If it seems like just yesterday that the Phoenix Suns blew a late lead in the fourth quarter, committed a bonehead foul to allow the opposition to tie and then celebrated a Channing Frye game-winning jumper, well, that’s because it was just yesterday.
Although this game featured a bit more drama, the Suns followed practically the same script to escape the Prudential Center with a 104-103 overtime win to earn a victory that should have been much easier.
When the Suns led 92-85 with a minute left it appeared as if Frye could save his hero cape for another day. But after a Brook Lopez jumper, Anthony Morrow went absolutely bonkers by drilling threes on consecutive possessions so that even when Grant Hill found Frye for a slam on an inbounds play the Nets trailed by just three.
The Nets inbounded with 8.5 seconds left and Steve Nash thought the Suns were going to give a foul in the backcourt. When they didn’t and the ball got to his man Morrow with 4.4 seconds left Nash tried to foul him immediately, but by the time he made contact sufficient for a foul Morrow had attempted a shot that came oh so close to falling for a game-winning four-point play.
“I was just trying to stop him from shooting and it was my mistake,” Nash said.
That situation is exactly why so many coaches decide not to foul in this situation. If you don’t give the foul hard enough immediately, it’s so easy for the shooter to get fouled on a shot. By the time the ball got to Morrow at the three-point line it was probably too late to give a foul and Nash became a victim of this risky strategy when Morrow, who scored nine points in 20 seconds, hit all three foul shots to tie things up.
But Nash wasn’t the only veteran to commit an uncharacteristic error, as the great trigger man Hill who has literally seen everything in that role — from Christian Laettner to J-Rich’s game-tying bucket against Memphis — held the ball a fraction of a second too long to get called for a five-second violation. Hill is the last person one would expect to make a mistake like that, but it just meant overtime when Sasha Vujacic missed a desperation attempt.
Fast forward to the end of overtime and things looked pretty grim when Nash missed a twisting layup with 16 seconds remaining in the game, but the Suns got the ball back with nine seconds remaining and trailing by two when Lopez missed one of his foul shots.
Needing a bucket in the worst way, the Suns went to the man who drilled the first buzzer beater of his career a few hours earlier with a variation of the play from Sunday in which Jared Dudley set a screen for Frye near the sideline, as Mike Schmitz describes.
This time Gentry changed up the play a bit by having Marcin Gortat screen Frye’s man (Kris Humphries) while Lopez failed to switch by staying in the paint. Humphries tried to contest, but it was too late as Frye got a clean look and knocked down his second game-winning shot in as many days.
“This is extremely humbling,” Frye said. “They did a good job with holding me all night, not leaving me. … To be honest I’m not really nervous about the last second shot.”
Frye typically becomes unstoppable from distance when he gets in a rhythm and hits a few but that wasn’t the case at all leading up to his game-winning shot. Before his dunk at the end of regulation he hit just 1-of-6 shots and he finished the game with only seven points.
Yet with the game on the line, Frye once again was the player the shot was designed for, becoming the sixth player since 2005-06 to make a pair of game-winners in consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He is the only one to hit both those shots in overtime.
As I wrote yesterday, it’s nice to see the Suns run actual plays in these situations whereas so many teams would just have their best player isolate and try to take their man one on one.
That’s exactly what the Nets did on their final possession with a chance to win as Deron Williams battled the entire Phoenix defense.
With Hill already draped all over him, Gortat trapped him at the top of the key. D-Will turned the corner on him only to be met by Frye, whom he lofted a shot over. Meanwhile, nobody was within 15 feet of Vujacic at the three-point line and Lopez was open for a mid-range jumper.
All the help on Williams also left Jared Dudley to try to box out Humphries, which allowed the Nets big man (with 15 boards on the game) to just barely get his paw on the ball to attempt a game-winning tip that hit every part of the basket before falling through the net for an apparent Nets victory.
But no, in a game with so many twists and turns since the final minute of regulation it’s only fitting that it came down to a video review, and the red light did turn on with Humphries’ hand on the ball. No basket, Suns win.
“That’s ridiculous, that’s the worst basketball game I’ve seen down the stretch. That was horrible,” Gentry said. “We are lucky as anything to win the game to tell the truth and be honest with you. Channing made a big shot for us and we were able to come away with the win. To play that way down the stretch, being up five with a minute to go and having the ball with the way we executed, that was not a playoff team. Not if we’re going to be executing down the stretch like that.
“I’m ecstatic that we won a game especially with Deron playing the way he did. You can see he’s going to be a great player for these guys and it’s just a matter of them coming together and stuff like that. We have to do a much better job down the stretch. The only thing that saved us was Channing made that big shot.”
The Suns played about as bad as they could in the final minute of regulation nearly giving away a game that seemed to be in the refrigerator, and they came a tenth of a second away from losing it on a game-winning tip.
Gentry’s right to be upset about all that in a game the Suns should win against a 17-43 team, but in the end the legend of Channing Frye grew as the former Wildcat drilled his second dagger in a row.
The Suns have now won four in a row to inch ever so close to a playoff spot, sitting today just a half game behind Memphis and a game up in the loss column for that final berth.
Phoenix finally seems to be catching a few breaks after all the dumb luck suffered in collapses early this season and much of that is thanks to Frye turning into the Suns’ answer to Reggie Miller.
For once blowing a lead wasn’t the bench’s fault. The Suns led by three after three and the bench lengthened the lead to as much as nine. It was seven when Nash came in for Aaron Brooks with 4:48 remaining as Gentry kept a hot bench unit in the game longer than usual.
Brooks went off for eight points in the period and dished four assists total in his 14 minutes, providing exactly the spark the Suns expected when they traded for him.
Hakim Warrick also played one of his better games off the bench with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Tags: Channing Frye