Phoenix Suns 104, New Jersey Nets 103 — Groundhog’s Day


Steve Nash and the Suns escaped New Jersey with a victory. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Steve Nash and the Suns escaped New Jersey with a victory. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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.

And 1

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

  • shazam

    i understand why gentry was upset but the game was amazing and we are winning a lot of the close ones now

  • Joe

    I also understand why Gentry was upset but he needs to point the finger a bit at himself. First, he took out the bench when they were playing great in the 4th. This move I don’t entirely disagree with to be honest, but it clearly didn’t work out in his favor. But the second move is clearly a bad decision and it rests entirely on his shoulders… Why, oh why, were Lopez and Carter on the floor to start the 2nd overtime? Gortat and Dudley are better players, point blank period. Lopez and Carter are SPOT starters. They’re Jarron Collins. There’s no way in hell they should be on the court in overtime. Especially Carter.

  • Dj327

    @ Joe. I couldn’t agree more. Gentry did actually admit he should have stuck with the bench, but I have no idea why Carter was re-inserted. Gortat maybe needed a breather, but there’s about 5 other options when it comes to Carter. Gentry is just not a great head coach, when was the last time the suns actually had a great head coach?

  • Jason

    @Dj327, I disagree with you about Gentry. Last year is all the proof we need. He’s not Phil Jackson but he’s pretty damn good. If he’s not Top 3 in Suns history who is? He’s better than D’Antoni.

    This was an amazing game. I was literally jumping up and down when I saw the red light on the replay at the end. I know we’re supposed to dominate and everything, but for whatever reason NJ plays us tough. Although we did collapse at the end of regulation (again), I actually think that may help us down the road. These wins build character and chemistry.

  • AJ

    @Jason, I agree with you, but that doesn’t mean that gentry is infallible.

  • Steve

    I won’t try to spin this one in a positive way, except to say that a win is a win.

    This one was sad. And Gentry had it right when he said, “That was not a playoff team.” It’s exactly what I was thinking. Good teams don’t do what the Suns did. They don’t blow seven-point leads in a minute. The don’t foul on last-second threes. They don’t get five-second calls when they have a shot at a game-winner. Heck, good teams don’t usually shoot threes with nine seconds left when they’re down by two. They’ll go for the tie and win it in the next OT. The Suns look desperate, which is great for their chances because they also look like they’re clawing WAY harder than they would need to be if they were actually a good team. Talent-wise, I think they’re good enough to make the playoffs, but this team is full of a bunch of headcases who seem to be trying their hardest to prevent that from happening.

  • Kalvo

    Sometimes I forget that carter is even on this team anymore

  • Jim

    Gentry isn’t infallible. I feel as if there are times in the 4th quarter/OT (the Memphis game this year where Rudy Gay sent it into OT, the Charlotte game) where I’ve thought Gentry should foul with over 40 seconds left and a TO or two with the team within 3.

    They can often play good enough defense to force the opponent into a miss, but as we’ve seen with the Charlotte home game, OKC at home, the recent Dallas game, and even this NJ game with Humphries, they give up key offensive rebounds that negate any good defense they played. Since the clock will be under 24 after offensive board, they are then forced to foul and that often leaves them down 4 or more with little time left.

    It’s demoralizing for the team, then they feel rushed and are down by too much. We’ve seen that the team can execute to get good late-game shots, so they should give themselves the most amount of time and put the pressure on the opponents to hit FTs.

    Not exactly something that needed to happen here, per se, but just an example of where I’ve felt Gentry should adjust his philosophy. He rode the hot hand in Carter against OKC and that failed, but the plays were well-designed. It’s just the last time he should put Vince Carter in clutch sitiuations.

  • Ryan

    I’ve loved Alvin since I watched him puke into a trash can on the sideline of a playoff game (Lakers series?). Later blaming it on a deep fried avocado he ate. The man’s dedicated.

  • http://dale.parker90@yahoo.com dale

    I didn’t get to see the game but it is good to see brooks played well he is gonna be huge for us.If he can play well the rest of the year we mite upset someone in the first round.