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