Summer League Game 2: Suns fall to Raptors

After a Suns-like offensive output in game one of the Las Vegas Summer League, the Summer Suns left much to be desired in a sloppy game two filled with turnovers and foul calls and without much semblance of rhythm or flow.

The Suns were awful from the field, but the continuous stoppages in play did not do much for their breakneck pace. They ultimately did what they do best and blew a five-point lead in the final two minutes to go on and lose to the Toronto Raptors, 74-73.

Although most ugly games have some silver lining, it is very hard to take much away from today’s game.  Dragic still over dribbled and turned the ball over too much, Lopez may have the worst hands in basketball (OK, maybe Kwame Brown) and is still somewhat lost on offense, and Griffin continues to pass up open looks.

The one player who showed his promise today is rookie Earl Clark. After sitting out game one with back spasms, Clark showed why he was a lottery pick in the 2009 draft.  No, Clark did not go Anthony Randolph and drop 42, but he was smooth and effective to the tune of 13 points and 12 boards.

Clark, sporting the number 55, most notably showed his shooting ability, court vision and versatility on the defensive end.  Dragic found Clark off the pick and pop for open 18-20 footers a handful of times throughout the game.  Clark missed a few open looks but showed consistent form in his release. For a 6-10 forward, his shot is very pure.

Clark also showed he has the ability to get to the rim off the dribble from the three-point line.  When the offense broke down, Clark would drive right and get all the way to the hoop or jab step and go left for a jumper in the lane.

Earl did not get much time in the post tonight, but it is becoming more and more clear that that is not where he will make his living. He looks very comfortable on the perimeter and even showed good court vision feeding cutters from the wing beautifully.

Although he showed up offensively tonight, Clark was even more impressive on the defensive end. His help side defense was not always perfect, but he is a terrific on the ball defender. He was forced to switch out onto guard Quincy Douby a few times throughout the game and shut him down every time.  His lateral quickness is superb for a guy with his length and height.

Clark attacked the glass as well throughout the game to corral his 12 boards. It was clear that Clark was the most talented player on the floor, and he translated that talent into production by being aggressive.  All in all, tonight was a very solid NBA debut for Earl Clark.

The other rookie, Taylor Griffin, showed some flashes of effectiveness.  He finished 4-for-5 from the field on two pullup jumpers and a pair of layups. Considering how athletic he is, for whatever reason Taylor wasn’t really rebounding and defending as well as his build suggests.  He did pick up a pair of blocks on some tenacious on the ball defense, but he certainly was not much of a factor.

Taylor still looks somewhat uncomfortable when he catches the ball beyond the three-point line, as he repeatedly turned down outside set shots to drive the ball baseline only to be met by defenders.  He reminded me a lot of a poor man’s Joey Graham out there.  Athletic, good defender, and a solid midrange game with very limited range and play making ability.

Dragic disappointed during the Suns' second Summer League contest. (Arnie Kuenn/Vertical Measures)

Dragic disappointed again during the Suns' second Summer League contest. (Arnie Kuenn/Vertical Measures)

As for the sophomores, everyone was very excited to see how Goran would look after he was a non-factor in game one due to a stomach illness and a pulled hammy.  Well, Suns fans did not exactly get the ‘new and improved’ version of Dragic that the Suns have been raving about.

Dragic struggled to score, but oftentimes he looked Nash-like getting in the lane and kicking it out to shooters.  He found Clark a few times on the pick and pop and hit Lopez for some easy buckets off the pick and roll, totaling seven assists in all.

Goran still needs to be more deliberate with the ball and not dribble so much.  Dragic did not look for his outside shot much, and in fact the two long-range shots he did take resulted in an air ball and a partially blocked shot that didn’t draw iron.

It was hard for Goran to lead the Seven Seconds or Less Suns because of the constant stoppages in play. He could get in the lane virtually any time he wanted. There were a few times when he got airborne near the hoop and turned the ball over. Dragic showed his playmaking ability, but also proved he has strides to make in his decision-making.

As for the game one big performer, Robin Lopez looked like the Robin Lopez that Suns fans were used to last season.  Lopez did score 11 points in the contest, but all of those came from uncontested layups, dunks, and free throws. Lopez was not quite sure what to do with the ball when he caught it in traffic, resulting in dropped passes and missed layups.

A game after snatching up 16 boards, Lopez also hit the glass like the Lopez of last season, collecting a mere three rebounds against the likes of Patrick O’Bryant.

I did however see a flash of his newly acquired skills when Robin faced up from 15 feet, put the ball on the floor and spun toward the baseline to ultimately draw a foul. Lopez ran the pick and roll with Dragic quite well and was the recipient of a few easy layups orchestrated by Dragic.

Lopez was so-so on the offensive end, but his defense really stood out.  His lateral quickness allows him to hedge screens quite nicely, and his speed helps him recover to his man after stepping out and stopping penetration. Ro-Lo even flashed his shot blocking ability at the end of the half when he exterminated a layup attempt at the buzzer.

Of the non-roster Suns, no one really stood out tonight. Josh Carter got the start as Alando Tucker has decided that his knee is fully healthy and he will sit out for the rest of the Vegas Summer League. Carter is clearly a shooter, but he is limited to just that.

Game one surprise Zabian Dowdell showed he can orchestrate the offense, play solid defense, and hit the pullup jumper, but he did was nothing extraordinary shooting in shooting 3-for-12 from the field.

Jiri Hubalek showed his range but seemingly shot the ball every time he touched it.  Micah Downs barely played but did manage to bank in a three from the baseline.

The Suns were sloppy tonight and due to the constant stoppages in play they were never able to get a rhythm that is so important to their style. Clark showed how talented he is, but aside from him, the Suns were very mediocre tonight.

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