Phoenix Suns 106, San Antonio Spurs 103 -- Ending on a good note


PHOENIX — The 2010-11 Phoenix Suns have been nothing if not inconsistent, and that trait was on full display in their season finale Wednesday night against the Spurs.

The Suns stormed out of the gates with their best offensive quarter of the year by scoring 43 in the first before missing 14 shots in a row during a sixth and a half minute stretch of the second quarter.

Then a Suns team that amazingly didn’t commit a single turnover in the first half and coughed the ball up just once through three quarters gave it up five times in the fourth quarter while shooting less than half as well as they did in the first (65.4 percent to 31.6).

This game also featured stellar play from the starters as every first unit player boasted a positive plus/minus and all but Grant Hill were positive in double figures while all of the reserves put up negative plus/minuses.

Like so many Suns games this season it even turned into a nail biter in the final seconds but when Gary Neal’s potential game-tying three-pointer clanked off the rim Phoenix had at last secured a 106-103 victory to close out the season.

“It was a good win for us to end on a note like that and playing against a team that really needed to win,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “I’m happy for the guys, and as I said to them earlier 40-42 sounds a ton better than 39-43, it just sounds a lot better. It’s a good win for us, I thought we did a good job.

“Obviously the first quarter we were as good offensively as we’ve been all year, and then we got a little bogged down in the second quarter, but you knew they were not going to give up 43 points again in the second quarter. I thought we hung in and made enough plays to win the game. It was a good win.”

The Suns could do no wrong in that season-best first quarter in which they scored 40 points in a period for the first time since November, when a completely different Phoenix squad took the floor. The Spurs yielded just 46 first-half­ points when these two teams met on April 3 in San Antonio, and they allowed 45 in the first half against the Lakers Tuesday night.

Steve Nash of course was the catalyst as he is of all fantastic first quarters in Phoenix by scoring eight points and dishing six assists, and the Polish Hammer Marcin Gortat burned the Spurs for 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting to go with six boards in the opening stanza to help the Suns take a 43-27 lead.

The Suns led by eight at the half following their second quarter malaise and narrowly prevented a collapse when Aaron Brooks hit four clutch free throws (to go with an 0-for-7 day from the field) and the Spurs could not find a good look at a game-tying three. After twice fouling up three in the final seconds the Suns could exhale with victory No. 40 when Neal’s late shot didn’t connect.

Phoenix played with considerably more energy than it has of late in these meaningless games, and that’s got to be in part because the Suns had the opportunity to play spoiler against their long-time rivals.

With Chicago winning earlier in the evening, the Suns prevented the Spurs from joining the Bulls in a tie atop the league that would have resulted in a coin flip for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Unlike last night against the Lakers, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich played his guys most of the game (potentially a mistake when Manu Ginobili suffered an elbow injury in the opening minutes) although a crew of mainly reserves finished it.

“It’s just a great feeling to beat one of the best teams in the NBA right now,” Gortat said, “and it’s a good feeling to end up the season with a win and, just like Coach said, it looks better 40 wins than 39. That’s the positive thing about winning this game.”

At this point that’s about all the Suns have left to hang their hat on, but it’s nice to build some positive momentum into next season as there were a slew of good things that occurred in this one.

Nash earned his fifth assists title in seven seasons with an average of 11.4 per game and will finish the season as the league’s all-time leading free-throw shooter, just a fraction of a percent ahead of Mark Price.

Gortat punctuated his breakout season with 21 points, 13 boards and some tough defense against Tim Duncan.

Jared Dudley played another solid game with 17 points, eight boards (four offensive) and another steal (his 12th straight game with one) as he prepares to enter a season in which he will likely start.

Even Robin Lopez put in a quality effort with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting to go with three boards in 12 minutes. More than the numbers he played with an intensity he has lacked all season. He didn’t look quite as clumsy and played with the kind of energy that would make him a contributor next season.

Big picture it was a sad night as the Suns saw their season end in mid-April for the second time in three years, and as Kevin Garnett told Alvin Gentry earlier this season in Boston if the Suns want to see a playoff game they will need to buy a ticket.

There are many reasons for the Suns to be disappointed in the outcome of their year and one meaningless win certainly won’t change that, but in a game that mirrored so many aspects of their season at least they can feel good about finishing on a positive note.

“Obviously it was great to get a win,” Nash said. “It’s been a long year so to finish it off with a couple of victories was good. I think it was important for us too for our psyche. It’s a good feeling amidst a lot of disappointment.”

And 1

Grant Hill became the first two-time winner of the Majerle Hustle Award before the game. Just take a look at the NBA charges leader board to see why Hill is befitting of this honor. … The Suns join the Mavericks, Nuggets and Spurs as the only franchises to win 40 games each of the last seven seasons. … Along with leading the league in assists, Nash led it in double-digit assist games (51), 15-assist games (20) and 18-assist games (four). … Nash’s career free-throw percentage is .903933 compared to Price’s .903895. … Nash tweaked his hamstring and sat out the final 5:17 with Gentry seeing no need to push him. … Gortat ripped off 23 double-doubles and 43 double-digit scoring games in 55 appearances with the Suns after recording six double-doubles and 12 double-digit games in 175 career contests with Orlando.  … Dudley scored at least 17 points 14 times this season after doing so 12 times during his first three seasons combined.

Tags: Marcin Gortat Steve Nash

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    So, now the fun begins.

    There are a lot of wrongs to be made right. Consider this.

    Because of the Hedo trade, the Suns lost:

    Hedo, J Rich, Dragon, Earl Clark, 1st rounder, (whoever that ends up being), etc etc.

    Because of the Hedo trade II, the Suns gained:

    THORTAT!?!? and his POLISH HAMMER SMASH!! (And Vinvisible).

    STAT left, Amundson left, Barbosa is in Toronto.

    J Chil arrived, Siler arrived, Pietrus arrived, but they are non-factors. They didn’t really play so it doesn’t really matter.

    RoLo died and was replaced by an ACME clone, (pure speculation).

    Warrick arrived with promise, but was also affected by Hedogate and never recovered his spot in the rotation full time.

    And the team still won 40 games with no real dominant closer. Okay.

    For all the nonsense that went on, honestly, it wasn’t a bad season. For many who are so upset it’s natural because they’re used to cheering for a team that gets 50 wins in their sleep if all the pieces fit and are healthy with a full year in the system.

    It will be fine, guys.

    Dudley is going to be far superior next year. He goes off in some time chamber, (DBZ reference), and comes out vastly improved every summer. He knows he’ll be starting. He will be ready.

    Gortat sees a team that could end up being his. He will be ready.

    Channing Frye will probably put up 500,000 shots between now and the start of the regular season, whenever that will be. He’s always ready, (and hopefully somebody helps him with a 15-foot fade).

    Childress is drooling. He sees the 3 spot coming to him and really, I’d be shocked if we managed to move that contract.

    Those four are my untouchables, (which means they’ll all be gone next year), and I don’t mind that group starting with whoever the point guard is going to be. /not Brooks –

    People keep talking about how weak this draft is going to be. They can keep talking like that. Nobody knows how these guys will turn out before they get on the court. If they did, Michael Jordan would be retired in another city, and Sam Bowie would still end up bad.

    Can’t wait for all of the wheeling and dealing.

    No lockout please!

  • Steve

    What a fun game to be at. I had to go, just in case it was Nash’s last game. I don’t care the way Pop tries to spin it, he was trying as hard as he could to win that game.

    I hate to say this (well, really I don’t), but Ginobili is probably the only player in the NBA I would actually wish an injury upon. Seeing him go down last night was a little bittersweet, but mostly just sweet. Btw, his reaction was pathetic. It was a hyperextended elbow. It’s NOT that bad. Stop acting like David West and be a man. I have hyperextended joints before, and it’s extremely painful, but it’s not something you have to lie on the ground writhing about for five minutes.

    I’m excited for the off-season. I really hope we can get a 2 in here. We need a scoring presence who can create and is not named Steve Nash. Get on it, front office.

  • B. Cray Z.

    Was also at the game.

    But I hate to see anyone get hurt.

    Even Manu.

    What happened to Nash? Late in the game, he went down & didn’t or couldn’t come back

  • Zak

    Unless management turns out to be completely inept, the Suns should be better next year. Just buying out VC’c contract will give them a lot of financial room to maneuver. If they can just get a reliable offensive “go to” guy – at ANY position – they will be dangerous once again. I won’t even try to speculate on who they should go after or what position they most need that player at. They just need someone with that killer instinct to move forward.

  • Tony

    Steve,

    that’s ridiculous to take any glee on a player’s injury, I don’t care if it’s Manu or Kobe, it’s terrible to see players getting hurt.

    Rich, I appreciate your optimism but come on, it wasn’t that bad a season? This was an absolutely atrocious season because of how far the team went last season. Let’s not forget all the horrendous moves by Sarver did not have to take place, but he choose to make them. He’s not a victim, he’s the instigator.

    This team is not headed for much improvement for the next couple seasons at least. The team’s best player is still 37 years old and they don’t have another star player to build around. The draft is weak and it’s not like the Suns are going to get a top 3 pick. Finally, the team is surrounded with overpaid role player, making it very difficult for Sarver, whom is not going to go back into the luxury tax, to bring in elite talent.

  • Steve

    I didn’t say I want the guy to have a career-ending knee injury. He has a hyperextended elbow, people. He’ll probably play game 1.

    The reason Manu is the guy I don’t mind seeing it happen to him is because he’s like the boy who cried wolf. How many times have you seen Manu “writhing” in pain for three minutes just to get back up and finish the game without incident? He’s a soccer player at heart. Flops and fake injuries. I don’t have respect for players who play that way. It’s unprofessional and unmanly.

    His reaction to his injury was pathetic also. If any of you have ever hyperextended a joint, you know what I mean. It hurts like a mother, but you don’t need to roll around for three minutes about it, especially if it’s an elbow. I minorly hyperextended my elbow once and badly hyperextended my knee. With the elbow, I was 100% in a week, and basically without pain after a day and a half. The knee took a while to get back to 100%, and I could barely walk the next couple of days. But in neither case did I roll around on the ground for a few minutes to get people to look at me.

    Also, I’ve heard the argument from dozens of people over the past few weeks that the draft is weak. We never really know the answer to that question until these guys start playing in the pros. In my opinion, there are probably 5 guys who could be stars in the NBA, and one or two who could be superstars. On top of that, I think there could be about 10 guys who will be significant contributors for a number of years. The Suns, if they’re smart, are going to get someone good enough to be in the rotation next season. What more can you ask for?

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Tony you’re a surface swimmer.

    Not a bad thing, really, but you only talk about the obvious without going any deeper.

    Yes, 40 wins was a good season considering the team was made over on-the-fly 3 times in one season. That is a lot of teaching and running foreign systems with players who don’t have time to gel because trades kept happening.

    Your luxury tax worries also hold no weight because even with the few players who return next season, salary is getting cut.

    On top of that, nobody knows what the new CBA will be but the direction its headed suggests that salary will come down while also limiting mass spending.

    Meaning that there will be more balance. So even if the Suns don’t have as much to spend as the Bobcats in a season, CHA won’t be able to sign everybody; players will be available.

    Also, please get off the WCF team. Amare wasn’t singing with us for 3, 5, 7, or 9 years. He barely even met with the team. The only thing that would have saved it is if there were another 4 available that could do what STAT did in our system.

    There wasn’t. And with that the team wasn’t going to have the same kind of season.

    You can blame whoever you want, but the simple truth is that the team would not be as dominant without Stoudemire. He left on his own and there was nobody out there to replace him.

  • Jonas

    Assuming you are talking about like a Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Rose, Melo, Durant, etc …

    There is no “go-to-guy” on the market! Even if there was one, he would not becoming to the Suns. Phoenix is not a top destination city for any top player. Nobody worth the money is going to come to the Suns except as a second or third option.

    The Suns only hope of landing any big name is through trades.

    Nash will play out his contract with the Suns and maybe by the trade deadline will get traded to a team looking to clear cap space.

    Depending on how Chicago and New York do in the players, look for VC to head to one of those teams to fill up their guard positions.

    The Suns need to dump anybody who has value and get real BAD for next year’s draft.

    And Dudley is NOT a bonifide starter. He may be a superstar on the second line going up against the opposing teams second stringers, but he will go flat next year if he does start because more attention will be paid to him on defence by opposing teams. That is when you see who is really good or not.

    It is REBUILDING time in Phoenix!

  • Steve

    I disagree with basically everything above except for the fact that there isn’t a superstar available in free agency this offseason. And I know big free agent signings aren’t all that common for the Suns, but they’re not really all that common for anybody. The bigtime guys usually stay put, and there are only 10 or so every generation. That doesn’t leave many teams with an opportunity to land one. NY, Miami, Boston… when was the last time they landed big FAs before they assembled their Big 3? It really doesn’t happen very often for anyone.

    Any Phoenix is a top 10 market every year. It IS a big-time market with big-time exposure. And it’s a great place to live. There will be a big FA signing in Phoenix within the next 3 years. Every ten years or so, we go out and get one.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @B Cray Z Nash tweaked his hamstring and with this game being meaningless Gentry didn’t see the need to push him.