Chicago Bulls 97, Phoenix Suns 94 — Cannot finish comeback

Steve Nash played a brilliant game with 16 assists, but he could not create an open three-pointer on the Suns' final play. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Steve Nash played a brilliant game with 16 assists, but he could not create an open three-pointer on the Suns' final play. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

“The big thing for us is we just haven’t been able to finish games. All of these games we’ve been able to be right there. The whole inconsistency has been our Achilles’ heel. We’ve competed like crazy, but we have very little to show for it from a tangible standpoint.”

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry made that remark before last week’s contest against Oklahoma City, rattling off a litany of tight games just that week the Suns had failed to close out down the stretch.

Gentry may as well have saved that statement to repeat Tuesday night in Chicago after the Suns played inspired ball to rally from a 22-point deficit behind Vince Carter of all people before — let’s say it together now — they once again couldn’t finish a game and lost 97-94 to the Bulls, their sixth loss in seven games.

After Kyle Korver missed one of two free throws to put the Bulls up three with 13.1 seconds left, the Suns had plenty of time to either score a quick two and foul again or create a good look for a game-tying three.

The play was supposed to be a pick-and-pop involving Channing Frye, but Frye set a weak screen on Derrick Rose five feet beyond the three-point line and the Bulls switched to prevent the open look for Frye the Suns likely wanted.

That left Joakim Noah on Nash, and Two Time could not shake the long 6-foot-11 stalwart defender for a step-back three-pointer so Nash drove to the basket with 5.5 seconds remaining. At this point Nash should have kicked it out to Frye percolating to the corner but instead Nash dished it off to Marcin Gortat in the lane for what would have been a harmless two-pointer in a three-point game.

Noah certainly deserves credit for bottling up Nash and making his potential game-tying three so difficult that Nash didn’t even attempt it, but it’s unacceptable for Phoenix to fail to even launch a long ball in this situation. A quick two would have been fine immediately but a vet like Nash should have known there was not enough time by the time he made his move, and I’m surprised a guy like Nash with eyes seemingly in the back of his head didn’t see Frye finding space in the corner with Rose shifting off him to watch the drive for no apparent reason.

“We were supposed to set up a screen for Channing. If we couldn’t get that, we hope we could get it set for anyone else,” Gentry told Chicago reporters. “It broke down and it was not a good possession for us. We just couldn’t get it in the basket most of the game. We need to play like we did at the end and not just to make a comeback when you’re down 22. In the third quarter we played with a lot more energy and we need to learn from that. See, we have to play for 48 minutes, not 24.”

Added Grant Hill, “We didn’t execute the play that we drew up. Steve wound up with Noah on him. He tried to penetrate and see if something good would open up but it didn’t. That’s what happened.”

Fourth quarter scoring has been the Suns’ biggest problem all season. Usually it involves blowing leads; this time it occurred after the Suns outscored Chicago 33-13 to cut a 22-point lead all the way down to two with five minutes left during a run that took almost 11 minutes of game time.

Both offenses stalled from there on out as Phoenix’s so often does when the opposition’s defense stiffens up. Carter scored 15 points during the Suns’ big run, including a run of nine straight Phoenix points during one stretch of the fourth that was capped by a sweet four-point play.

But as so often happens after Carter goes hot for a while he cooled off just as quickly but continued to take bad shots, missing eight of his 10 attempts in the final 6:36. The 14 total shots he attempted in the final period was just four less than the Bulls took as a team. I understand going with the hot hand, but once that hand cools down he should stop getting the ball.

That’s especially true on a night when a bouncier Nash — save for the final play — carved up the Bulls all night with his 16 assists after missing the past two games with the flu. He was such a wizard with the ball tonight he even managed to sneak a pass between Carlos Boozer’s legs for a Gortat slam.

The Suns must be commended for fighting back late in the game from what seemed to be an insurmountable deficit after rolling over the game before. After poor performances against the Spurs and during their first-half stint, the bench was largely responsible for the big comeback in the second half. This time around they played like they actually cared about getting the win.

The defense really locked Chicago down starting with Phoenix’s run and continuing until the buzzer, but while the Suns’ offense went dry with no go-to guy to bail them out, Rose came up with a pair of huge buckets that were the difference when the Suns failed to even attempt a final shot.

Although the comeback against the best team in the East was stirring, the Suns aren’t a playoff team this year because they could not finish enough games like this one that came down to execution in the clutch.

And 1

Jared Dudley slammed home his ninth dunk of the season, putting him just one wham bam slam away from his preseason goal of 10. … Nash arrived to the court wearing his practice shorts so a few players made a human wall around him as he changed into Zabian Dowdell’s shorts on the floor, a predicament the whole team had a good laugh over. … Sure looked like Hill was set for a late charge that was called a block on a Rose three-point play that put Chicago up five with 1:52 left. Said Hill, “I thought that I was there but didn’t get the call. Derrick is the MVP here at home. It’s not the first time that an MVP got that call down the stretch.” Hill was previously called for charging into Korver when he appeared to split the defense. … Gortat compiled another double-double with 10 points and a game-high 13 boards, as he helped the Suns outrebound Chicago 43-41 and hold Noah to four caroms. … Rose hit just 6-of-15 shots. … Going back a game, Dudley was one bright spot in the Spurs debacle, somehow posting a plus nine in a game-high 32 minutes of a contest Phoenix lost by 17. He also gave us this fantastic playoffs tweet: “RT @SteveNash: Guys, I’m feeling better this morning. I should feel great by the playoffs!! ( PLAYOFFS!!!PLAYOFFS!!! (coach mora voice lol).”

Tags: Alvin Gentry Steve Nash Vince Carter

  • Larry

    >>Can’t believe I missed another Carter debate. For my two cents worth, I am counting down the 4 games until Carter is an ex Sun. Stats tell you something, VC’s own words tell you something else, which is that he is a quitter (larry, he admitted that he quit his way out of Toronto) and he’s the ultimate me first athlete.<<

    If Vince Carter admitted to "quitting" his way out of Toronto, give me a link to this interview. If you can't find a link, give me an exact quote. He doesn't even have to have used the word "quit", he can have even used a synonym.

    I think you're lying. This is what John Thompson himself said on the matter:

    "John Thompson, the current TNT analyst and the former Georgetown basketball coach who conducted the interview, said he felt people misinterpreted Carter’s words.

    “That boy never said to me, ‘Coach, I just laid down and quit,’ ” Thompson said in a telephone interview last week.

    “I was embarrassed and felt awful about it for his sake, because I knew what he was communicating to me. I think he was more expressing a desire of wanting to do better, as we all do.”"

  • Larry

    >>I presented you with a fact that Vince has received recognition from the NBA on multiple occasions as a forward, and you shouldn’t have called someone a “dumbass” earlier for saying Vince was a forward.<<

    I didn't call them a dumbass for saying Vince was a forward. I called them a dumbass for talking about my lack of respect, when they showed me no respect to begin with. I treat people how they treat me. Treat me with respect, I will treat you with respect. Tell me to "shut up" because I disagree with your opinion, and I won't show you any respect.

  • joe

    Larry, you’re a straight up liar if you say you’ll respect people who show you respect. Your first words in this thread were LAUGH OUT LOUD. Your first response yo Steve was to tell him he would be unreasonable before he even responded to you. How are either of those respectful things to do?

    You need to grow up and learn to be a man. Are you really that blind that you don’t see how much of a douche you are? If not, at least own that you can’t admit when you’re wrong. You didn’t call Steve a dumbass because he disrespected you. You called him a dumbass because you’re a dumbass who thinks it’s cool to talk big from behind your computer screen.

    My input on this whole mess: Vince has been nominated to the all star team several times as a forward, but he is also a guard. If he is a guard and a forward, that means there are four spots he could fill on the all NBA team. If he wasn’t first or second best at either guard or forward in Amy given season according to people whose votes actually count, then there were at LEAST four players better than him in every season, and that’s leaving out all centers. I hate to say it, but if anyone’s argument is without support, it’s Larry’s.

    The all NBA team is THE mark for the best players in the NBA. If Carter couldn’t fill one of four spots in any given year, it’s a pretty fair assumption he was never top 5 overall. I realize you’re a Vince fan, and maybe that’s blinding you, but you gotta let this one go and stop pretending you’re a noble dude who would never strike first with insults. You have no compelling argument, and it’s obvious it’s just your preexisting opinion that Vince is awesome that’s driving this. The only compelling argument you have made was his #2 PER in 02. But then you said he was top 5 in 06, but his PER wasn’t even close to top. 5 that year, if I remember correctly. Just admit that your argument in Vince’s favor as a top 5 player is straight opinion, nothing more.

  • joe

    Oh, and no one ever told you to shut up. Someone made a good point that Vince had never been first team and said he doubted even that point would shut up the vc fans. Clearly he was right. The truest measure we have for the NBA’s top talent isn’t enough to change your opinion and get you to stop hurling insults and disrespect. No one told you to shut up until now. Shut up, Larry. You have no argument.

  • Larry

    >>You didn’t call Steve a dumbass because he disrespected you. You called him a dumbass because you’re a dumbass who thinks it’s cool to talk big from behind your computer screen.<<

    So now we've got "joe" chiming in from the peanut gallery. I'm sure you've heard this before "joe", but you're the answer to the question no one asked.

  • Larry

    >>The only compelling argument you have made was his #2 PER in 02.<>But then you said he was top 5 in 06, but his PER wasn’t even close to top. 5 that year, if I remember correctly.<>Oh, and no one ever told you to shut up.<<

    If by "no one" you mean Steve. Why are you standing up for Steve anyways? My only explanation is that you are Steve.

    Now shut up yourself joe/Steve, or whatever the fuck your name is. I didn't disrespect you or even address you once in the entire thread, and you go telling me to "shut up" in post 54. Why don't you heed your own advice. Nobody asked you anyways.

  • Larry

    >>Someone made a good point that Vince had never been first team and said he doubted even that point would shut up the vc fans.<<

    And clearly I was right when I said the non-VC fans wouldn't shut up. What's your point?

  • Larry

    >>you’re a dumbass who thinks it’s cool to talk big from behind your computer screen.<<

    You calling me a dumbass who thinks it's cool to talk big from behind my computer screen. And then you go telling me to "shut up" even though I hadn't insulted you or even addressed you in this thread once prior to that (post #54).

    Do you not realize how stupid you come across when you do crap like that? Of course you don't. Why am I asking.

  • Steve

    Don’t feed the troll, people!

  • Larry

    LOL. I thought you were done with this thread “Steve”. Or was that just another lie? The least you could have done was used a different name so some idiots wouldn’t think it was you anymore. You’ve already used about 4 names in this thread as it is. Oops. Your bad.

    If anyone tis the troll, tis you. Retard.