Bobcats 114, Suns 109 OT -- More of the same

PHOENIX — Back in November, the Suns beat the Raptors in Phoenix when Channing Frye got just far enough up in the face of Hedo Turkoglu to force a miss on a potential game-winning shot.

It was symbolic of that month as a whole: even when the Raptors got the matchup they wanted in the clutch, the Suns still found a way to win in the end.

The Suns’ 114-109 overtime loss to the Bobcats tonight, on the other hand, was symbolic of everything that’s gone wrong in the past two months.

This was the type of game they aren’t supposed to lose. I mean, they had NEVER lost to Charlotte in five previous games in Phoenix, and the Suns had been 13-0 in home games they led after three even while blowing game after game after game otherwise.

When the Suns led by three with 25 seconds left, they were essentially one stop away from a hard-fought win, but that stop never came.

“We gave them an opportunity, and they took advantage of it,” Frye said. “They stole this one here tonight.”

Gentry wanted his team to play tight to force a drive and then not leave any shooter, but Lou Amundson gave stone cold Stephen Jackson just enough space to launch a game-tying triple.

The Suns still had one last chance to win with 20 seconds left, but Nash dribbled around for a while before finding Jared Dudley for an off-balanced shot with a hand in his face that he missed to send the game into overtime.

The play was supposed to be a Nash-Amare pick-and-roll — from which Nash could either go to Amare, find Frye if there was help or take it himself — but the spacing got muddled up and the refs did not notice Charlotte was trying to take its foul to give. That left Dudley throwing up a prayer that was never answered.

The Suns, who scored just 15 points on 28.6 percent shooting in the fourth, promptly turned it over on three of their first four overtime possessions to allow the Bobcats to build up a lead they would never relinquish.

“We didn’t execute the way we were supposed to,” said Gentry, whose team yielded 20 offensive boards. “We have to be able to execute, we have to be able to get the ball in the basket, we have to be able to rebound the basketball. We did not do those things tonight. … Once again we’re sitting here with our heads down. It cost us another game.”

Gentry placed blame on the entire team, from the coaches to the players, for another disheartening loss, the Suns’ seventh in nine games.

Phoenix did not run up a huge lead in this one, but it did lead by nine and held an advantage for the majority of the game while Charlotte slowly chipped away.

In Frye’s view, the Suns are playing really well for 36-40 minutes per game, but it’s those other eight minutes that cost them.

That certainly was the case in Utah on Monday night when the Jazz stormed back from a 17-point lead in five minutes, and again the Suns looked stagnant down the stretch in this one, waiting for Nash to bail them out.

He almost did on this night, scoring 17 points in the second half, including a three that put Phoenix up three with 2:16 left and a sweet lefty hook over Boris Diaw to put his team up three again with a minute left.

But since the offense bogged down when Nash wasn’t putting on his Superman cape, it wasn’t enough against a Charlotte defense that stiffened in the fourth.

This was a battle of the league’s best offense against one of its top defenses, as well as one of the worst defenses against one of the worst offenses. When it counted down the stretch, the Bobcats’ defense shut down the Suns’ offense, and that was really the difference.

“What we have to do is we have to dig ourselves out of this,” Gentry said. “We got to learn how to continue to play hard, we’ve got to learn to complete plays, we’ve got to learn to finish games. That’s what it comes down to. It doesn’t matter what the mental state is of anyone. That’s what we’ve got to do. We have a lot of games left. If we want to be a playoff team, we’ve got to get it corrected.”

Gentry went on to say that the Suns’ goal at the start of the season was just to make the playoffs, which they would be doing (barely) if the season were to end today. Sure, the Suns have more losses than 10 teams in the West, but Nash and Gentry both emphasized that the Suns are still in the hunt, even if they’ve gone from the top of the picture to the bottom of it.

Although I truly believe Charlotte is a good team, the Bobcats earned their first West road victory of the season and improved to just 4-17 (.190) overall away from North Carolina.

What’s most frustrating is the fact that if the Suns had won just half of the dozen games they have blown over the past two months, they would be 32-15 and fighting with Dallas and Denver for the No. 2 seed instead of Memphis, Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City for Nos. 7-8.

In November, the Suns win this game; in January, the Suns lose that aforementioned Toronto game.

Basketball is a game of execution, and what they did to perfection in November has turned into sloppiness in January.

“We’ve got to keep gut-checking every day right now because we can’t fold up the tents, we’ve got to be strong mentally and stick together and build each other up every day because it can be a slippery slope,” Nash said. “Having said that, as poorly as the last two months have gone for us we are not by any means out of it, our season washed away, so we’ve got to stay strong to see if we can go on a run and get right back in the thick of things.”

And 1

  • Frye, who has scored 20 points in consecutive games while hitting 15-of-30 from distance since being relegated to the bench six games ago, will have his number retired at Phoenix St. Mary’s High School on Wednesday afternoon. He is the first Knight to have such an honor bestowed upon him, but don’t be surprised if Jerryd Bayless’ high school No. 32 joins Channing’s No. 44 jersey one day in St. Mary’s lore. Along with Frye, his college coach Lute Olson and high school coach David Lopez are expected to speak, as well as Suns GM Steve Kerr. “Man, it’s crazy,” Frye said. “I love that school. That’s where I kind of became me, that’s where I got the confidence to think, ‘Hey, I could do this.’ … I’m honored to get my jersey retired.”
  • The two members of the Suns-Bobcats trade had very different games in this one. Jared Dudley, starting for the injured Grant Hill, earned his first start since Dec. 8, 2008, with the Bobcats. He tallied 18 points and a season-high 10 boards, including a big three in overtime, in over 48 minutes of action. J-Rich, meanwhile, could only muster six points on 2-for-12 shooting in 45 minutes of time. Boris Diaw, meanwhile, put up a very Boris Diaw-like 24-11-5 line.
  • Leandro Barbosa’s surgery to remove a ganglion cyst in his right wrist was successful on Tuesday. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Meanwhile, Hill is day to day with a bruised heel that caused him to miss Tuesday’s game. He had played in 128 straight games, the second-longest streak of his career.
  • The Suns recorded a season high by hitting 32 three-pointers in consecutive games. … Goran Dragic has tied a career high by scoring in double figures in three straight. … Charlotte swept its first-ever season series from Phoenix. … The Suns are now 3-8 on the second game of back-to-backs, losing their first such game at home after a pair of wins.

  • Et

    I agree with Asani. Losing all the big lead is already a sign of poor coaching. I Don't know why Gentry like fry so much to play as a center. That coach is so stupid. Even the loss to Utah is all his doing. Why not put Lou Admundson on Kirilenko? Lou is their best rebounder and still he cannot see it. Fry must be good for bench playing time and not finishing. Both game in Utah and against the Bobcats, you can see he is going to brick a shot when it matters most. Even though he is scoring he still not suppose to be out there to finish the game as the rebounder.

  • KeZ

    I really dont know how much i can take anymore! what is happening with my Phx suns!!?? I mean it is okey to lose against powerhouses like dallas,lakers,cavs, but not against teams under the 500 mark! If this continues they will be out of the playoffrace in a month. They need to make something happen with a trade NOW before it´s all over……….

  • KeZ

    I have two trades that might work for the suns.

    1. Jason Richardson to Washington for Mike Miller and Deshawn Stevenson´s expiering contracts.

    2. Jason Richardson to Golden State for Corey Maggette(4years left on contract) and Kelena Azubuike´s expiering contract.

    In the Washington trade Phx gets a good shooter in Mike Miller and a tough,raw, “I dont give a shit about the other team” minded player in Stevenson! Both with expiering contracts.

    In the Golden State trade Phx gets a great defender and a solid shooter in Maggette and som depht to their bench in Azubuike and a expiering contract!

  • The Z. Man

    Hate to say it but J-Rich must be gone.

    Dude kills us on the back end game. Should he not be fired up to do his best vs. his old team? Look how playing vs. his old team fired up Diaw.

    With Hill and LB hurt, not the best time to get rid of our “main” swing man…but dude!!!! Will be a hard 4+ weeks of no LB. When he returns for a final playoff push, we should see what we miss…the REAL Brazilian Blur.

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

  • Assane Drame

    ok in my opinion (i hope kerr sees this) i think we should not trade amare i mean hes bin on our team for years hes one of my favorites. and he plays great basketball. his defense is a little bad but at least try to keep him until the season ends and free agency starts. Now its 40-50% chance hes gone so im being hopeful, but i think we should trade j-rich. j-rich felt like a good trade a year ago but we have to get a better swingman who can defend there are alot of options like golden state, new jersey, maybe new york. sorry but i think j-rich is the only one thats gotta go. but again if they trade stoudermire idk…

  • KeZ

    My fellow suns fans…..As much as i hate to say this! Amaré will be traded in a couple off days :( It really hurts to be a suns fan these days…..

  • Mike

    With all the coaches available we should make a move at head coach. I think Amare might play with less inspiration when the coach has lost him and he's not in a system that's working. Easy to pit it on him, and he's played very poorly but it starts at the top.

    Fact is they aren't running any plays and they shouldn't stick themselves in zone if they are trying to maintain a lead or come back because it gives up offensive rebounds and threes — both areas where they have sucked on defense.

    If they don't have a fourth quarter plan or go-to play to get back on track, that's a sign of a failed system. If they stick to defensive strategies that continue to fail over 8-10 minutes, that's a sign of a failed system.

  • Robert

    Any chance that the suns have mercy on Steve and grant as they fall out of the playoff and move them to a contender? It’s not fair to them to keep them on this team if they aren’t even going to make the playoffs. I know it wouldn’t be popular, but it would probably be the right thing to do by them at the ends of their careers when they were loyal enough to resign with us this summer.

  • Asani

    While I agree with you guys that something must be done especially with J Rich for Mike Miller but not stevenson, he sucks balls. I think the biggest change that has to happen that everybody is missing is Gentry. He is a flat out idiot. He doesn’t run the ball through Amare and wonders why they lose all the damn time. At no point in time should a last second shot go to Dudley over Amare. When the suns have a lead he needs to put the best defenders in so they can help maintain that lead. Best defenders are Dragic, Barbosa, Hill, Amundson and Lopez or Clark. These guys can help maintain a 20 point lead if he plays them together. He always wants offense in the game instead of defense in the clutch. The zone is ineffective with 85 percent of teams in the nba so why in the hell does this idiot not see this? He has done a horrible coaching job at best and he along with Kerr and J rich can kick rocks

  • PJ

    armare for brooke + bobby simmons expiring contract

    reunite the brothers!

  • Jake

    First of all, trade Jason Richardson for any swing man who can defend. He has talent and skills but he is nothing more than a catch and shoot guy in suns offense system. I hate to see that suns offense always starts with Nash. If they have that many offensive options, sometimes they need to let Amare or Jason play post up and either play one on one or pass the ball when got doubled. But if it’s suns offense, we don’t need Jason that much.

    And Channing shouldn’t be the starter or finisher. He’s the role player who has offensive threat, but he’s foul prone and no defense. Why didn’t suns put Lou or Robin in the final quarter? They are better defenders than Channing, although they cannot shoot behind the line. They can score in the paint when Nash feeds.

    Amare looked unable to focus on the play because of the rumors. But I still think suns shoule keep him if they want to be a good team. There are plenty of rumors even spurs wants him. But unless suns get chris Bosh for Amare, any trade won’t give the talented young player like him.

  • Roadster sl

    Repeat my observations of the last two months: no defense, no rebounding….no playoffs. This is not just a mental problem, it’s a personnel problem. Except for Hill the Suns have no real tough defender and he’s getting too old to keep up with the younger guys…still the tougest defender on the team. That tells you something of the rest. The truth is you have too many defensive “soft” spots: Nash, Amare, JRich, Frye….which is by the way 80% of the your starters!!!! No wonder that the 2nd unit has been stealing the limelight especially on defense. The bottom line is that Phoenix is on it’s way to another miss of the playoffs. They may get to the allstar break just 1 game or so over .500 but out of real playoff contention. For me if Gentry and Kerr don’t take action quickly the season will be over by allstar break. Trade JRich and however you have to to get some tough defensive guards, real pitbulls, and also get a calibre rebounder. By the way I do not believe Gentry can teach this team to play defense…he just does not have a system…if you see how JRich defends Jackson of the Bobcats against the 3pointer (4 feet away from him!!) you want to cry. If you see him shoot 2 of 12 from the field you want to cry, that’s worse than 20% and he is paid 13 bigs ones per year. If you see Amare’s timid play yday and today you want to cry, his 5 TO’s matched his 5 rebounds….are you kidding me…5 rebounds in 31 minutes!! Oh yeah, he had 5 rebounds yday too…in 37 minutes. Look guys: a bad defensive team, a bad defensive coach and an erratic front office…do the math = no playoffs. JRich has to go aND I wouldn't be sad if they traded Amare and get some real good players in exchange – youg talent or draft picks. Get Brook, Humphries, Douglas Roberts and their 1st round draft choice and give them Amare and JRich – I wouldn’t hesitate a split second.

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