kevin Durant scored 34, and Russell Westbrook topped his teammate with 36, nine assists and nine boards. Alongside them, the versatile project Perry Jones put together zeros after a fine night last time out against the Philadelphia 76ers (12 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks). Center Steven Adams wouldn’t do anything more than grab a rebound, while Suns rookie Alex Len contributed six points and three rebounds in limited minutes.
But then there was Green, all rebooted.
“He can do that,” Hornacek said afterward. “We’ve seen that several times this year. He’s a guy that is working on his consistency. He’s either really hot or really cold. I’d say these last 25, 30 games, he’s been very consistent. His bad games are, maybe a 5-for-13 or something like that, and then he doesn’t keep jacking them up.”
It went hardly mentioned that Green also got the foul stripe 11 times, nabbed three steals and had two assists.
Of course, the day was about his hot shooting. Much of his damage came in transition. Oklahoma City seemed prepared to race up and down with Phoenix, playing small ball and enticing Hornacek to run out his own small lineups. The pace picked up even as both teams hit buckets with ease.
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Tags: Gerald Green · Marcus Morris · Markieff Morris · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 6th, 9:39 pm
PHOENIX – Most everything went wrong for the desperate-as-ever Phoenix Suns. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook took his minutes restriction to mean he would best his career averages in a lesser amount of time. He ripped Goran Dragic on the first play of the game and finished with a dunk, then scored the off two more Phoenix turnovers in the first quarter alone.
Oklahoma City got what it wanted early, and Kevin Durant wasn’t even a major factor through the first 12 minutes. Russell Westbrook finished with 36 points, nine assists and nine boards. Kevin Durant added 34. Think the Suns would win?
The storyline felt like it’d become a similar one to the first meeting between the two squads. The Suns would never give up, and that was a nice tidbit for a team supposed to be sniffing around Joel Embiid’s sneakers. But they would lose.
On Thursday, they won — dramatically.
Instead, Gerald Green poured in a career-high 41 points with a hefty helping of eight three-pointers and the Suns blitzed the Thunder in a 128-122 win at U.S. Airways Center on Thursday.
Like it was when the Suns played the Rockets two weeks ago, a fast start wasn’t in the cards. Goran Dragic got picked by Westbrook atop the key seconds after the tip, and Westbrook scored on two more transition dunks off turnovers in the first quarter. Some way, some how, the Suns trailed just 65-61 at halfway by giving up 56 percent shooting. The defense wasn’t as bad as the score would indicate – though not great either – considering all the fastbreak points off turnovers.
The defense certainly didn’t improve to begin the third quarter, but the Suns steadied themselves behind a ratcheted up aggression from Green. He pumped in 25 points in the quarter.
And when he went cold, Dragic was there to spell him. The Dragon added 22 points, and the Morris twins also went at Serge Ibaka in the post to combined for 39. Phoenix would up shooting 15-of-27 from behind the three-point arc in a win that may have been a lot to ask for but was certainly necessary for the postseason hopes to be in a decent spot.
To the pregame questions posed by Ryan Weisert.
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Tags: Gerald Green · Oklahoma City Thunder · Phoenix Suns Recap
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 6th, 6:37 pm
PHOENIX — Guard Eric Bledsoe will return to the court in one of the three games following the Phoenix Suns’ Thursday night meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder, reports the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro, and coach Jeff Hornacek says it will be a touchy time in getting the dynamic guard back into the rotation.
“You have to get him in at some point,” Hornacek said. “We have to somehow figure out how to get him into that without screwing up our rotation.”
It’s easy to find an example of a talented player’s return rocking the boat. Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook made a start six games ago after missing 27 games because of knee injury, and Oklahoma City dropped that game against the Miami Heat, and the next two against the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I think a lot of people thought we would have trouble adapting with Russell,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “That wasn’t a problem at all. We weren’t playing defense. To add one of the elite players in the league is going to help us.”
Hornacek would probably nod if he heard that assessment of a situation so similar to his own. Still, there’s going to be concern that the Suns will take a few games to get back into their groove. Oklahoma City has done just that, having won three straight heading into the game at U.S. Airways Center. Phoenix is in a much more tight situation — a few painful losses could take them out of the playoffs.
But better for Phoenix get it over with now, so long as Bledsoe’s knee is healthy.
“It takes a couple of games to get back to being used to the rotations and who you’re out there playing with,” Hornacek said. “That’s hard. We can’t afford that at that point when he does come back, so hopefully it’s seamless and guys jump right back into it.”
Tags: Eric Bledsoe
Posted by Ryan Weisert on March 6th, 10:00 am
Time: 7 p.m. MST
The Phoenix Suns should be offended by tonight’s TV schedule. The TNT doubleheader starts off with a rematch of last year’s Finals between the Heat and the Spurs. That’s a game totally worthy of national TV. But that sure-to-be-intense battle is followed up with a surefire blowout between the Clippers and Lakers. Now in fairness, the Lakers and Clippers have always played good games going back to when the Clippers were still the little brother in the Staples Center and the Lakers were winning titles. But this time around, the matchup is so one-sided, I can’t imagine anything but a 20+ point win for the Clip Show. And no matter how that game goes, there’s no chance it’s more exciting than the run-and-gun Suns taking on the Western Conference leading Thunder.
Both Oklahoma and Phoenix come into this game missing players due to injury. For the Suns, Miles Plumlee is questionable with a knee strain, and Leandro Barbosa will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. The Thunder will be without big man Kendrick Perkins who is recovering from groin surgery as well as wing defensive stopper Thabo Sefalosha.
OKC is coming off a six-game home stand that happened to coincide with Russell Westbrook’s return from injury. They dropped the first three games, but have won three straight heading into tonight. The Suns will be their stiffest test since their home loss to Miami coming out of the All-Star break. Phoenix is in the middle of brutal stretch of opponents and needs to salvage at least one victory if they hope to remain in the West playoff picture over the next week.
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Tags: Goran Dragic · Oklahoma City Thunder · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview
Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on March 5th, 1:16 pm
PHOENIX — Suns forwards Shavlik Randolph and P.J. Tucker are in the spotlight of playing with each other in basketball arenas packed with thousands of people, a very reminiscent scene to their high school days. Yes, spotlight, packed basketball arenas and high school go together in the case of the two current teammates.
Randolph and Tucker grew up playing in the North Carolina hotbed of high school basketball. The two went to rival high schools, each filled with tradition, and both were highly-touted recruits — Randolph was considered the top prospect in the 2002 class.
But their journey together starts earlier than that.
The two were teammates at Daniels Middle School in Raleigh. Randolph, a year older than Tucker, developed a friendship with Tucker that lasted throughout their high school rivalry and is still going today. Randolph’s recollection of Tucker as a youngster is pretty similar to how we would describe him today.
“He actually was a 7th grader when I was an 8th grader, and I had been on the team for a year,” Randolph said. “He was just this hungry little kid going at me every day at practice, wanting to go 1-on-1, talking trash. He didn’t play a lot that year, but he made everyone’s life miserable in practice.”
Being the young little guy, Tucker looked up to the bigger Randolph, who already had the spotlight of being an up and coming NBA prospect.
“Shav (Randolph) was the man,” Tucker said. ”He was the biggest player in high school. People were talking about him already then.”
“I was a 6th grader and was playing 5th quarter for the kids not so good. Every game I played 5th quarter, and I looked up to him. When we got to high school it was different because I got better, so we were both the best players in our classes, so our high schools were rivals and we had big clashes.”
Big clashes may even be an understatement.
Randolph attended Broughton High School, which is home to former NBA legend Pistol Pete Maravich. The lanky 6-foot-10 forward has the majority of the school’s scoring records, including points in a single game. He passed Maravich’s 47-point record with a 50-point outburst. It is an honor that Randolph called humbling at the time and still is today.
“I don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as him,” Randolph said. “I know I’m not worthy to be mentioned in same breath, but for one night and a couple years in high school, I was able to take some of his records down.”
Performances like that only added to the legend of Randolph, who was recruited by every school in the nation.
He has crazy recruiting stories to prove it. From Billy Donovan flying to his high school just to wave ‘hello’ from the parking lot, to Michael Jordan taking and then sending a picture of himself wearing Randolph’s jersey, asking him to play for North Carolina, Randolph saw it all.
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Tags: P.J. Tucker · Shavlik Randolph
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 5th, 7:42 am
PHOENIX — An 11-point halftime lead is never enough. Ramp up the “it’s a game of runs” cliche, which can be applied to basketball, table tennis, cornhole or what have you. The Phoenix Suns, however, found a mighty painful way to lose to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, 104-96.
Had it not been for Matt Barnes and Blake Griffin combining for 30 points and grabbing all the confidence from the youngin’ Suns during the third quarter of the game, maybe Phoenix would have pulled it out thanks to the three other “good enough” quarters of play.
“Starting to be the story of our season, giving games away, games we should easily win,” said forward P.J. Tucker. “You can’t be up 11 at half, then be down 12-11. Just can’t happen.”
The hero for the Clippers was Barnes, who scored 18 third-quarter points thanks to a few good shots but also some open looks. Phoenix didn’t come around to guarding him, and Los Angeles pulled out textbook early offense to keep the Suns on their heels.
“There were some breakdowns in there,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Guys let it affect them on the other end. We weren’t playing defense and then we weren’t scoring.”
Phoenix scored just 18 third-quarter points, but the issues defensively were the biggest worry if the team back to only a half-game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies will hang on to a playoff spot.
So how did Barnes beat up on the Suns? A lot of credit goes to Blake Griffin, though the duo attacked Phoenix in many different ways.
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Tags: Los Angeles Clippers · Phoenix Suns Analysis