Amare ‘upset’ about Suns’ Game 4 effort

Amare was not a happy camper in the aftermath of Game 4. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Amare was not a happy camper in the aftermath of Game 4. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

PHOENIX — Nobody on the Phoenix side was all too pleased in the hours following the team’s disappointing 96-87 loss in Game 4 to the Portland Trail Blazers.

The reason for Amare Stoudemire’s displeasure was simple.

“I don’t think we had great effort,” STAT said after Sunday morning’s practice. “They got a few rebounds off of free throws, they outhustled us. I’m a little upset.”

After a game in which the Blazers’ front line of LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard combined for 26 rebounds, including Aldridge’s 31 and 11 outing, Stoudemire watched film of Game 4 four times. One of those times came on the flight back from Portland with the coaching staff, a sign that STAT really wants to learn and improve.

On the bright side of Game 4, STAT played his best offensive game of the series in scoring 26 points on 9-for-16 shooting, finally finding a way to knife his way through Portland’s interior-focused defense. For a stretch of the fourth quarter, going to Stoudemire was the only way Phoenix was scoring.

However, Aldridge also enjoyed his best game of the series after Phoenix loaded up on him and limited him in Games 2 and 3, but Stoudemire and head coach Alvin Gentry both were happy with the kinds of shots he was getting.

“We’ll play him the same way,” Gentry said. “There’s a reason they just gave the guy $[65] million. He’s a pretty good player, so you try to take his strengths away and you try to make him do something that he feels a little bit uncomfortable doing. He’s shooting fall-away jumpers on the baseline. We feel comfortable with him doing that. We’ll see how it works out.”

Looking at Game 4 as a whole, it’s discouraging that Phoenix didn’t display any killer instinct following two straight overwhelming efforts. The Suns had a chance to essentially end the series, but instead they let the Blazers right back in, and Stoudemire isn’t happy about it.

“I think last night was a situation where we had a chance to really take control of the series, but we can’t dwell on that now,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we take care of Game 5 in Phoenix. It’s going to be a big game for us. We’ll make sure we’re ready.”

Wanted: Bench production

Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash have something to do with it as well, but one of the biggest reasons the Suns earned the fifth-best record in the NBA has to do with their bench.

But the bench just didn’t get it done up in Portland.

The Suns got only 18 points from their bench in Game 4, led by eight points from LB and seven from Channing Frye. The bench also contributed just 25 of the starter-led Game 3 blowout.

Part of it is lack of opportunity. During the regular season the Suns must have been the most rested team in the NBA, as Amare Stoudemire led the team in minutes at 34.6 a game and ranked 46th in the league. Steve Nash was second at 32.8 and 64th in the NBA. J-Rich (31.5 mpg) was 75th. That’s why Gentry never liked reporters asking him if so and so could use some rest.

But it was a different story up in Portland when Gentry inserted Nash, Amare and Grant Hill back into a 19-point game that was seemingly slipping away with 10:40 left in Game 3, and Nash returned a little earlier than usual at the nine-minute mark of Game 4.

“Right now the starters have been playing well, Grant, J-Rich, so you can’t really argue with them coming back in the game earlier,” said reserve Jared Dudley. “The only thing I can do is start hitting more shots to make it a little tougher on him putting those guys back so quick.

“If we go out there at the end of the first, beginning of the second and play real well I guarantee you coach Gentry will keep us out there longer. In the playoffs it’s all about production stays on the court and if not someone else will.”

Gentry said that he plans to lean on his bench more in Game 5 at home, where bench guys typically perform better in the playoffs. Dudley said the team needs a couple of the reserves to step up with big games after that quiet Game 4 off the bench.

“You don’t need just one, you need a couple,” Dudley said. “Either me or Goran, Barbosa, Lou. Every game there’s got to be two big guys, Channing. And yet we haven’t played real well and we’re tied 2-2, so I’m hoping these next two or three games — hopefully two — that we can play well and go get two.”

Dudley struggling with his shot

Jared Dudley’s a big reason the Phoenix Suns shot the three-pointer better than all but one team in the history of the NBA.

He just hasn’t been able to replicate that success in the playoffs.

Dudley ranked fourth in the NBA during the regular season after knocking down 45.8 percent of his long balls, but thus far in the playoffs he’s just 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) from deep. He has not scored more then four points in any game and is averaging 3.3 for the series.

“It’s all about rhythm for me, so once I hit one I’ll have my rhythm going,” Dudley said. “They’ve done a real good job closing out, making me put the ball on the floor. You’ve got to tip your hat, and hopefully I can make an adjustment and try to get it going.”

Dudley said he’s not getting the same kind of looks that he got in the regular season and might have to pump fake and then take a pull-up jumper to counteract that.

But it’s not just Dudley

Channing Frye, another top-10 three-point shooter in the regular season, is 4-for-21 (19.1 percent) from deep and is averaging 4.7 ppg since going for 12 in Game 1. Those two have dragged Phoenix’s three-point shooting percentage down to 36.9 percent despite Nash, Richardson, Dragic and LB all shooting better than 45 percent from distance.

In Game 4, though, nobody could find the range, as Phoenix shot just 26.1 from behind the arc.

With that stat in mind, here’s Steve Nash’s takeaway from the Game 4 loss:

“When I watched the tape I was in some ways alarmed, pleased and shocked at how many open shots we had that we didn’t knock down,” he said.

“If you look at those two games (Games 2 and 3) we shot the ball extremely well, and we got a cold night (in Game 4). We’ve got to make shots. They clog up the paint.”

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire Jared Dudley

  • Don

    Any respect I had for Stoudemire was thrown out when he tried to elbow Aldridge and then deliberately elbowed Batum on his injured shoulder.

    He made it worse when he lied about not seeing him…he was only trying to put on his goggles.

    Right. And the Suns are going to win this series.

  • binkfooter

    Oh and Batum, Camby, Aldridge, and Howard were giving Stoudemire and Collins a make over.

  • Ice

    Don, you gotta watch the games closer, not just the ESPN “highlights”. They are mugging Amare down low. It’s amazing that there’s been no calls against the Blazers in the paint. Miller runs down there and straight up bear hugs Amare to keep him from getting a rebound, or when they foul him leading with their knees to his chest/stomach, without a flagrant call, it’s no wonder he’s getting a little chippy.

    However, he is one of the few players who plays better mad and on the verge of out of control. Because when he’s mad, he plays defense too.

  • BWalsh

    The hell with respect, if a little dirty play is what it takes to win a title, then I’m all for it. How do you think the Spurs did it all these years? If injuries are Portland’s weakness, then attack it.

  • Kevin

    There is a difference between physical play and playing dirty which ya’ll don’t seem to realize. Bumping a guy down low and preventing him from getting a dunk is part of playoff basketball believe it or not. Going after a guy’s injuries on the other hand is called being a coward.

  • Robert

    Who let the live-in-their-mom’s-basement Blazer fans in here?

    Amare does cry a lot about fouls, but I think he has some legitimate beef with the way it’s been handled the last 4 games.

    I’d better be quite, I think I hear David Stern coming.

  • Jim

    Blazer fan thinking Brandon Roy has saved their franchise when he may have jeopardized it (and his career) is even funnier. I guess it’s ok to let Roy push off on J-Rich because his knee is injured.

    J. Howard tried to rip Amare’s face off in the 4th quarter of Game 3, but according to Blazer announcers and Rip City faithful, that’s just playoff basketball. I mean, hitting Amare near his eye isn’t trying to go after an injury at all. And calling a ridiculous make-up flagrant on Frye because Batum is injured and/or Rose Garden screams for his head doesn’t make it legit.

    And Bayless is just “intense” when he pushes Lou in the back in Game 3. Take a shot for every time Bayless and Miller scream for a foul (for Bayless it’s “And-1″) near the rim and you’ll be passed out by halftime.

    I’m not going to go all Shawn Marion and say the Suns played 8 on 5, because the Suns lost this game on their own. Blazers didn’t win it.

  • Mel.

    Ugh, man. I think I’m now officially pulling for Phoenix even MORE than I usually do, thanks to “Elbowgate.” While we’re not likely to see the Suns pulling for the Larry O’Brien, the amusement factor of Portland still fixating on that stupid no-call and the inevitable evolution of it into the REASON why the Blazers didn’t win the series might be an amusing way to carry the off-season.

    The sissification of the NBA fanbase is just ridiculous. I know the folks drudging for Amar’e as the new face of dirty play aren’t twelve years old, but you’d think they hadn’t seen a series prior to 2004 with all this whiny rhetoric.

    “His elbow came within two and a half feet of our guy’s face! That’s practically a felony!”

    Give it a rest.

  • King Fahd

    Game 4 was probably the most disappointing game of the series, so far, for the Suns. At least, in Game 1, they played enough to have an opportunity to win. In Game 4, they seemed to have been playing a recent Lakers’ style of turning the switch on/off. Either way, we also need more production from the bench. And to Gentry, please play Clark and D. Jones a little more. I think they can keep up better, in athleticism, with the Blazers, unlike Collins. I like Collins, but he has become a liability for us on offense. The Suns should not lose another game from now!

  • Pingback: Phoenix Suns start slow before bench leads Game 5 rout of Portland Trail Blazers| Valley of the Suns

  • The Z. Man

    Like what you said King.

    Suns have not lost a game. This includes four more vs. the evil Spurs!!!!

    Nash & STAT & Hill are very good leaders for our young guys. Dudley is deadly, once more. Atop the best leaders and the best young guys, we have a healthy Barbosa back.

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