Dallas Mavericks 91, Phoenix Suns 83 — White flag raised


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-f994aDYX4&fs=1&hl=en_US]

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have been fighting an uphill battle since the season tipped off, trying to integrate a constant flow of new players while battling to create separation from a .500 mark that has never escaped them.

After the Suns’ 91-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks even the Suns players were resigned to the fact that it just isn’t going to happen this season.

“After this game I don’t think we’re going to be talking about playoffs this year anymore,” said the always honest Marcin Gortat.

The Suns ripped off an 11-3 run that spanned most of February with their season on a brink to momentarily breathe life into their playoff chances, but the four-game losing streak with Steve Nash and Channing Frye ailing put them in a hole that meant the end when Phoenix dropped games to the Lakers, Hornets and Mavericks this week.

Alvin Gentry applauded his team for fighting hard and competing tonight against the best road team in basketball, but afterward Nash admitted a sense of finality has set in with his Suns.

“It feels like it’s over just because we haven’t played as well or won games,” Nash said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s been disappointing all season.”

With their season slipping away, Gentry trotted out a new lineup perhaps with an eye on next year’s first unit.

After talking for months about how he likes the way his rotation lines up with Robin Lopez starting and Marcin Gortat off the bench, the Polish center received his first start without Lopez next to him and second overall as a Sun. Gentry also called Jared Dudley’s number over Vince Carter’s, as Dudley has been outplaying Carter yet been kept on the bench for his energy on the second unit.

Both players put up superb numbers with Gortat going for 20-15 (his fourth career 20-10 game) two days after breaking his nose and Dudley putting up a 20-5-5 line.

The new starting unit helped the Suns jump out to a 26-17 first-quarter lead, a quarter in which Dallas shot just 20 percent but kept this from being a blowout by grabbing nine offensive rebounds.

“You’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t,” Nash said of the lineup change. “We start this lineup and have a good first quarter, but then we don’t have (Gortat) coming off the bench or Jared coming off the bench, so I think we’re a team that’s had so much change this year that I don’t think we know where we are yet. We’re still trying to find who we are with all our new pieces, we’ve got five guys left from last year, and it’s been hard to really get on a roll and momentum.”

It’s downright stunning to hear the captain talk about still trying to find themselves with 10 games remaining in the year. That’s the kind of talk that would be acceptable 10 games into the season, yet with most teams polishing their playoff rotations the Suns haven’t even found themselves.

Perhaps that’s what happens when you try to remake a conference finalist on the fly during the offseason, only to change course in December when you see the parts don’t fit and then add another piece at the deadline.

Unlike last year, nobody settled into roles, and as Alvin Gentry admitted after watching his offense sputter down the stretch once again, the Suns just don’t have that one guy they can throw it to for a basket or a foul like the Mavs can with Nowitzki.

The Suns led this one for the majority of the first three quarters and saw the game turn when Jason Kidd drained a tie-breaking three-pointer with 1:11 left on a play created by Nowitzki.

The Suns countered with an awkward Channing Frye heave for three with Frye trying to draw a foul, and Kidd once again nailed a dagger from deep off a Dirk assist.

“The effort was there, we just can’t quite generate offense down the stretch,” Gentry said. “For us, that’s really where the game is lost. I thought we did a great job defensively.”

The Suns did indeed, holding Dallas to 38.1 percent shooting and 91 points total for the game. Gentry raved about the job Grant Hill and later Gortat did on Dirk, forcing him into a 6-for-19 shooting night, but he made the plays down the stretch while the Suns’ offense faltered.

The Suns shot just 42.5 percent and scored fewer points each successive quarter, but they really lost this game at the three-point line, where they drilled just 1-of-16 (6.3 percent).  Phoenix had previously knocked down multiple long balls every game the past seven years.

The Suns had also made at least 10 in a season-high four straight games (second-longest streak of its kind in the NBA this year), and they had knocked down 45.5 percent in those last four games.

“We missed shots,” Gentry said. “I don’t think you can defend the three-point line, you either make them or you miss them and the shots that you take are the shots you get night in and night out. Some nights you shoot them in and some nights you don’t.”

While Carter (three points in 15 minutes) and Lopez (two points, two boards in six minutes) were once again non-existent, the Suns got a solid effort out of Josh Childress off the bench. The largely unused sub tallied 12 points and brought an energy to the game the bench could have used all season.

But with Nash struggling with his shot once again (3-for-11, 4-for-20 the past two games) and Frye going scoreless in 28:30, the Suns didn’t possess enough offensive firepower to beat a team as good as Dallas.

The loss dropped the Suns back to the .500 mark they have become so acquainted with all season, whether it’s been fighting to return to that mark or falling back to it after a nice run.

“It’s been a tough year,” Nash said. “We’re feeling some pains now because of the mountain we had to climb all year, but I think we have to play with class and dignity and go out and fight every night. We have to do that the rest of the season whether we’re in the playoffs or win every game or lose every game. We’ve got to play professional and play with pride.”

That’s about all the Suns have left to play for at this point.

And 1

The Suns have lost four in a row to the Mavericks, their longest losing streak to Dallas since 1988. … Phoenix allowed 91 points on 38.1 percent shooting after giving up 109.0 on 48.8 percent shooting in their first two meetings. … The Suns dropped to 3-2 when yielding sub-40 percent shooting. … After the first couple minutes Gortat forgot his nose was even fractured.

Tags: Dirk Nowitzki Jared Dudley Marcin Gortat Steve Nash

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    As a life-long Suns fan, I can say with 100% honesty that I don’t care about the playoffs this year. I never did really; I went on record months ago saying that this team would be right around .500 for the season and either in at 8 or out at 9 – 11.

    Not sad, (unless we’re talking about Dragon), not upset, (unless… *see Dragon*), but it does make you wonder what has been going on all season.

    I kind of suspect that, for whatever reason, this team wasn’t allowed to gel like last year. I don’t want to say they tanked, but it seems like they were allowed to stay “respectable” and nothing more.

    Consider this: The strategy to this great game in regards to yielding the best results for any team in any era has always been to put your best 5 out there on the court to start the game, and then develop a bench that can compliment them.

    Ginobli aside, every team has done this. More than that, no team has ever left players in the starting rotation that gave them zero for an entire year. Prior to the trade that brought the valley Gortat, I could understand it. After the first two weeks, however, that switch should have been made.

    Look at Vince Carter’s numbers per 48 minutes. Then glare at his 4th quarter numbers. Almost every GM / Owner would have shot a harpoon through their head coach’s heart for giving a guy so many minutes / clutch minutes when it’s obvious that he is giving nothing to the team.

    Yet, not even a whisper over Gentry’s decision to do so.

    Nash was talking about not having Gortat or Dudley coming off the bench but that is him being a team player more than anything else.

    If the switch was made say, a long time ago, it wouldn’t be Carter or RoLo coming off the bench, (well perhaps RoLo would have settled and blossomed in a bench role), but it sure would have been J Chill and more Warrick beside Frye who seems to play 40 minutes in his sleep.

    Even more curious to give away a draft pick when they will be needed. Still don’t understand that one.

    Point is, there was too much going wrong this season, but the wrongs were things that could have and should have been corrected easily.

    Gentry has always been a coach who has rolled with the punches and adjusted quickly and easily. It should have been demanded of him. It should have been expected of him.

    For him not to do it, and for those in charge not to be angry about it paints a very interesting picture.

    Again, I don’t want to think that PHX has gone to some form of a tank-job. Perhaps not a full-blown tank-job. Not an all-out tank-job…

    But something is clearly going on under the surface.

  • Evan

    The SUNS need to trade Nash, Lopez, maybe another player or 2 and rebuild, there are some decent free agents, getting Derick Williams in the Draft would be a dream come true, dude is Amare and Durant mixed together, we have some good role players in Frye, Dudley and Gortat to build around we just need that star, its slim but there is hope for the future.

  • http://www.twitter.com/arturbm Artur Mascarenhas

    This team never felt good during the whole season. Our biggest winning streak was 5 wins, so it proves the team never really clicked.

    The sad part is that everybody knew that. Everybody knew that we would throw this year away, even with Nash and Hill playing some of their last minutes of bball.

    Its tough to see an offseason move that will change this. I hope I’m wrong, but can’t see the Suns as a top-10 team for next season.

    Just sad…

  • VA Sunsfan

    Great assessment of the season. I was actually logging on today to ask the same questions about why the Suns haven’t started Gortat and Dudley all year. It does make you wonder about the great points Rich has made about Gentry.

    One thing that I will strongly disagree with most of the comments I’ve seen is the desire to trade Nash. Even at his age, I would fight to keep him for as long as possible. Rebuilding is a myth; there are no guarantees in the draft or free agency. Wouldn’t it be feasible to attract the pieces we need with as strong of a team as possible?

    I’ve been a Suns fan since 1989 but I’ve never enjoyed watching them more than I have in the Nash era.

  • Lloyd

    Keep Frye, Gortat and maybe Dudley. All others can be traded (if possible) or let go.

    Looking at next year (and a lottery pick), maybe one of the wings could work out as a three. The Suns should use the lottery pick to select either a young point guard to replace Nash, or a shooting guard.

    You can really rebuild around Gortat (potentially a top three center), and Frye (a great future).

  • Nick

    Lloyd, you are a dumb dipshit. “Keepy frye…and MAYBE Dudley”? Dudley has shined when he starts (18 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg, 54%FG, 42%3P). Frye on the other hand averages 13 ppg, 7 rpg, 1 apg, 1 bpg on 43%FG and 40%3P, yeah we should definitely keep Frye over Dudley if it comes down to it.

    Thank god you’re not running this organization despite how badly it already is.

  • Jed

    Our team isn’t that far off… just need to cut the dead weights.

    KEEP:
    Nash, Gortat, Dudley, Frye, Hill (in that order of importance).

    DEAL:
    Carter (buy out), Warrick, Pietrus, Brooks, etc. None of them are good for our team.

    I’m 70/30 on keeping Lopez. I still think it’s too early to cut him loose.

    Getting rid of Dragic was such a huge mistake it sickens me.

  • KeZ

    Why do you wanna keep Lopez!? Dude cant play

    3 fudgin rebounds/game as a starting center…….

  • sun also rises

    These posts are making me spit my morning coffee up. Trade Pietrus and Brooks? Keep Lopez? Get rid of Dudley? Gut our entire team for draft picks and play the Clippers game for the next five years, hoping that we manage to get an NBA ready PG to replace Nash or the next Amare?

    For all the flak that Sarver gets, I feel thankful that none of you guys are anywhere near a GM desk. Said it before and I’ll say it until the franchise dries up and becomes the Pittsburgh Bums: try watching the entire season before you think that you’re qualified to play fantasy b-ball with your “rebuilding strategies.”

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Lets pump the brakes real quick.

    No other team in the NBA plays the Clippers game. Their owner has been content to bring in money while not paying out in order to field a competitive team. Blake may force his hand, but really, it’s more likely that the Blake Show will be gone once his rookie contract is up.

    To be honest, PHX is pretty good via the draft which is probably why so many of the Suns’ fans get annoyed when we constantly give away our draft picks.

    It might be prudent to move Pietrus, (or J Chill), if G Hill remains with the club. Can’t continue to have that log jam at the 3. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see Brooks gone as well depending on what kind of contract he’s looking for.

    JMZ should be untouchable, (but we’ve said that about guys like Barbosa, Dragon, Matrix-even-though-he-was-stupid-for-wanting-18-mil), so that’s the obvious non move.

    The thing is, nobody knows what Sarver is thinking right now.

    If he does plan to blow it all up and get rid of Nash & Hill, then JMZ’s skill set actually does bring back some assets and with RoLo’s size, somebody will bite on that.

    I suppose it will depend on who the Suns intend to build around. If Nash is gone then it’s probably THORTAT!?!? and his Polish Nose-hammer.

    That’s some sort of inside / outside game in which case JMZ, Dudley, Brooks, Frye, (WITH HIS OIL ON HIGH!!!), and possibly Pietrus are safe.

    If Nash remains and Sarver indeed attempts to build around him again, then nobody except Gortat and Frye are safe depending on what deals can be made to build an offensive unit.

    Alas, this is why Dragon should have remained in house, especially with Thortat installed to take some of the burden off of him the way Sun Tzu did last season when the two were on the court together.

    None of it makes any sense.

  • Iceman

    White Flag Raised? You gotta be kidding me. Our chances are slim to none, but we still have a chance. Then, if we’re out of contention, our job is to make it tough on teams getting ready for the playoffs. As for the offseason, Carter is gon, Hill is gone, Nash may be too. If there is a lockout, then they most likely are going to retire. This gives Warrick, Childress and Pietrus room to get rotation time. The Suns need a PG from this draft.

    I like Frye’s development and I can forsee him becoming a good PF in the league. From Gortat, he’s learned how to play like he’s 7 feet tall. FINALLY someone taught him that he’s a 7 footer! Our starting 5 is pretty solid, except for Carter and Lopez. they should have been benched 30 games ago. I am absolutely amazed that Gentry kept playing them.

  • Steve

    Iceman, while I respect your opinion, I happen to disagree with just about everything you’ve been saying lately.

    First, Nash isn’t going to retire if there is a lockout. If Jason Kidd’s ghost still has a place in the NBA, then Nash will be ready to play once the league gets rolling again.

    Second, there really isn’t a chance. We’re 4 games back with 10 to go, and Houston is also 1.5 up on us for that same 8th spot. Even if we went 10-0 (our best win streak this year was 5), we probably still wouldn’t catch the streaking Grizzlies OR the streaking Rockets. When the Cavs were 8-40, there was still a “chance” of them making the playoffs, but there really wasn’t a chance. We’re in that same boat. 70 games into a season, you are what you are. What we are is a .500 team with flashes of greatness and flashes of futility.

    The Suns don’t need a PG from this draft as badly as they might need other positions. The NBA is FULL of good PGs right now. Moreso than it has been in its history, I believe. I don’t know if it was the arrival of Kidd and Nash as two all-time greats, but since they boomed, every team seems to have been looking for that perfect PG… except for the teams that have been winning championships. I would argue that PG is either the least or second-least important piece of the championship puzzle (SF being the other, but some SFs and SGs are interchangeable, so that line is blurred). We don’t need to focus our energy on finding a PG. We know we could get one through FA if we need it. What the NBA is not full of is excellent 5s and 2s, and those are the two positions that win championships. Many teams have great 1s and 3s. Not many teams have great 2s and 5s. We need to be one of the “not manys.”

  • MY PHOENIX AZ

    The Suns aren’t even really worth my time. My boy Frye did get his swagger up though… did you see him chck that three pointer with 17 seconds on the shot clock lol… he just knew that was going in smh airball that shot was so horrible haha the suns suck from the management down to the players and it sucks when the right guys can’t get playing time smh just ruins it for everyone. So you as a team and organization have disappointed the whole state of Arizona.You ask me who should stay I’ll say no one has interested me enough to comment! Hold your head Dudley, frye (even though I hated you the most for playing soft but you got your swag up), Gortat( the only sun playing with desire) and the rest of the forgettables. R.I.P. as a Sun Nash & Hill we loved you but you gotta go….don’t bring it every night and no one ever mentions nash’s assist to turnover ration which looked bad on a nightly basis, maybe he can be the next Jason Kidd at shooting gaurd please shoot more for your career’s sake.

  • Steve

    ^ – ?????

    I think I speak for all of us here.

  • Lloyd

    Nick:

    You are a true idiot (a computer tough guy), and you also have a lack of class.

    Cussing on a blog where where women and children frequent demonstrates that fact. It’s only a game. Get a life.

  • shazam
  • Jed

    Sorry, but I stand by my assessment. You don’t give up on someone like Lopez… his size, age, etc. is extremely valuable. Yes, he has had a bad year, but getting rid of him would be silly.

    And yes, Pietrus and Brooks are not good for this time. They are both way too streaky and inconsistent. Brooks is too small to play defense. Pietrus plays good defense, but his offense is horrid about 80% of the time.

  • Jed

    for this team*