After two lackluster preseason games, the Phoenix Suns finally started to show glimpses of the team they can become in their 98-90 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Saturday in the annual outdoor game.
Again, don’t look at the final score because the deep reserves were putrid in getting outscored 26-12 in the fourth to nearly blow the game, and this wasn’t exactly the Mavericks squad the Suns would be playing a month from now with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry taking a seat on the bench for the evening.
Tonight we did get to see the Suns go with a regular-season rotation through three quarters, and after a tough opening quarter getting used to the outdoor rims, Phoenix throttled Dallas 66-39 during the middle two quarters to win their first outdoor game in three tries.
Many Suns played well with five in double figures, led by Grant Hill’s 16, and that doesn’t even include Steve Nash and his 10 assists, but the Sun who impressed me most offensively was Hakim Warrick, who scored 10 points on 3-for-4 in an efficient 15-minute stint.
Perhaps that’s because I already know what J-Rich and Hill can do in this offense, but with Warrick it’s still somewhat of a mystery. He brought excitement to the game, coming up with a steal and a dunk in one sequence and overall proving to be a quality complement to the rest of the starters.
On the flip side, Hedo Turkoglu disappointed once again. He made just 1-of-6 shots for three points in 24 minutes to drop his preseason shooting percentage to 19.1 percent (4-for-21). Such a start makes his season in Toronto last year seem fantastic by comparison.
Even worse he didn’t seem too comfortable in the offense and often settled for long jumpers. It’s too early to speculate whether his exhausting national team run is affecting him as Lon Babby said it did last year (Goran Dragic is also struggling with his shot after an 0-for-5 outing that drops his shooting percentage to 26.1 percent), but for a player with so many question marks coming in, he certainly hasn’t done anything to assuage any fears.
The following conclusion should not be seen as a knee jerk reaction to a meaningless preseason game because it’s an idea I’ve been pondering since the Suns completed all their July acquisitions: Wouldn’t it make more sense to start Warrick and bring Turk off the bench?
Warrick seems to be the most ideal pick-and-roll partner for Nash. Robin Lopez did a nice job in that role as well on Saturday, but he’s not as electric rolling to the hoop as the former Orangeman. Having both of them as options in the pick-and-roll game in the starting lineup could help that play remain a staple of Phoenix’s attack with the starters on the floor.
Also, Turkoglu seems like a much better fit off the bench to take some of the playmaking and ballhandling pressure off Dragic. With Nash rightly dominating the playmaking responsibilities when he’s on the floor, Turkoglu often seemed to be relegated to a spot-up shooter. With the bench, he would almost be forced to be the facilitator he’s thrived as in the past.
That would also give the Suns a lethal, long-ranging shooting bench in which its worst three-point shooter is the shooting guard. What kind of bench can match up with Dragic-Childress-Dudley-Hedo-Frye?
The problem is egos, and while Warrick has been a career bench player, Turkoglu has been a career starter. The Suns must prevent Hedo from pouting and if that means starting him so be it, but personnel-wise it would make sense for him to be the offensive star of the bench.
As for this game, the Suns once again lost the rebounding battle, 46-39, as Lopez led the team with six boards. The Suns did solve their turnover problem with only 12, but they shot just 7-for-26 from three (26.9 percent), which sadly is a step up from the 14.7 percent they shot from distance in the first two games. Channing Frye in his first game back after the birth of his son earlier this week hit just 2-of-10 from deep.
Finally, I know Alvin Gentry said not to read into rotations, but I’m going to do it anyway. The fact that Earl Clark didn’t play until the fourth surely seems to say he’s not part of the team’s 10-man rotation as of now, but perhaps that was obvious anyway.
The entire deep bench lineup was pretty atrocious. The Suns led 87-70 when Jared Dudley and Dragic departed to give the Suns a lineup of Dowdell-Janning-Clark-Lawal with Josh Childress, who made way for Chucky Atkins three and a half minutes later with the Suns still up 16. The Mavs’ deep reserves outscored the Suns 14-3 in the next 4:25 to cut the lead all the way down to five before the Suns ultimately hung on to win their first preseason game in three attempts.
As expected, Steve Kerr was insightful as a color guy for TNT. It was kind of funny the couple times he referred to the Suns as “we” before clarifying he only meant “we” for previous versions of the Suns, not the 2010-11 Suns. Like the rest of us, he’s concerned about how much the Suns will miss the fear factor brought by Amare Stoudemire rolling down the lane, which freed up Phoenix’s shooters. …
At halftime Hill said the Suns’ biggest challenge in the early going will be not trying to live up to what the Suns were last season because they improved so much throughout the year. He also said the team had a great practice on Friday as well as a “come to Jesus” meeting. …
Gentry on the game, as told to TNT: “I thought we did a much better job tonight, especially in our defensive exeuction. I thought our rotations were much better, but we still have got some work to do. The offense I’m not too much worreid about. As long as you have Steve Nash you’re going to score.”
The Suns host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday at 7 p.m. MST in their preseason home opener.