Phoenix Suns 102, Utah Jazz 101 — Frye en fuego

PHOENIX — You might not know it by his results, but Channing Frye does not believe in the hot hand theory.

Whether he’s shooting 1-for-7 and 2-for-11 as he has in the past few weeks or 12-for-16 as he did in Tuesday’s 102-101 win over the Utah Jazz, Frye always tries to shoot the same shots with the same balance and the same focus on the rim.

But after Suns assistant Igor Kokoskov challenged Frye about his shooting before Tuesday’s game, the UA product could not miss during a 7-for-7 first quarter that included five threes and resulted in 19 points, a total he had not surpassed in a game since going off for 25 on Jan. 21 in Washington.

“He was like, ‘We pay you to make some shots, so you better go out there and make some,’” Frye said of Kokoskov. “So, I was like, ‘All right.’ I just went out there and shot and just had confidence in shooting them. My teammates kept putting me in situations to succeed.”

Frye went on to score a career-high 31 points to go along with 11 rebounds for his first career 30-10 game and his fourth career 30-point game overall as well as his first as a Sun. The Suns are now 6-0 when Frye scores 20 this year and 5-0 when he puts up a double-double.

You could see Frye was locked in from the tip as his monster first helped the Suns overcome an eight-turnover opening period, and his hot shooting continued into the second half. He even scored on consecutive post-ups early in the second half when Utah switched a smaller defender onto him.

But tonight was all about the long ball for Channing, who finished with six on the game and most certainly reached “He’s on fire” status.

“He was in a great zone,” said Mickael Pietrus. “I’ve been through that before, and it’s pretty fun.”

What I liked most about his performance is he didn’t start forcing heat check jumpers. Gentry even chided his team for not getting Channing the ball more as he attempted one less shot than he did during back-to-back 6-for-17 and 5-for-17 appearances to start the month.

To me it’s a very good thing that Frye scored his 31 points on 75 percent shooting in the flow of the offense, choosing not to force anything. As Frye said afterward, he was happy to shoot when he was open, but if it’s not it’s nothing personal, he will make the right read and move the ball.

When players think they’re hot they often tend to start jacking up bad shots that ultimately cost their team, but Frye stayed within his means tonight and that led to a narrow victory.

Channing’s monster night was a welcome sign for a player whose shooting touch has left him all too often this season. He’s shooting 41.5 percent from the field (108th among qualified players and worst on the Suns) and 38.0 percent from three (55th after ranking sixth at 43.9 percent last season).

His PER is down to 11.81 from 15.09 last season, his Wins Produced numbers show him as a below average player and his adjusted plus/minus numbers have dropped from last year as well.

I recently surveyed some advanced stats writers from the Wages of Wins Network on Channing, and they basically told me those numbers don’t lie despite Gentry playing Frye 36 minutes a game since Jan. 9. Gentry likes how his ability to space the floor opens up the game for the rest of the Suns, so I’m still hesitant to accept that Frye’s playing as bad as the advanced analytics say he is.

But there’s no debating one thing about Frye, and it’s that when he gets rolling he can carry a team to victory as he did tonight.

The Suns still needed to rip off an 11-0 run after trailing by eight with seven minutes left, and once again it was Frye providing a dagger from long range to tie things up before Pietrus gave the Suns the lead for good with a triple to put them up three with 3:35 remaining.

The Suns nearly coughed up that advantage after suffering a shot-clock violation for their 19th turnover with 16.5 remaining during a possession that involved lots of standing around and not much else while the Suns nursed a one-point lead.

But Grant Hill forced a Deron Williams miss, Frye made one of two free throws, and then Marcin Gortat rotated over to defend Paul Millsap cutting to the basket for a potential game-tying layup before Millsap fumbled the ball away for a game-clinching turnover.

With the win the Suns swept the season series with the Jazz for the first time since 1982-83. That, of course, means they own the tiebreaker against Utah, who leads Phoenix by 2 1/2 games for the No. 8 seed in the West but is ahead by just one game in the loss column. The Suns are also one game out in the loss column behind Denver and two back of New Orleans and Portland.

After dropping Sunday’s heartbreaker to the lowly Kings, the Suns continued their stellar run of late, winning their seventh game in nine tries and their sixth out of seven against winning teams.

Despite how well this team is playing, the Suns have also learned during this stretch about the size of their margin for error these days, according to their captain.

“We’re the type of team that the minute we think we’ve arrived we’re going to get socked in the mouth, so we’ve got to come out every day with everything to prove and try to be the underdog,” Steve Nash said. “We’re a team that’s got to go out there and feel like we have to prove ourselves every night and earn it. If you take one little bit off the gas we get pretty mediocre pretty fast.”

With Frye drilling shots every time he touched the ball, the Suns looked far better than mediocre against Utah.

Rotational ramblings

Vince Carter did not log a second in the fourth quarter for the fourth straight game, scoring 10 points in 25 minutes of the first three.

Pietrus played the entire fourth in his place and did a fantastic job in that period, scoring eight points, grabbing four rebounds and blocking a whopping three shots while playing aggressive defense.

“Pietrus made some huge plays — rebounds, blocked shots, things like that,” Gentry said. “He was really good there.”

Added Nash, “It’s great when he makes shots, but what I love is him blocking shots, grabbing big rebounds. Tonight he was so active, you see this athleticism you don’t see every night that’s pretty impressive. He really was huge for us tonight.”

Since they both play better defense and can provide similar outside shooting to Carter, I wouldn’t mind seeing Pietrus or Jared Dudley continue to close out games.

After playing Goran Dragic for five minutes in the second quarter in his first action since missing seven games with a toe injury, Gentry went with Zabian Dowdell for five minutes in the second half.

The Suns lost eight points under Dragic’s watch and nine with Dowdell, making Nash’s plus/minus look real nice at plus 18.

Dragic scored two points and got a rebound and an assist but he turned it over twice and failed to control the game.

“It’s Goran’s first game back and I thought he was a little rusty,” Gentry said. “That’s why we have Zabian on the team, to be able to stick him in there. He’s played the last couple of games and been pretty good, so we just thought in that situation Zabian would probably be a little more stable.”

Dragic agreed with the rusty assessment and added his legs were “a little heavy,” but he had no problem with Gentry making him earn his backup point guard role back.

And 1

Nash passed Gary Payton for seventh on the NBA’s all-time assist list, just missing another 20-15 game with 20 points and 14 assists. “He was always good to me,” Nash said of Payton. “I remember my junior year in college him inviting me to work out in his backyard in Oakland, pretty cool. It was amazing to know where I was then and to pass him was like beyond my wildest dreams, and I love the guy.” … The Suns held their fifth straight opponent under 46 percent shooting, their longest such streak since Jan. 5-15, 2010. Eight of their last nine opponents have shot under 46 percent. … Frye’s 19 points in the first tied Hakim Warrick (second quarter Nov. 24 vs. Chicago) for the Suns’ individual high quarter. … The Suns grabbed just three offensive rebounds, none of which came from a big.

Tags: Channing Frye Goran Dragic Mickael Pietrus Steve Nash Vince Carter Zabian Dowdell

  • Auggie5000

    Carter should be sitting in Childress’ spot.

  • Kenton

    Great game to watch. Probably scared the neighbors.

  • Jed

    I feel bad for Childress, but I suppose it can’t be helped at the moment.

    I still can’t understand why Lopez is struggling so much. What happened to the guy from last year? Why is he so scared to drive to the basket? All he ever seems to do is pull up for the jumper… or put the ball on the floor when he doesn’t need to and end up turning it over.

    Carter needs to go. Ugh.

    I’m really not a big fan of Pietrus on offense, but yes, he plays good defense.

    Dragic was rusty, but I would still take him over Dowdell any day of the week. For whatever reason his confidence seems to be shaky, but I think that will change over the season/years.

    Frye is so inconsistent. Tonight was great, but next game he may only get 3 points. If only he could find a way to be more consistent…

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    At this point, I really believe Dragon is sitting around waiting to run the team, (with this new defensive philosophy installed), and hopefully ZD can be his backup.

    Childress, really, has to wait on Grant Hill to leave or retire. What Hill does now is exactly what will be expected of Childress when his time comes, (if he is still on this team).

    It doesn’t really matter what is wrong with RoLo now that THORTAT!!!!!!! and his POLISH HAMMER?!?!?!?! are in the house.

    Granted, a back injury is mighty serious and he could still be struggling with that. That type of problem really is no joke. It robbed us of another 4 or 5 years of in-prime T Mac. it’s a beast he’s working through.

    That being the case, he should really be coming off of the bench.

    Speaking of the bench, I’d park Carter there too. 18 minutes a game off of the bench with instructions to play with reckless ferocity and I’d guarantee 16 / 5 with a few 20+ explosions.

    He will never go for that and it will never happen though, but if he did accept a Ginobli-off-the-bench type of role, he could still be deadly.

    Hard core 8 minute bursts, lots of rest, and another 8 – 10 minutes, and that’s all.

    Anything less and he’s back to being trade bait, (like he is now).

  • Al

    I hope Frye can keep playing like this until the All Star break; although, he usually follows a good game with a really awful one.

  • AJ

    @rich Anthony. You took the sords right out of my mouth about Carter. I think that with him off the bench he’ll be more productive because he can get involved in the offense more, i.e. Play on the ball with the ball in his hands more than off the ball. I think that the times that he has shined this year have been when he has gotten the ball in his hands and been aggressive with it rather than just passing it back to Nash. I think playing with the bench will help him get back to his own game.

  • Steve

    Carter isn’t the type of player who is going to go hard. He thinks he’s a lot better than he actually is, I think. I guess jumping over a 7-footer in a game might get to your head. I wouldn’t know (the tallest guy I’ve ever dunked over was 6’8″, so it’s not quite the same, ;) )

    He’s my most hated player in the NBA besides anybody on the Spurs, Lakers, and now the cHeat (sell-outs). I’ve always said before I will never hate anyone on my team, but I don’t consider it breaking the rule because VC isn’t really here. He doesn’t want to be here, he doesn’t play hard, and he’s going to be gone once we can buy him out anyways (or hopefully trade him within the next couple of days).

  • Lloyd

    Channing Frye was a good signing for the Suns. He hustles, and is very active on defense. He also looks like he is concentrating on rebounding and in developing his post game.

    Most teams would love to have Channing Frye.

    Dowdell will be pushing Dragic for minutes. If Dragic doesn’t improve, the Suns may look to draft another point guard for the future.

  • Iceman

    Gentry just needs to fine Lopez for not trying to dunk it whenever his feet are in the painted area. The worst that will happen is he gets his shot blocked, but most likely he’d be fouled or score two points.

  • Ryan

    I agree that we should give Carter minutes at the front end of games and let him sit at the end. He doesn’t have it in him to be a guy taking shots in the 4th. I agree with the couple people who have said that he doesn’t care. I’m not mad at the guy but I know that Gortat was the headline of that trade and that we have guys like Dudley, MP, and Jchil who are going to go out there and play their asses off. Plus I hate the Shaq beard he has going. Brings back too many strange memories.

  • MKM

    I like Gentry’s strategy: Carter is a better offensive player so he should start for the Suns to help building the lead. If Carter cannot guard the opposing player then Pietrus or Dudley should come in. In 4th quarter situation I like seeing both Pietrus & Dudley for better defense, rebounding & hustling.

  • Cam

    Happy the Suns won. Unhappy with the inconsistency they’ve shown this year. They seem to get complacent with leads and play down to opponents. Trade VC please. Trade his semi expiring contract, our second round pick, and 4 mil to buy VC out next year. Get a mid-late first round pick in exchange. Go Suns…

  • AJ

    @Steve. I agree with you in VC being “not here” but IDK I really think that if he was a bit more consistent, maybe just getting in double figures each night we’d be better off, So I am going to keep hoping that the he can get going a little so that the Suns can become a bit more dangerous.

    And as long as he isn’t hurting the team, I will continue to support him (I still want him gone ASAP tho)

  • Fredo

    Has any one noticed that when Lopez and Carter are with the Starting Lineup, They both create soooo many turnovers…..Lopez by not catching the ball and bringing it up high! And Carter by taking soooo many RIDICULOUS SHOTS! I think that if you bring them 2 off the bench they can pound away at other B list players, as far as who will replace them in the SL… Without a doubt Gortat and Either Pietrus or JMZ both can shoot the Three and Play great D!!!!!

  • Dirk

    “I like seeing both Pietrus & Dudley for better defense, rebounding & hustling.”

    Better “defense” and “hustling” is someone subjective, but Pietrus and Dudley absolutely do not rebound better than Carter.

  • Shaqita

    they might also look at playmaking&defensive SG, … only one man running the show has its disadvantages too…

  • Nash_rules

    Pietrus had some crucial plays down in the 4th against Utah, he and Gortat are Suns premium defenders.

    With Hill, Dudley, Gortat and Lopez, it should be difficult for opposing teams to score down the stretch… Why does Gentry never tries the 2 bigs when the game is on the line, especially against teams with good inside playing??

    Anyway, is it me or it feels this team always cash in against good teams and has the tendency to implode against bellow average teams?? How to explain and turn that around? Mindset problem?

    Regarding VC it is sad to see such a gifted player shy away from an excellent situation, playing in the desert but I guess someone has to ask him if he wants to be traded ASAP… or maybe is (lack of) good plays are giving the answer already…

    Childress could see some minutes (not for offense, just defensive assignments, he can defend taller players) and Dowdell should split his time with Goran based on productivity and also to spike a bit of Dragic willness to get back to the level he once was, I guess he was getting too comfy being handed the Nash backup spot with no competition whatsoever.