Two nights ago in US Airways Center, the Phoenix Suns lost grip of a 24-point advantage early in the second quarter, allowing the Milwaukee Bucks to eventually take a 86-85 lead with eight minutes remaining. Although the blown lead left a sour taste in the mouths of Alvin Gentry and his team, the Suns ultimately came away with a win.
In tonight’s contest against the Pacers, Phoenix once again built a 24-point, first-half lead, but a 32-point turnaround by Indiana resulted in a demoralizing 122-114 Suns loss.
The Suns have now blown leads of 24 (twice), 13, 16 and 20 in their last five games, a trend that has become the staple of the 2010 Phoenix Suns. And tonight was no different.
The Suns jumped out to a 19-14 lead, when a bleeding Steve Nash was sent to the floor by an Earl Watson elbow with four minutes left in the first. Nash was setting up to take a charge, but Watson led with his elbow and connected square in the mouth of MVSteve, causing his lip to bust open.
Nash received seven stitches in the locker room and was back in the game at the start of the second half.
The Nash injury, however, was only a subplot in an otherwise embarrassing display of Phoenix Suns basketball in the second half. After heading into the locker room up 68-52, the Suns, once again, laid an egg in the second half.
When the third quarter hit, the Suns decided it wasn’t a good idea to guard anybody, and the Pacers took advantage, drilling three after three.
Pacers forward and former Duke Blue Devil Mike Dunleavy came out of the locker room firing, scoring 11 points in the first 3:11 of the third quarter. Dunleavy finished with 20 points in the period and helped the Pacers paste 39 on the Suns to tie things up heading into the fourth and final period.
There were five lead changes in the first 5:30 of the fourth quarter, but the Pacers took control for good with a pair of Danny Granger free throws with 6:30 left in the game. The roles were reversed and the Suns were the ones who needed to mount a comeback, but they ultimately came up short.
The Suns were outscored 70-46 in the second half, and the Pacers overcame a deficit of 20-plus points on their way to a victory for the second time in as many games.
From the Steve Nash bloodbath to the 32-point turnaround to the ridiculous 56 foul calls, this was a strange game all around. The Suns needed to come into Indiana, start off their road trip with a win, and shake the blown-lead bug that has plagued them, not only in the last five games but in mid-December as well.
With all of that said, the Suns came out and did the polar opposite.
“We let them get the momentum, and we couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Nash told The Associated Press. “They got their confidence up, and for some reason, our level of play drops. We gave up too many points in the third and fourth quarters. Can’t expect to win too many games that way.”
It is one thing for this team to blow a big lead against an NBA powerhouse, but they have managed to piss away double-digit lead after double-digit lead against teams that haven’t been relevant in the league for almost a decade.
They allowed the Pacers to connect on 12-of-29 from behind the arc (41.4 percent), nine of which came from Granger and Dunleavy. Granger went for 33 points and eight boards, while Dunleavy wasn’t far behind, scoring a season-high 30. There was absolutely no defense in the second half (on Phoenix’s end), and the Suns seem to have no answer for their blown-lead syndrome
As Steve Nash walked off the court and into the tunnel with four seconds still on the clock, it was clear this team doesn’t have any answers. After they were destroyed by Memphis at home, Nash continually shook his head, as if to say, “I don’t know, I don’t have any answers.”
Since then the Suns have blown at least a 13-point lead in every game (3-2).
“It is alarming for us,” Grant Hill told Suns.com. “We have to figure it out, stay together, and try to improve. The only way you get there is as a unit. We’re good enough to get up big, but we have to get better at managing those leads.”
The first 39 games of the Phoenix Suns’ 2009-2010 campaign has been a tale of two seasons. There was the first half when Phoenix continually gutted out victories anywhere from US Airways Center to hundreds of miles away, proving how resilient of a ball club they were.
And then December hit, and the Suns proved that no matter who they are playing, no lead is safe. That inconsistency has been even worse in January, and the Suns couldn’t have started off their four-game road trip on a worse note.
They will take on Atlanta, Charlotte and Memphis on the road all in the next week. At the start of the night, it looked like the Suns could easily return from the trip 3-1 or maybe even 4-0. But the Suns continue to sputter and need to find a way to stop allowing each and every team they play back into the game.
“We’ve got to find some kind of resolve to come away with a win in these situations,” Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “We’ve got to keep playing and get this worked out. We have to figure out why we have bad stretches.”
Two nights ago, although the Suns won, it felt like a loss. Tonight the Suns actually lost, and I can confidently say that although it only counts as one loss, this one feels like two or three.