Mavericks 102, Suns 101 -- Suns fall short in Dallas

The Matrix got the best of his former mates Nash and Amare when the Suns' furious comeback bid came up short. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Matrix got the best of his former mates Nash and Amare when the Suns' furious comeback bid came up short. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Based on their 102-101 loss to the Dallas Mavericks tonight and their performance during the last five games, the Phoenix Suns may want to consider schizophrenia treatment.

They have quickly shown that this is a team with two sides: the side displayed in the first 17 games of the season that resulted in a 14-3 record and the side that has this team sputtering to the tune of four losses in its last five games.

The Suns are struggling to find a rhythm, and that uphill battle was on display tonight against the Mavericks.

“We don’t have a rhythm to our game – we haven’t the last three games,” Alvin Gentry told”We’ve got to get back to a rhythm where we’re running screen-and-roll and if it’s not there we’ve got to be able to move the ball and move people and keep the game going.”

Phoenix came out of the gates nicely. They got Jason Richardson and Amare Stoudemire involved early (12 combined points in the first eight minutes), and were up 29-23 heading into the second quarter. But the Suns struggled to score early in the second quarter and showed how much they miss the instant offense of Leandro Barbosa.

The Suns only scored six points in the first 4:30 of the second quarter, which is often the time that Leandro shines most. The offense seemed out of sync and the second unit really got no production besides the shooting of Jared Dudley.

The Suns again failed to produce much offense from the 2:15 mark of the third quarter until the 8:48 mark of the fourth, scoring only four points during that five-plus minute stretch. With LB in street clothes, the team has really struggled during these stretches of games, making them unable to build on any runs they may make.

The Suns eventually went off for 31 fourth-quarter points, but it wasn’t enough. Every time this team needed a stop, Josh Howard — 20 points and 6 rebounds — came up with a big play or Dirk Nowitzki — 33 points and eight rebounds — went to work. Howard scored 18 of his 20 in the second half and was too much for a tired Suns team to handle.

“We got in trouble and let them get too much separation there,” Gentry told “… You’ve got to come up with stops where they don’t get that kind of separation.”

The Mavs got that separation by way of an 11-2 run at the end of the third and a few minutes into the fourth. The Suns were never able to fully recover. They downed three long balls in the final 47.9 seconds, but it wasn’t enough to steal a victory. Phoenix continued to prove that without necessary stops and big-time shooting, this team will struggle.

The offense broke down in the halfcourt on numerous occasions, and the Suns were forced into tough jump shots, which they missed more often than not. Richardson and Stoudemire, the Suns’ most effective halfcourt players, came up big down the stretch, combining to score 21 of the Suns’ final 40 points of the game.

But the defensive stops were few and far between, and the clutch shooting wasn’t there until the final minute of play.

The Suns shot 44.3 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from distance. Remember when this team was shooting at close to a 50 percent clip from three for the first 15 games of the season? They were connecting better from distance than most teams were from inside the arc and it seemed like it was going to last forever, but this team has finally hit a wall.

Based on how poorly they have shot over the last couple of weeks, those days seem like a distant memory. The biggest reasons for the drop off come from the aforementioned absence of LB and Channing Frye’s disappearing act.

Through the first 17 games of the season Frye nailed an amazing 45 three-pointers on 91 attempts (49.5 percent). During the previous five games in which the Suns are 1-4, Frye has only connected on 10 of 28 attempts (35.7 percent).

While Frye was there to spread the floor and hit big threes during the first 17 games of the season, his confidence seems to be wavering and he can’t really find his stroke away from US Airways Center. But the Suns as a team haven’t been able to win away from home either. Their 7-0 home record is a drastic contrast to their mediocre 8-7 record on the road.

The Suns that went 14-3 in their first 17 games while facing a bunch of sub-par teams early won games they were supposed to, showed they were road warriors and even surprised a couple of upper-echelon teams. But the Suns of the past five games have been blown out by good teams, bad teams and lost to some ball clubs somewhere in between.

Tonight it was a loss to one of those clubs somewhere in between. In a game that the Suns of the first 17 games would have persevered through, they couldn’t shoot their way to a win and certainly couldn’t lock down on defense in crunch time.

These type of games against Western Conference foes are critical, especially versus a team like Dallas that the Suns may be fighting for a higher playoff seed against down the road. The Suns proved that they need to shoot the ball well to win games, unless they find a way to get some stops down the stretch.

Resiliency was the word that best described Alvin Gentry’s Suns through 17 games of the season, but during these last five contests the Suns have proven that the resiliency that carried them to the top of the NBA for the first month of the season was clearly short-lived.

This team needs above-average shooting and a handful of clutch stops to win games against a team like the Mavericks, and they were 0-for-2 in those categories tonight.

And 1

  • The Suns lost their first game of the season in which Jason Richardson scored over 16 points (9-1). J-Rich posted an impressive 25 points tonight, but it wasn’t enough to top the Mavs.
  • Steve Nash quietly scored 27 points and handed out eight helpers. His return to Dallas was successful on a personal level, but the team lost, and that’s all that matters.
  • Aside from Nash, STAT and J-Rich, the rest of the Suns shot 9-for-30 from the field. That just isn’t going to get it done.
  • Nowitzki enjoyed his seventh 30-point game of the season, and the Suns have now dropped three in a row to the Mavericks.

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    Of course we are frustrated with these last few games, but blame on the schedule.

    68% of our games (15) were on the road.

    Of this 15 games, 7 were against over-.500 teams.

    In my opinion, we had only two UNEXPECTED LOSSSES: against the Hornets and the Knicks. All the other losses were roadies against "better teams" (Lakers, Magic, Cavs and Mavs).

    On the other hand, we snatched a few UNEXPECTED WINS, against Celtics, Heat and Rockets. And still are undefeated at home.

    In a long season, when you have an average team (which I think its the Suns case), you gotta have more unexpected wins than unexpected losses. And I think we managed to do this in this first quarter of the season.

    I know what I've said is pretty obvious, but the key to our success this season is to steal some games against the "better teams" and avoid, at all costs, to lose to the Timberwolves of this world. And losing to subpar teams has been our Walton's foot in the past few years.

  • Kyle Fleeger

    Nash heroics almost carried the Suns to victory but failing to foul in time with .21 seconds ultimately put into the question POSTED on The Mavs Rick Carlisle told his team to foul Steve Nash conceding two FT’s with a 3 point lead and 6 seconds left. Now, had the Suns not wasted 7 seconds failing on the inbound with .21 seconds to go, they may have put them in a situation to punish them for this choice. Unfortunately, it worked and Dallas squeaked it out by 1. 102-101.

    There was a foul early in the game where upon replay, and for most, normal play, was a complete PHANTOM foul. There was zero contact whatsoever. It was a one point game. Dirk then got a complete bogus reaching in call with six seconds left in the third for an and one situation. How does a player get to continue a set shot on a reaching in foul? He was stationary. Anyway, these fouls and more all around poor officiating against Dallas as well. The refs blew a clear blocking foul on Grant Hill. This poor officiating makes heartbreaking losses even more frustrating.

    Tonight, the Suns played hard. They were a team who in the second quarter looked in BIG trouble offensively. We miss Leandro Badly.

    Gentry was up to something again it seemed as Robin Lopez came in, was active in getting four rebounds in three minutes, but didn’t see the court in the second half.

    Channing Frye CONTINUED to struggled on the road. He went 1-7 and 0-4 from three-point land. What’s the deal? Honeslty, Gentry may need to consider benching him and playing a natural Center next to Amar’e when Channing is on the road and struggling.

    J Rich took TWENTY Field Goals! His scoring was completely helpful, but he continues to be the most frustrating Suns player on the court (SANS Amar’e) He was active in stealing rebounds when he wasn’t needed on the glass, but I like the hustle. He took bad off the dribble shots and long two’s again. I HATE these shots. Inevitably he shoots 5 of them again. Remove these 5 and replace them with assists, or more post ups and drives to the basket. RAISE YOUR BASKETBALL I.Q.!

    Amar’e looked dominant early. His shot was ON. Plain and simple, that shot is back. He was hustling on the glass even though he only came down with 5 rebounds. He had 20 points, 3 assists and was active on the glass tipping balls out to other players and boxing out for Channing and J Rich to thieve him… He is playing team basketball and showed it off at times.

    WHY DON’T THE SUNS USE AMAR’E. He was draining shots 3/3 to start the game with a great pass after they started playing him different. Then we went into BAD one on one offense and lost our rhythm and the game. Keep Amar’e involved and it looked like we had an opportunity to pull away. Once again he had the third most shots with fourteen. Grant had eleven FG attempts. Granted, Nash when HOT like tonight should have the most shots. But Amar’e should average our most field goal attempts.

    The Suns can lose close games on the road. This was a rough one, and the games don’t get easier. Friday we have Orlando at home. It’s a back to back with the Nuggets @ Denver so we could use the win. I am excited we can have a day to practice some new things and hopefully figure out how to get some offense injected into that second unit.

  • asani

    Ok I can tell you guys immediately what the suns must do on defense. They have to stop double teaming teams. They are the worst at it and everytime the suns have been knocked out of the playoffs it has been do to them leaving teams open all the time. You only double if a guy is giving you trouble but the suns will double anybody for no reason at all and always leave a good three point shooter open. It is the stupidest thing i ever seen but Gentry can't see that. Horrible horrible coaching. I rather let a guy get hot than leave wide open threes. They really may need to take Frye out of the line up he never makes those shots on the road. We many need to do some small ball since we are already small as hell. Nash. barbosa, J Rich, G Hill and Amare at least we can start back scoring. But Frye is sucking real bad right now. He is too passive

  • The Z. Man

    Kyle – You impress me with your knowledge of the game. Suns were out coached in last night’s game. We are a VERY good team and we’re deep. When STAT came down with the final board we didn’t have time for him to dribble. But we had no time outs left. Loss is squarely on Gentry’s shoulders. Kudos to Rick.

    Suns line up on the road should start J-Dud in place of Frye. This small ball team will create havoc and make most of its shots. Easy to sag on the pick & roll when they know Frye will miss. As poorly as we’re doing on the road without LB (one of our best road warriors along with Nash and J-Dud ), what do we have to lose? This stretch at this time, so early in the season, may be a blessing in disguise, ONLY if it serves as a wake up call to Alvin to make changes. Without his learning how to improve, it will have been a pure loss. Hill may have some issues at home and is not playing or shooting well. J-Rich is a chucker and Kyle is right to say that most of his shots should go to STAT. Having said all that, we were one bad call away from celebrating a gutsy win vs. another very good team on the road. Some credit for last night’s game should rightfully go to Rick and the Mavs, They were hungry for a win and would stop at nothing to get it, even allowing Josh to play.

    Most of our losses came at the back of a back-to-back when we never even competed with the other very good team. Some additional changes to our line up MUST be made for those situations where we are not even playing D-League ball. STAT, J-Rich, Frye and Hill have been miserable on the road in the back of a back-to-back. Keep these four starters on the bench. Instead, start Louis, Earl, J-Dud, and the Brazilian Blur (when he comes back). They will play, as they have in those games, with much more energy and competitiveness. Open the lineup to healthy competition. This will make our regular starters hungrier than they have been. This will also allow some of our younger guys a shot at moving up. Time to rest on our press clippings is gone. Time to see just what Gentry is made of.

    MUST start and ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • KJ Loyalist

    Benching Frye might destroy him at home as well. As always you live and die by the 3. He's still not used to this new role and really needs to keep shooting even if it puts us in a little hole during games in the early part of this season.

    I forget what game it was but it was against a team trying to take away the pick and roll. We switched it up and let Amare run the offense through him on the block with off-ball screens and back cuts off of his motion. We need to do more of that and I think we will as Sun Tzu gets completely back to full strength.

    I too don't believe in the obsession to double team constantly unless Nash gets caught on a switch. All that double teaming does a few things.

    First, we're giving up wide open shots in situations where a double team wasn't even necessary.

    Second, in all of the recovery and switching, when the shot does go up, our rebound-capable players are out of position because of the switching which keeps the offensive rebounding for other teams so disgustingly high.

    Personally, I wouldn't mind a straight up defense (unless a guard is backing Nash down), where the defense funnels guys down the baselines and into our bigs who will still be in proper position guarding their men as well as allowing our bigs, (even though they're a little smaller most of the time), to handle the post defense so the weak side help can come to assist or be ready for the box out.

    This way perhaps one guy gets 35 – 40 every night but the rest of the perimeter guys are cold and sitting there and we're winning by 12.

    I also think we should commit fully on the pick and roll switch where the big attacks the release side and the guard follows on the front side of the cutter so he can't just release to the paint.

    Make the pass higher, longer, more delayed so that defensive recovery isn't such a struggle.

    I know we want to seduce teams into jacking up shots they wouldn't normally take and that's fine. The problem is the way we've designed our defense to accomplish that leaves us with absolutely no rebounding position and tons of second chance points for the opposition even when we manage to force teams into bad shots.

  • asani

    KJ Loyalist you hit on the money. The double team is the saddest double team I have ever seen. The lakers do it but they have 7 footers who can move. We look like idiots doubling because it kills us night in and night out. They always let a good shooter have a nice look it is pathetic. The pick and roll isn't being utilized very much and I notice teams are switching and so what they have a mitch match night in and night out if they switch. A big man on Nash spells trouble for the big man and a little man on Fry or Stoudemire is torcher for the little guy. They need to do a little bit more back cutting as well. The suns won't lose many games if they stop that passive ass ineffective double team and stay with their man. It isn't a hard concept but you have to talk to one another and let each person know what they need to do when there is a switch.

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