PHOENIX — Before every game Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry fills the locker room whiteboard with a few offensive keys to the game and defensive keys to the game.
They’re often times general and cliche, but with the Denver Nuggets in town the Suns knew exactly what they needed to do on both ends of the floor to stretch their home win streak over Denver to 13 games.
The offensive keys read “Limit turnovers,” and “Be ready for switches,” while defensively Gentry thought the Suns needed to “Get back in transition,” and allow “No (points in the) paint.”
Although Gentry and the Suns had what seemed to be the blueprint for success, they failed to hold true to any of those keys to the game and were dominated 116-97 by Ty Lawson and company.
“The things that we said we had to avoid doing, we didn’t do a very good job of tonight,” Gentry said. “If you look at the points in the paint, which is 66, and if you look at the turnovers on points, 32, I mean that’s almost 100 of their points. You have no chance to beat this team if you have those kind of stats against them.”
And because of their inability to execute in those areas, the Suns had no chance and the Nuggets led for all 48 minutes.
Denver trapped hard off double teams and used its length and quickness to bother the Suns. That combined with Phoenix’s mental errors and Steve Nash’s groin injury resulted in 20 turnovers, which Denver turned into 32 points.
Wether it was Hakim Warrick’s back-to-back errant passes in the final six seconds of the half that turned a six-point Nuggets lead into a 10-point lead, or Nash’s six turnovers in 27 minutes, the Suns never gained any traction offensively and committed “very, very stupid turnovers,” according to Marcin Gortat.
“We made stupid turnovers. If we throw an outlet pass and they steal it twice, it’s impossible. You can’t win the game like that in the NBA,” said Gortat, who finished with 14 points, 18 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. “We had no energy today, no focus and that’s how we lose the game. We hesitated in many situations and that’s how you’re getting your ass kicked.”
Despite yielding 66.6 percent shooting in the first quarter, the Suns only trailed 30-25 after one and got within two with 7:24 left in the first half. But the Suns unraveled to close out the second quarter, committing seven turnovers in the final seven minutes — three of which came from Warrick.
Over the course of the first 24 minutes the Suns spotted Denver 24 points off of turnovers (one point per minute).
“They just feast off your turnovers,” Gentry said of the Nuggets.
The feast continued in the third quarter as the Suns turned the ball over four more times, leading to eight more Denver points. The Nuggets blew open the game thanks to Phoenix’s turnover trend, along with the Suns’ 7-for-22 shooting in the third quarter.
Phoenix did make a lot of questionable decisions that ultimately led to the turnover discrepancy and Denver’s 33 fastbreak points, but Lawson (four steals) and Raymond Felton (two steals) did a great job wreaking havoc.
“They have quick guys who are in the passing lanes constantly and when they gamble correctly, they’re tough to beat,” said Vince Carter, who followed up his 32-point game with a 2-for-11, six-point performance.
The constant turnovers were clearly Phoenix’s enemy No. 1, but the Suns’ interior defense was a close second. With Channing Frye still nursing a sore shoulder, the Suns’ thin front line was exposed as a result of their inability to stop penetration.
Lawson got into the paint at will and Denver racked up 40 points in the paint in the first half alone. The Nuggets, who average 43.6 points in the paint per game, finished the game with a season-high 66 points in the paint.
Nene was the main beneficiary of Phoenix’s non-existent defense as he scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting in only 26 minutes. Lawson blew by Nash, who was sent to the locker room in the third quarter because of a recurring groin injury, at will and the Suns had no answer.
“We didn’t do a very good job of containing their dribble penetration,” Gentry said. “Once they got inside they just picked us apart with layup after dunk after layup.”
The Nuggets attempted only four shots outside of 10 feet in the first quarter, and 24 of their 30 points came inside the painted area. It was much of the same for the second quarter and the remainder of the game, as the Suns failed to live up to their “No paint” key to the game.
So all in all, the Suns couldn’t “Limit turnovers,” they weren’t “ready for switches,” and defensively they didn’t “Get back in transition” or allow “No (points in the) paint.”
Needless to say, Phoenix was dominated in nearly every facet of the game, especially the elements they put the most emphasis on. With the loss the Suns now move 1.5 games back of Memphis for the No. 8 spot in the West, and it doesn’t help that Dwight Howard and the Magic will invade US Airways Center on Sunday.
“As of right now, we’re not happy with the performance because we’re playing for so much,” Carter said. “We’ve just got to bounce back. Go back to the drawing board and get this one back.”
Nash looked as injured as he has all season on Thursday night. He had no lateral quickness and was a shell of his former self both offensively and defensively (if that’s possible). He wasn’t available to the media as he left the arena after Gentry sent him to the locker room in the third quarter.
“Steve is playing hurt right now. It’s not easy for Steve right now and every night he’s playing against a guy who is at least 10 years younger than him,” Gortat said of Nash. “We’ve got to help Steve.”
Added Gentry, “He’s been hurt. I just didn’t think it was very wise to keep him in the game and have him playing so I sent him to the locker room.”
Tags: Steve Nash