Philadelphia 76ers 105, Phoenix Suns 95 -- One step forward, two steps back

The Suns never found an answer for Philly's uber-athletes like Thaddeus Young. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr.)

The Suns never found an answer for Philly's uber-athletes like Thaddeus Young. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr.)

A road trip that started off with so much promise has now finished with the Suns just one game better than they began on this five-game, 10-day odyssey that seemed to revive hope and ultimately put the Suns right back they have often been this month a few games below .500.

After dropping a 105-95 decision to the Philadelphia 76ers on the hands of their disastrous loss in Detroit, a road trip that started with many thinking 5-0 has turned into a so-so 3-2 considering the lack of quality opposition faced this stretch.

In this one turnovers led to a blowout loss that wasn’t as close as the final score might make you think despite Phoenix shooting 51.3 percent (Philly hit for 54.3 percent). As Alvin Gentry said, you can’t defend the turnover, and that’s the biggest reason the Sixers blistered the rims against the Suns for the second straight time. A game after 15 turnovers led to 24 Detroit points, 16 Phoenix turnovers were turned into 30 Philly points, including 23 fast-break points.

The athleticism of Jrue Holiday gave Nash fits and Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young put on a show in transition.

“We have to do a better job of protecting the ball,” Gentry told reporters. “It’s just the bottom line. We’re not going to be able to win very many games if we’re giving up 24 and 30 points off of our turnovers. There’s no way that you can defend a turnover. You just can’t do it. I don’t care how good your defense is, if you turn the ball over, usually they’re going to run down and have numbers.”

Added Jared Dudley, “They were scoring on the turnovers. Their confidence got the crowd going and then they took away some stuff from us, and we just didn’t hit shots and they played in passing lanes, taking us out of our rhythm. For us, we can’t turn the ball over as much. We need to understand what we want to execute and do that.”

Perhaps you can blame this one on tired legs to a degree, as fatigue was a bad combination against a young Philly team that used 12 steals to get out in the open court and run the Suns out of this one like Suns teams of yore used to do so often.

Dudley scored 23 points and Nash went for 17 and nine but they didn’t get a ton of help from a tired Phoenix squad that did indeed seem more ready for their return flight to the Valley than settling a score from the last Philly game.

Vince Carter’s trade value continued to take a hit in this one, as the artist formerly known as “Half Man, Half Amazing” scored just a flashy two points on 1-for-6 shooting to go with one rebound and one assist in 22 minutes of play. Since his 29-point outburst in New York, Vince has averaged 6.5 points per game on 25 percent shooting (10-for-40), including 23.5 percent marksmanship from deep.

Gentry has never been a coach who played a guy because of his name, but with two able wings sitting on the bench you’ve got to wonder if the Suns might be better off giving Vince’s time to Josh Childress or Mickael Pietrus — or perhaps both of them.

Sure he can get you 30 every once in a while, but if he’s going to just be a glorified shooter who gets you a couple rebounds and drives hard to the rim for a fancy play once or twice a game, I would prefer the talents of Childress or Pietrus myself.

Childress saw his first piece of action of the road trip in this one, playing the four in a small ball lineup midway through the third. I like the different element that he brings, showing his prowess reading a defense and cutting to score his only two points in 20 minutes while also collecting a steady four rebounds and two assists.

The Suns once again are three games below .500 and would need to win four out of five on this tough upcoming homestand just to crawl back to the .500 mark that has eluded them since the Orlando acquisitions first put on a Suns jersey.

The best news of the night was that the Kings won in Portland (if it’s not too early to be thinking about such things), but other than that the Suns were made to look old and slow against a fast, exciting Philadelphia team whose athleticism the Suns just couldn’t handle.

This loss certainly leaves a bad taste in the Suns’ collective mouth, but the one that really hurt remains the Detroit loss, not this one. With this being the final game of a long road trip against a team that scored at will against them in Phoenix and had won 11 of 14 at home coming in, you knew this one wasn’t going to be easy.

But if the Suns had gotten to .500 and guaranteed themselves of a 4-1 trip, this loss wouldn’t sting so bad.

As it is a trip that seemed to be the start of turning the Suns’ season around now ends just a game better in the standings and with the same questions about whether this squad can put together a sustained run still lingering.

And 1

Robin Lopez outrebounded Steve Nash for the first time in 2011 in the Suns’ 12th game of the month.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Michael, (and Tyler, and Mike), I know you guys have to write it and do your best to put a positive spin on it but lets be real.

    This team is a +/- .500 team, (whether they finish a few above or below .500 will be the question at this point).

    The philosophy and style that Gentry and Nash are trying so hard to keep in place cannot be done simply because the personnel in house now cannot deliver it.

    It’s a contrast of what the team should be versus what Gentry, (and possibly Sarver), are trying to do to keep the team as it used to be.

    What this team should be is what the bench mob was last year. That is what the pieces of the current puzzle warrant.

    Grit. Hustle. Trapping. Crash-rebounding with more points scored at and around the rim than on the perimeter alone.

    You look at the current roster minus Steve Nash and Vince Carter. I’m not counting Grant Hill in that because he has always shown that he can get down and do the defensive work.

    Minus those two names I just mentioned, this team looks vastly different and they would absolutely attack the rim, (which would still get JMZ, Frye, and Pietrus open 3′s), they’d have the work in to be in the passing lanes and the on-ball defense would be stellar.

    Gentry knows how to adapt year to year. He has always worked with what he has especially last year when he basically had a SSOL starting 5 and a stalker-like defensive minded second unit.

    This year he has more of the latter, but continues to try and keep that open-spacing-bombs-away offense rolling, (for Nash).

    It will continue to be a disaster with uninspiring showings against bottom feeders because the team simply cannot maintain the style in place.

    I understand playing VC in hopes of trading him, but a few good games, (and a couple of sick dunks), isn’t going to fool any other team around the league at this point. If they want him eventually, they’re going to want him regardless. The only thing he’s doing out there is slowing down the evolution of Dudley at the 2, (and also the evolution of what the team’s soon-to-be identity-anyway should be).

    That’s probably why I’m so sick of reading about how “all PHX needs is that talented 4 to replace amare and bring back the Valley’s euphoria.” Honestly, unless it’s Amare who was raised in the system, it’s not going to bring the results needed.

    I think that the acquisitions, (minus Hedo), and the young Suns already in house spell out the writing on the wall and I think that preparations should be made going into the future to get that mindset switched as soon as possible.

    Childress and Pietrus are sitting there waiting to be used properly, (and no that is not at the 4). Dudley just puts up the numbers and even when the points aren’t there, for the most part even in the midst of such an erratic season, when he’s on the court things are just better. He sits behind Carter, which pushes Childress all the way out.

    ***** By the way. No, this is not me saying that Nash needs to go or that this season so far is all his fault. *****

    Lets tell the truth though. Nash + Carter as the starting 1 and 2 spells DEATH. It’s hard enough to cover for Nash’s on-ball defense, (which we’ve done pretty well over the years), but when you put Nash AND Carter out there as the “front line” defense… You just can’t stop anybody.

    At least before if Nash got screened off or a switch was called, Raja was there. Dudley was there. Even J Rich was there, (I’ll take his defense 15 times over Carter’s). Now it’s basically a free ride into the offensive set for any team we play.

    And I know that what I type next will be highly unpopular, I think that with the fast-rising Gortat on the scene now it might be prudent to force RoLo into a bench role or even see what kind of value he would bring back.

    Before you spit hatred at me, ask yourself: What has he really brought to the table minus a short stretch last season? If he is to come off the bench with Dragon and crew, how much of a force would he be? How much has he been missed whenever he is out due to injury or 3 fouls in the first 5 minutes of a game?

    Seriously, I think that when you look at the future of the franchise with the pieces in place right now there’s a real brightness there.

    If we make the playoffs, we’re falling in the first round anyway, so why not start heading in the direction that is being painted in vivid clarity by the players currently in house?

    I’d send Carter to the bench for JMZ, give Gortat the starting job, period. Only Frye should be near 40 minutes per as long as he isn’t in foul trouble because he is the team’s greatest threat after Nash.

    I’d let Nash run it, but more in the aggressive probing style he used to use and not so much of the PnR cause-and-effect style currently in place.

    I’d organize the bench to mirror what is in place with the starting 5 while telling RoLo to go hard every second and try to grab / swat everything. I’d get Pietrus, Childress, and Warrick proper run with Dragon, Lopez, and Frye, (again – the 40 minute man). Vince can play the 6th man if I can’t get rid of him.

    I know we’ve been spoiled by decades of the NBA’s version of a run and shoot offense, but the current crop of players suggest something else.

    I loved the bench mob last year; I think that is where the team is headed. I would gladly watch that every game because even if it brought a 45-37 record the first year, the growth would be phenomenal and perhaps we draft the next star or a frustrated star can look in and see himself as that finishing piece of a promising future.

    Losing to the Pistons, Sixers, and having to “fight off” the Cavs is not something I’m interested in.

    I think the direction is clear. I think that the team needs to start heading there now.

  • Mel.

    Of all the things that the Suns should be embodying–transition or not–”looking old” is NOT one of them. With the ridiculous amount of young legs we’ve got going on the floor, there’s no way in hell that this team should be fielding the same complaints that the Lakers are hearing, this season.

    Though unfortunately, having read KJL/Rich’s dissertation (You going for the Four on the blog, boyo? You got my vote! :D) above, it seems that the obvious is true. Nash is keeping the offense in fourth gear and the defense in first, which–thanks to Vince’s “contributions”–is steadily slipping into reverse.

    Someone’s gotta go, and the arguments against trading RoLo are something I also disagree with. Any backup center with basic mobility and a dedication to their position could do what he’s doing right now, which is the antithesis of the potential he was showing last year.

  • Nash_rules

    It’s not even the way they lost, it’s the absence of will power to turn it around midway into the game :(

    “KJL/Rich’s dissertation” :) was spot on, these players aren’t suited to maintain the system used in previous year(s).

    Gortat should start immediately and start developing, you can see Lopez is limited, but more important than that, shows a very little margin of progression. Also, he looks lazy and with a body of a Godzillla he hovers around the rim like my grandmother on a weak day. If you are built to bump and destroy just do it!! Watching him with such caution around the hoop really makes me sick!!

    Now a more extreme idea: what if the Suns could extract out of Grant Hill the kind of burst of energy Leandro Barbosa gave this team beforehand? What about having Grant Hill as the 6th man? Let’s face it, it is better to have a great player coming out the bench, to teach and stabilize the younger second unit, then forcing him to play extended minutes and getting him tired and making silly mistakes and forced shots (visible in last games…)

    Regarding V.Carter, I agree with everything written, bench him!!! He takes a bump and goes to the face like a cry baby (watch it on tape)!! That made me mad!! If he doen’t want to play / really commit with this team make him warm the bench and play limited minutees and please, PLEASE, somebody has to say to him that he isn’t a 3 point shooter, never was and never will be, so don’t mess up trying to make 3′s everytime he has an opportunity!

    The saddest thing, though, it’s watching Nash playing like he doesn’t care so much anymore.. trade on the horizon? :(

  • Roger Bourland

    I wonder if Lopez is actually getting any coaching or not listening to it. The guy has to put the ball on the floor (all 7 ft of him!) before going for a reluctant shot. Then he swats instead of grabbing rebounds. Jr. High habits. Maybe he’s afraid – or simply cowed by being beaten so often and so thoroughly.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @ Nash_Rules:

    The only way you’re going to get Barbosa-like burst out of Hill is to somehow erase all of those ankle injuries and bring Fila back from the dead, along with those killer kicks they designed for him.

    Also, Hill must start, right now. If for no other reason, he knows the system inside and out at the 3. Childress doesn’t give the type of scoring punch yet and Pietrus can’t have a clue with the limited time he’s had.

    RoLo’s back issue is no joke. T Mac’s prime was shortened by 3 or 4 years because of lingering back issues. Even so, you can’t wait on him to develop forever.

    Nash cares, but teams know they can swarm him in the 4th with no second serious threat available.

  • Steve


    I never connected the two before, but now it’s completely obvious. Can’t believe I didn’t realize it.


    I agree with pretty much everything that was stated above. I’ve been saying for the past 7 years or so (when we couldn’t get by the Spurs/Mavs/Lakers) that the Suns’ system CANNOT win a championship in the NBA. They need a change, and I think most of the pieces are in place right now. Let’s play some real, ugly basketball and try to bring a championship banner to this city rather than putting out an entertaining regular season product.

  • Drew

    @ Steve: I disagree with the self-aggrandizement by stating that you’ve been saying all along that this system will never win a championship. It worked then when we had the right pieces. We had real shots and had bad luck. Simple as that.

    Now it’s a completely different problem. The personnel doesn’t fit the system that once worked. We’re changing identity. So it’s not logical to wrap it all up in “this system doesn’t work” since we’re comparing apples to oranges.

  • Cam

    I tend to agree with what you guys have been saying about benching VC. I like what I’ve seen from Dudley when he gets extended minutes and it was nice to see Childress get some time on the floor, even if it was out of position at the 4. I thing that we have some good young wing players that can really contribute but are stuck behind the expiring contract that is VC. Key word there is expiring contract. I still think that management is “recommending” that VC start because they are hoping that he will play well enough that they can get a 1st rounder out of him in a trade. I don’t any other reason you play a guy who is hurting the team the way he is with the lack of effort. If management gets a 1st out of a trade for him they benefit two-fold. Not only will the team get another first but the team cuts salary of the top at the end of this year and cuts salary next year with three 1st round picks on the team. Then they get to officially “rebuild” the team which makes it ok to trade Nash because they will use the “he deserves one last shot at a ring and we can’t give it to him here so we are gonna trade him.” they sell that malarky to the fans because they failed in free agency. Hill won’t resign so another salary off the books. Our only hope is to land a stud in the draft and then the suns look like the OKC thunder circa 2008-2009. We will have to wait another 4 years before the suns even get close to relevancy again.

  • Auggie5000

    *claps for KJL* that “dissertation” was spot on.

    It’s common sense; when a starter is not playing as well as someone on the bench, you change their roles. We have 2 positions that need to be addressed.

  • Zak

    One thing I think almost all Suns fans can agree on is that – as it is now – the best that this Suns team can do would this season is an 8th seed in the playoffs followed by a very quick exit from the series. Whether they change the offensive style or not, it’s probably time to start thinking about the future of the team beyond this season. The younger/newer guys need more playing time to develop and mesh together. Why not start Dragic, Gortat, Dudley, Frye or Warrick and Childress or Pietus. See what they can do as the starting 5 and then bring Nash, Hill and the rest when the other teams are beginning to sub in their 2nd units and just see what happens. I doubt it could get much worse. Whatever they do, the team might as well start the rebuilding process now instead of later. And if that means changing the style of play to fit the players skills then that should be part of the process to.

  • Steve


    Not sure how that’s actually self-aggrandizement. I HAVE indeed said that all along. I’m not trying to make myself look better than I am.

    It isn’t a completely different problem now. If we were good enough to win a championship, we would have. End of story. I’m as big of a fan as anybody, and I know we got screwed by the NBA, by officials, by “luck,” but if we needed everything to go our way in order to win, then we just weren’t good enough to win. You can’t count on getting breaks. Good teams will win with or without the help of the Association and its affiliates.

    If the system isn’t broken, answer me this: When was the last time a team won an NBA championship when it was outside of the top 10 in defensive efficiency? Top 15?

    I don’t even know the answer to that question. So if it turns out to be last year, I’ll look like a moron. But I would be willing to bet that it is EXTREMELY rare, if it has ever happened.

    The Suns’ system will not win championships. Self-aggrandizement? How about using big words where they actually make sense or when you actually know me and know that I have or have not been saying that for the past seven years?

  • Cam

    @Zak: The problem with “rebuilding” now is selling it to the fans. In the end this is a business. If the Suns management uttered the word “rebuilding” mid-season fans would not buy tickets. No one wants to go see a team that starts a rebuild while they are still playing for a playoff spot. They aren’t going to make fans aware of the rebuild until they know they can sell fans on coming to see a young, inexperienced but exciting to watch team. I think that means watching this team go through peaks and valleys this season to come up just a little short so that they can make a run in the draft on a player that will have the fanbase willing to pay to see a team. Just look at what Blake Griffin has done for the LAC. I don’t expect the Suns to get someone of his caliber in the draft, but he has taken a mediocre team from last year and made them exciting. That’s what I think the Suns management plan/hope is.

  • Zak

    @Cam: Unfortunately I think that’s more “hope” than “plan”. No offense to you because I certainly can see your point but if the Suns continue to play the way they are now then I would expect to see the ticket sales drop off as the season goes on whether the team is officially rebuilding or not. But perhaps the first step should really be trying to change the style of play. Start Gortat and make getting him the ball in close the first option instead of trying to get an open shot from the 3 point line. Do the same with Warrick when he’s in there. And push the wings into driving to the basket instead of throwing up threes. It’s no crime to go to the rim and you can always kick the ball back outside if necessary where we already know that we have plenty of capable (but often inconsistent) 3 point bombers. A slower more deliberate style offense doesn’t suit Nash so keep it fast but concentrate of pounding it inside first.

  • Cam

    @ Zak: I believe “hope” is all that management has right now too. I guess I was trying to be diplomatic about it.

  • Zak

    @ Cam: I hear ya loud and clear and agree. “Management” will probably probably do whatever they can to “salvage” this season, make that 8th playoff spot if possible and then try to “rebuild” with off-season trades and the draft. We will probably have to suffer at least until the All-Star break with VC starting and scoring 25-30 points once every 10 games and 2-5 points in the other 9 in hopes that he might “come alive” and draw some trade interest. But after the AS break – if he hasn’t picked up his game by then – he should just sit his ass at the end of the bench for the rest of the season until the Suns can reasonably buy out the rest of his contract and he can go play out the rest of his career with Iverson in Turkey or China or anywhere else where a team might be willing to take him on. Unless he gets his sh!t together soon, I doubt any other NBA team will be willing to offer him a contract next season. Lol, I suppose it may sound as though I’m blaming the Suns’ problems on VC but I’m not. Taking on VC was just a necessary evil to get Gortat and dump Turkoglu and the ever disappointing Clark. Too bad we couldn’t have just worked out a deal to trade Turkoglu and Clark for Gortat and Pietus without having to swap J-Rich and VC as part of the deal.

  • Mel.

    Roger, you raise an interesting question: do the Suns even HAVE a set coach for post/big man-style play? If so, the guy’s probably got a one-day work week. The reason why Gortat looks so swank in comparison to RoLo’s production might simply be that he was groomed in Orlando’s system for improvement as a post presence, whereas… well, who the hell even knows what Phoenix would impart to a guy trying to improve his skills as a true center?

    “Lesson one: stay under the basket and rebound. Lesson two: the ball may occasionally be passed to you… don’t panic. When you inevitably miss the shot due to pressure in the paint, revert to Lesson one.”

  • Lloyd

    Gortat played 10 minutes against the Sixers. What’s with that? I guess that is the reward for getting all of those rebounds.

  • Drew


    I know what self-aggrandizement means. “the action or process of promoting oneself as being powerful or important.” That is what you did. I’m not questioning whether or not you’ve been saying that for seven years. That is irrelevant to this team now and to my comments.

    The system then was not without flaws. I agree with you there. However we were consistently one of the best teams and had as good of a chance (if not better) as the other top two or three teams of the given season. That is NOT me “counting on getting breaks.” I’m simply saying that the system we had then, with the right personnel, put us in position to win. No championship is guaranteed– that’s why March Madness has it’s nickname, that’s why the Cardinals can make a miraculous run to the Super Bowl, that’s why people watch with suspense– upsets happen. We were upset. But the best team DOESN’T always find a way to win in spite of unpredictable factors. Often, yes. But not always.

    Going forward, we agree that we’re not going to win like this. So, I agree, that trying to fit THAT system with THIS team is disastrous.

    Hope I didn’t use any big words out of context again. That would be embarrassing.

  • Steve

    Self-aggrandizement is a accusatory/derogatory term. It has a lot of ways it can be interpreted, but it basically boils down to two things. It implies that I’m trying to MAKE myself more powerful or important by stomping on the little guy or it implies that I think I’m more powerful/influential/awesome than I really am.

    Either way, you took an unnecessary shot at someone who was stating an opinion just like you are stating your opinion. I didn’t ask for you to insult me, and it’s stupid of you to insult someone and then continue to do the exact same thing that person did to cause you to insult them.

    All of us are talking like we know how to manage the Suns on here, but none of us are in that position, and none of us will ever be in that position. You’re still being a douche about me calling you out, and usually when someone gets defensive, it means they know they’re wrong.

    We ALL indulge in self-aggrandizement if I do. That’s what the internet is. We think people care about what we say. And cyberspace between us makes it really easy to be a jerk.

  • Zak

    Self-aggrandizement is something we can all be accused of when we post our opinions here. We almost all -including me – “know” what the Suns need to do to improve the team and bring that illusive Championship banner to Phoenix. But all we can do is talk and discuss and maybe hope that some of our ideas might actually be heard by the people running the team and might actually sound reasonable to them.

  • Kenton

    Birch, birch, birch…

  • Drew

    Many apologies. I got the word from my word-of-the-day toilet paper, and it didn’t include the negative connotation in the definition. I keep telling my wife we just need to switch to regular Charmin. Then I wouldn’t get myself in a mess like this.

    I still feel that patting yourself on the back for this team’s failures fitting into your claims years ago (when it wasn’t a broken system) is a gross generalization, but it’s moot at this point.

    Let’s go Suns!

  • diddy

    o, i hate the system did’t work crap…… lack of defensive rebounding hurt the cause… and not having luck… kg would have been fine in this system, so would blake griffin