Through 31 games it is crystal clear that there are two circumstances in which this Phoenix Suns team crashes and burns: road games and back-to-backs. Both of those situations collided tonight to result in a disappointing 132-127 loss to the lowly 8-21 Golden State Warriors.
The Suns dropped their seventh straight game on the road and are now 1-6 on the tail end of back-to-back games, with their last pair of back-to-back wins in any situation coming when they finished off a four-game winning streak from Nov. 22-29.
This is not an old team despite what the average NBA fan may think — every player is 27 or younger besides Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Jason Richardson (28) — and the Suns should have figured out how to win on the road when they played 15 of their first 22 games away from home and started off 8-3 outside of Arizona.
But for whatever reason, the Suns rarely pull out victories down the stretch when their gas tank is nearing empty and they are playing away from the Grand Canyon State.
As expected, all defense went out the window with these two teams. The Suns struggled to defend the GSW starting guards — all four of them if you count Corey Maggette as a guard. Maggette and Monta Ellis tore the Suns’ sorry perimeter defense to shreds to the tune of 66 combined points.
“You give up 132 points, you’re not guarding anybody,” Gentry told The Associated Press after the Suns yielded an opponent season high in points. “We had guys that played well … but the bottom line is that they played harder than we did.”
The Suns led by one at the half, and a 19-point third quarter from Steve Nash carried them over the century mark through three quarters for the third time in the last five games.
But although the Suns exploded for 108 points through 36 minutes, they also allowed the Warriors to pour in more than a C-Note through three — making this the first game of the season throughout the entire league in which both teams were over the century mark after three quarters of play.
More important than the offensive outburst through three quarters were the foul troubles of Amare Stoudemire. STAT picked up his fourth foul with 8:59 left in the third quarter and his long-lasting seat on the pine virtually diminished any chance of him getting into a rhythm down the stretch.
But Amare wasn’t the only one out of rhythm during crunch time. The Suns have been unable to play a consistent 48 minutes numerous times this season, and that inability to close out games killed them again tonight.
The Suns came out flat in the fourth quarter, while the Warriors were bursting with energy. Golden State opened the quarter on a 7-0 run and didn’t slow down from there.
Some questionable fouls calls combined with some missed assignments on the defensive glass and continual poor execution on offense and defense late in the game led to another tough-to-swallow Suns loss.
They had a chance to tie with the ball in their hands, down three with 10.7 seconds remaining, but Nash hoisted a three-pointer from two steps behind the line while fading to his left that simply didn’t find a home.
The Suns came up short once again in the fourth quarter, scoring a pathetic 19 points. When the game is slowed down and Nash is unable to operate, they struggle mightily. A lot of times STAT is the answer to that problem, but his early foul trouble took him out of the game physically and mentally.
Nash (season-high 36 points) and former Warrior Jason Richardson (22 points) were the only Suns starters who came to play tonight. STAT, Grant Hill and Channing Frye combined for a sorry 29 points, less than Nash’s total through three quarters.
This game once again proves how mightily this team struggles when everyone isn’t involved. Nash’s nine assists are certainly not bad, but the Suns are far more effective when he is operating above his dime-dropping average of 11.2 assists per game.
However, the Warriors did a nice job frustrating Nash on the pick-and-roll down the stretch, forcing several situations in which the Suns couldn’t even get a shot off. This is a Warriors team that ranked dead last in the NBA in points allowed per game (111.8) heading into this contest, yet for whatever reason the Suns weren’t able to get anything going against Don Nelson’s club during the final 12 minutes, a quarter in which they tallied just 19 points after going for 35, 36 and 37 in the first three, respectively.
This isn’t the first time the Suns have struggled in the final quarter of ball games. In their previous four losses they have averaged a pitiful 19.5 points in the fourth quarter. The game generally slows down in crunch time, and the Suns need to find some way to get something going in the halfcourt during this time.
While the offense stalled in the fourth, the Suns’ perimeter defense was once again exposed, as Ellis and Maggette drove to the basket at will time and time again. With Amare either on the bench or afraid to pick up another foul, Phoenix lacked an interior defensive presence, leading to a barrage of easy buckets and And 1s for Golden State.
The Warriors capitalized on Phoenix’s lack of ‘D,’ shooting an absurd 57.1 percent from the field. Not only did they convert on the gimmes, they also earned 37 trips to the line. Simply put, it’s very difficult to win basketball games when you give up that type of shooting and that many free throws.
The Suns need to somehow find a way to stop subpar teams like the Warriors when they are a little tired and not reaping the benefits of playing at home or they will continue to ride the inconsistency roller coaster on their way to a bottom-tier Western Conference playoff spot.
- The Suns allowed the Warriors to score 35 points off their 21 turnovers. Gentry told The Associated Press, “We won’t beat anybody in the Pac-10 if we turn it over for 35 points.”
- The 259 combined points mark the second-highest total in an NBA game this season, behind only the Hawks’ 146-115 win over the Raptors on Dec. 2.
- With starting center Andris Biedrins out of the lineup, the Warriors chose to go with a starting lineup with an average height of 6-foot-5. It obviously worked as the Golden State starters combined for 110 of the 132 points.
- Steve Nash eclipsed the 14,000 career point mark with his season-high 36 points.
- The Suns were out-rebounded, 40-36, by the NBA’s worst rebounding team. The Warriors get out-boarded by 9.3 a game on average even after winning the battle of the boards in this one.
- The Warriors entered this game 2-18 when trailing after three. The Suns led 108-104 after three quarters but then went almost three minutes without scoring to start the fourth (an eternity in this contest).
- The Suns dropped to 15-4 when hitting at least nine three balls after knocking down 14-of-31 (45.2 percent).