San Antonio Spurs 112, Phoenix Suns 110 — Failure to finish dooms Suns in nail biter

Steve Nash shot just 8-of-22 in the Suns loss to the Spurs on Wednesday, part of a collective 41-for-92 night for the team. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

PHOENIX — As far as Suns-Spurs games through time go, Wednesday’s was a classic.

Play was as physical as ever, the fans were as mad as ever and the finish was as thrilling as any. It was the ending, however, that fell flat as the Suns crumbled late and the San Antonio Spurs squeaked out a late win, 112-110.

It was an evening of missed opportunities, as the Suns (1-3) bricked countless easy buckets from within five feet and finished 41-of-92 to shoot 44.6 percent.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after the game. “But I thought we did a good job defensively for the most part.”

They did fare pretty well on defense, as the Spurs turned the ball over 23 times for 23 points, but the operative word here is “for the most part.”

With 7:14 to play  the Suns took a 95-94 lead, despite having been down as much as 11 in a game that saw 23 lead changes. The following minute appeared to put the game away for the Spurs, as forward Richard Jefferson, who led all players with 28 points, sank three three-pointers to give San Antonio a 103-97 lead.

“We had some miscommunications on the Richard Jefferson threes,” Gentry said. “We can’t be in a situation where we’ve got three guys in one defense and two guys in another.”

But this was Suns-Spurs. That’s not how games are supposed to end. The Suns went on a 9-0 run, highlighted by a Steve Nash to Jason Richardson alley-oop dunk, in under three minutes to retake the lead, 106-103, before eight straight misses allowed the Spurs to stay in it.

It was a late Grant Hill foul on Jefferson — one of 32 called on the Suns — that sealed to give the Spurs a 110-106 lead.

A late Nash layup made it 112-110, but there wasn’t even enough time left to foul and the Spurs snapped a five-game losing streak against the Suns that included last season’s second-round playoff sweep.

The Suns had their chances to pick up their first home win of the season, but the team’s inability to close cost them what would have been a key win in a tough opening stretch. Especially when Tim Duncan scores 25 points and grabs 17 rebounds.

“We fought for it, didn’t have a great game, but I feel really good about our team,” Nash said. “We’re playing hard, we’ve been in every game and we just aren’t quite clicking yet.”

The strange thing? It looked like they were clicking. But the missing piece was the ability to finish plays, finish defensive matchups and finish the game.

“We just have to find a way to finish the game,” Gentry said. “You’ve got to give them credit, they came up with some big plays.”

If the Spurs are getting credit for big plays, so are the Suns — just not the good kind of credit. The Suns ultimately doomed themselves with the late cold shooting streak.

Letting a team that was in the playoffs last year (one of four that the Suns opened the season against) come into your house and walk away with a win after committing 23 turnovers is simply bewildering, but serves as a sign that this team is still a work in progress.

“It’s still early in the season and guys have to get used to playing with each other,” Richardson said. “We have to communicate a little bit more on the court.”

Richardson finished leading the team with 21 points, including 3-of-7 on three-pointers. Hakim Warrick came off the bench to make a big contribution, adding 19 points, five rebounds and an intangible energy that helped the Suns’ reserves outscore the Spurs’ bench 45-26.

“I thought the second unit was starting to play much better,” Gentry said.

The Suns may have proven their depth, but they’ve yet to prove (granted, through just four games) they can firmly grasp a win when it’s in their hands.

“There are a lot of plays in a basketball game that contribute to a win or a loss,” said Nash, who finished shooting 8-of-22 for 19 points. “I obviously missed a lot of shots tonight. I’ve got to take a lot of the responsibility tonight.”

And 1

Suns rookie big man Garret Siler made his NBA debut Wednesday after Robin Lopez had accumulated three fouls and Channing Frye two. He played seven minutes, finishing with one point (on a free throw), one rebound (on offense) and two blocks. Couldn’t ask for a better first career block as Siler knocked down a shot by Duncan.

  • Joe

    The problem right now is, without Amare, Nash is doing a lot more creating in the half-court. Then, when it gets down to the last few minutes, he’s been too worn-down to do his “I’m so clutch it hurts” thing that Suns fans have become accustomed too.

    Now I don’t like to say a bad word about Nash at all.. he’s my favorite basketball player ever, period. But even he can’t do it all..

    Dragic and Turkeyglue are the only other true creators on the squad. With Turkoglo not lighting it up (to be kind), I just need to see more of Dragic. If not, Nash will continue to be tired at the end of games.

    Whether that means playing them together earlier in the games, or putting them both out during crunch time. Either way, something has got to change. We can’t keep repeating this cycle. Every loss for the Suns so far has come down to Nash looking tired in the 4th quarter.

  • Joe

    Of course another great solution to that problem would be turkeyglue snapping out of it and playing well. But snapping out of it implies he’s in a funk, and this isn’t just the player he is at this stage of his career. The answer to that remains to be seen, but Dragic is showing that he can be that second creator. He needs more minutes.

  • KJ Loyalist


    No excuses for this loss. They need to execute and nail the shots. Not even an incomplete team should let a game like this escape.

    Dragon needs ALL of the spare time. Bottom line. He is the only other creator on the team.

  • Joe

    But whose minutes do you take away for Dragic? It’d be nice if they could somehow trade JRich + Frye for a big guy. That not only allows us more minutes in the rotation for Goran, but also clears out our least useful big and adds another in his place.

    But then without Frye, the pick and roll becomes even harder to run. If you notice, whenever Warrick is out there he’s usually accompanied by Frye. This allows the Suns to have 3 players space the floor while Warrick+Nash/Goran run the pick and roll. Another big guy who likes to camp in the paint will tighten up the offense.

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    Turkoglu + Frye = 15 million per season = combined 40 minutes to go with NINE points on 3/11 shooting.

    And what about RoLo? 12 minutes?

    This is gonna be a loooooong season…

  • Steve

    Having finally witnessed the 2010-2011 Suns in person last night, I can say that our game was AWFUL in a lot of respects. The veteran Grant Hill let Richard Jefferson, of all people, beat us last night. Four threes from the same exact spot, all four of them WIDE open in quick succession? Grant Hill needs to be smarter than that. I love the guy, but that was stupid, terrible defense.

    Frye was pathetic in post defense and offense, but particularly defense. I know he was guarding Duncan, but don’t tell me that matters. When the Suns have to win in the Playoffs, he’s going to be guarding the Duncans/Gasols/Jeffersons/Nowitzkis/Mings (well, Ming will be hurt by then, but you get my point) of the world. Frye has to be able to put up a respectable stand against these guys, and so far he hasn’t. Those guys have had their way with him, and he has taken it like he’s not even mad about it.

    Steve Nash thinks he has to do it all. Nash bricked a few mildly contested 10-footers when we regained the lead late in the fourth, then Hill made a boneheaded mistake to leave Jefferson open again, and the game was over. Nash didn’t have to take any of those shots he did. As much as I love the guy, and as much as I understand that they’re still trying to “click” together, the PG isn’t the closer. I can’t think of one exceptionally good team where the closer is the PG. The two is the closer, the three is the closer, the five is the closer (in the rare case of someone like Nowitzki or Ducan, it can be a hybrid 4/5). Richardson is a better scorer than Nash, period. We need to let him be the guy to finish the game. Not Nash. Nash can facilitate to get Richardson the shot, but Richardson needs to be the one getting to the hoop or putting up jumpers. If Nash is going to dribble around for 15 seconds and put up a contested mid-range jumper every possession late in the fourth, it makes it easy on opposing defenses to take a break, catch their breath, and catch us off guard on the other end for open big shots (ala Jefferson) or take it to all the way in transition (ala Manu).

    The Suns were pathetic last night. The only reason they were in the game is because they are exceptionally good scorers. But they are exceptionally bad defenders and poor decision-makers. We’ll beat the Sacramentos, Golden States, and Minnesotas of the world playing like we’re playing now, but we’re never going to crack the top half of the West if things don’t get better.

  • Freddy

    All I am saying is get rid of Frye. That is all I am saying.

  • Kyle S

    I know everone is thinking we’re at 1-3 and would have love to beat LA and SA. BUT- consider the fact that we have so many new role players we’re trying to integrate and we barely lost to both teams!

    I think we’re in good shape, give the team some time. It’s a tought early schedule and we’re actually starting to look really good.

  • Iceman

    Suns need to put Hedo on the elbow like they did with Diaw….(I wonder if we could trade for Diaw using Hedo)

  • Steve

    @Kyle S – I wasn’t aware that moral victories count for anything in the NBA. I get what you’re saying, but I still don’t agree that playing decently well at the beginning of the season in certain stretches of certain games bodes well for the remainder of the season, much less for their hopes of doing something special in the playoffs.

    If you lose to the teams you’ll be facing in the playoffs, that is a bad sign.

  • KJ Loyalist

    As I said before the season started, contracts are the problem of those in charge. They should not be on the coaches.

    Dragic’s minutes? They should come from Hedo – Frye. Players who aren’t producing. Warrick gets more burn too and so can JMZ.

    May as well start using Siler / Lawal more too just to see if they can bring something to the table. I mean hell – I’d take Earl Clark over Hedo right now.

    Gentry sees it. He will make the adjustments as soon as he’s sure about a rotation that reflects what he envisions while also keeping the contributing Suns in a nice balance.

    Nash had an off night. Lay off him.

  • Kyle S

    Steve- No, I completely agree that moral victories get nowhere. Especially when I think we have the talent to get to the playoffs. If all you’ll look at is the wins column this early on, then we are totally failing.

    What I’m getting at is that I actually didn’t think we’d be this close in any of these early games based off the horrid preseason. Does this mean there’s been improvement? When I saw them in Utah they were toally dominant and took Deron Williams out of the game. This is something I didn’t expect and despite the forecast for a looong season, it’s something to hope we can improve on.

    I’ve always though Frye’s 3 point abilities were overrated. It’s adds another dimension, but he needs to actually rebound and play in the paint. But, we’ve been saying this for a year already.

    I don’t get why Hedo is starting, and I don’t expect us to continue starting him much longer.

  • KJ Loyalist

    @Iceman – I’ve been watching Diaw in Charlotte. He isn’t the same Diaw. Hedo is superior, that is how far Boris has fallen.

  • Mirza

    @ Steve .. great points, Nash cant be our closer no question (not at his age).

  • iceman

    KJ, that’s why we should trade Hedo for him! Diaw only has 2 years left on his contract AND can sit on the block and pass. Amare really mucked it up for him when he came back from the knee injury. On top of that Diaw is fat enough to guard PFs.