Thanks to a ridiculously long Houston-Dallas game to starts TNT’s doubleheader, the Suns trailed 9-0 before I could even start watching (and in less than two minutes at that), and it never felt like the Suns were in their eventual 108-95 loss to the Hornets.
Somehow they managed to cut the lead to three with about seven minutes to go before James Posey hit a dagger of a 3-pointer and proceeded to combine with Rasual Butler to hit four more huge 3s to put the game away.
“[We] did a great job with the energy cutting that score down to three and it was our time to put our foot down,” Amare Stoudemire told Suns.com. “We did for a second there but then they got hot, hit a couple jumpers, and the game was over.”
If former UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill were coaching the Suns Thursday night, he would have cussed them out about not getting into the airspace of the Hornets’ 3-point shooters in the fourth. The Suns better improve upon their performance in that department because we know they’ll never be great covering the pick-and-roll.
Anyway, the Hornets are clearly just a bad matchup for the Suns after beating them four times last season as well. You can’t guard Chris Paul with, forcing Nash to guard a player like Peja Stojakovic who can easily shoot over the top of him.
Then when they collapse on Paul, he can easily kick it to shooters like Stojakovic, Morris Peterson and Posey or even for a midrange David West jumper. It’s not a good sign when four opponents score at least 18 points, and starting center Tyson Chandler was not even available due to injury.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
If the Suns’ inability to defend the 3-pointer did not lose the game for them (New Orleans hit 13 of 24), their 24 turnovers certainly did.
All 11 Suns who saw court time turned it over at least once, seven players recorded multiple miscues and Nash committed seven turnovers himself. Yikes!
“I just thought that we tried to force things when we didn’t need to,” Suns head coach Terry Porter told Suns.com. “It really hurt us with the turnovers.”
Another lowlight involved the play of rookie center, who committed two fouls in his first 25 seconds of court time on the same possession and a third in his first 1:35, during which time he also turned the ball over once. That was all we saw of Lopez on a night I speculated he could be an able help defender on Paul.
That also meant we were privileged to watch the first four minutes of Louis Amundson and his ponytail’s Suns career, and that’s not a good thing in a contest a couple minutes into the second quarter.
Maybe I’m just so used to Mike D’Antoni pretending he doesn’t have a bench beyond Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw, but I’m not sure I like Porter’s hockey line change use of subs.
The Suns scored just two points, a Diaw 20-footer, in the first 5:10 of the second quarter with their bench crew playing against a lineup full of New Orleans bench players and Paul for all but the first 1:35.
I was critical at the time of going with Amundson instead of cutting short Stoudemire’s rest, and that was only confirmed when the Suns cut the Hornets’ lead to three in the fourth with an 11-2 run fueled by Amare and the bench, with STAT scoring four of those points.
The Hornets made Paul their first sub of the game in the first quarter so he could lead the offense with a group of bench players in the second. If Porter likes using his bench in a shift – and honestly it’s not a bad idea to some extent with the firepower off the bench and the way those players complement each other – maybe doing something like this with Amare would make sense as well.
“We’re still a work in progress and there’s going to be some bumps along the way,” Raja Bell told Suns.com. “Not every night is going to be a well-oiled machine out there on the court. So we’ll have to go back to the drawing board and keep working.”