Phoenix Suns’ sputtering offense causes preseason blowout loss to Denver


PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns looked more like a team that began practicing together 12 days ago than a squad four days away from its season opener during their 110-85 preseason finale loss to the Denver Nuggets Thursday night in US Airways Center.

Unfortunately for Phoenix, both statements are true and thus the Suns have lots of work to do after a game that featured some bright spots amid another walloping defeat.

The Suns played a spirited second quarter to go into the break trailing by just two, but then fell apart in a second half that saw them shoot 28.9 percent as the Nuggets ran away with the game.

“Our offense kind of collapsed in the second half,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “We weren’t good offensively and then we began to give up too many easy baskets. We’ve just got to execute a little better.

“We’ve got a lot of work that we’ve got to get done, and we have a very short time to do it in before we start playing games that count, but nobody ever said it was going to be easy.”

Forgive me if you’ve heard this before but Gentry wants his squad to improve on the defensive glass, as he lamented not only the fact that Denver secured 15 offensive boards but the fact that they were timely caroms as well.

Then there’s the offensive struggles as Phoenix never could get into a rhythm without Marcin Gortat providing a strong roll man presence for Nash and with Channing Frye taking an 0-fer on six shots and thus failing to provide a spacing presence.

“We’re going to have to start knocking down the shots when they’re available to us,” Gentry said.

The coach also feels the Suns gamble too much on defense, sometimes even when they hold an advantageous defensive position.

The game only turned into a blowout at the end as Phoenix actually led 60-56 after Markieff Morris drilled a trey with 7:40 left in the third. The bottom fell out from there, and thus Frye chose to take the glass half full approach to analyzing this game.

“We played good for a half,” he said. “I think defensively you saw a glimpse of how we can be and I think we improved on last game. … I think everybody’s just trying to figure out their niche on the team and we’re just working things out.”

The Suns did improve somewhat defensively, limiting the Nuggets to 42.9 percent shooting, the kind of shooting percentage that always used to turn into a Suns victory in years past.

There were a handful of individual bright spots as well, starting with the Suns’ rookie. Morris was the Suns’ first sub and he immediately energized the club with six points, four boards and three blocks in the opening period alone. He drilled a pair of threes for the game on his way to 12 points and a team-high seven boards.

“Great job,” Frye said of Keef. “I think he’s learning fast. I think he does a lot of great things out there. I think he’s going to be a great help for us. I think he’s going to be a great addition to this team, and I love being out there playing with him.”

Morris played like he belonged. He brought a physical presence down low, gobbled up the boards and shot jumpers with no hesitation that often found the bottom of the net.

The one issue revolves around that whole six fouls and you’re disqualified rule as Morris fouled out for the second consecutive preseason game, this time in less than 18 minutes. Gentry feels he’s picking up too many “chippy” fouls, something he will learn how to prevent through experience.

“I’m a rookie,” Morris said. “I’ve just got to understand I’ve got to earn my due before I get away with calls.”

Starting in place of Gortat, Robin Lopez opened the game with a major rush of energy. In the first four minutes of the game alone he drew three fouls, stuffed Timofey Mozgov, grabbed a couple offensive boards and tipped in a shot. If Lopez can bottle the kind of effort he gave in the opening four minutes then the Suns would have some kind of a backup center.

“I thought Robin was pretty good tonight,” Gentry said. “He didn’t shoot the ball well at all (1-for-6) but just his activity was really good and I think he’ll continue to get his timing and a better feel and everything. I thought that he was pretty good.”

Jared Dudley produced about as efficient an offensive game as a player can by scoring 17 points on six shots, which includes five makes and three long balls. Dudley played like a legitimate starting shooting guard as he was the only starter to score more than five points.

Hakim Warrick (15 points) and Shannon Brown (14) both chipped in as well on identical 5-for-11 nights. Warrick in particular flashed a consistent mid-range jumper that he did not often possess last season.

Ronnie Price ran the show off the bench, as Sebastian Telfair didn’t even enter until 6:21 remained and the outcome had long been decided. Price scored three points and dished one assist to five turnovers in almost 20 minutes of play. His defense was solid as usual but he did not exactly cement the backup point guard job.

“It’s a process for him,” Gentry said. “He’s adjusting to a situation where he has a lot more freedom than he had at Utah as far as what he can do and what we allow him to do. It’s going to be an adjustment for him, and he’ll be fine.”

Now the Suns will head back to work with practices the next two days before taking Christmas off and then embarking on their 66-game sprint of a season.

The Suns feel they have improved since Tuesday, but after being blown out by the Nuggets for the second time this preseason and struggling on both ends of the floor, they are certainly far from a finished product.

“We had a pretty good first half. Kind of fell apart in the second half,” Steve Nash said. “Made some strides, did a lot of things we worked on in practice out there in the first half. We can’t get down. We’ve only been working for like 12 days now. We’ve got to stay positive, just keep working.

“There was improvement today.”

And 1

Frye shot 1-for-14 in the preseason but he’s not concerned because “it was just ridiculous” how well he shot the ball warming up and at shootaround.

“I think once I get in the game I just rush things a little bit like I do every year, so I’ve just got to slow myself down and not be so emotional about every shot,” Frye said. …

Denver sat out Nene, Ty Lawson, Al Harrington and Rudy Fernandez. Gortat was the only Sun to miss the contest.

  • Tony

    Michael,

    you failed to mention that the Nuggets were missing their starting pg in Lawson and starting center in Nene, to go along with Fernandez and Harrington being out due to injuries. Sure the Suns didn’t have Gortat, but the Nuggets missing five important players more than makes up for Gortat’s absence. Thus, isn’t it a bit absurd to claim the Suns defense was better a large part of the game when the Nuggets best scorers outside DG were not playing?

    I just want to take a moment to thank Robert Sarver, Lon Babby, and Lance Blanks for putting together a D-League team. In particular, Sarver, great job in dismantling a once elite franchise and turning it into one of the worst teams in the league. You managed to do that in only one summer. Fantastic job. This team will be fortunate to win 20 games this season.

  • Morgan

    Tony it’s preseason! How can you say this a d league team? This is the problem with phoenix fans. You throw your team under the bus when they lose. You only go to games when your team is winning. It’s sad and pathetic. I’m not saying these guys are a elite team, but these guys are going to be tough to beat if they are clicking.

  • Scott

    I didn’t see this game, but one solution that poses itself is to have the second unit be composed of Lopez, Morris, Warrick, Price, and Telfair. Having both of the backup PGs in the game at the same time might help the bench connect on offense.

    I think the Suns need to continue to shop to fill out the team. As it stands right now, Telfair, Brown, and Childress could be replaced.

  • phxfan88

    I do think the Suns may surprise… for the 8th seed. Barkley wanted to leave Philly. Kareem wanted to leave Milwaukee. Amare wanted to stay in Phoenix. Who ever willingly lets a guy like that walk? Why did we constantly bring up Amare’s faults instead of building around his dominant strengths? You just don’t let a guy like that go, ever.

  • Frank

    If this team is not going to win a ring, why aren’t we all hoping for a very entertaining lottery team? The next draft is going to be one of the deepest drafts in years. Bottom out, have a bunch of money to spend in free agency and pair it Gortat and one of the talents in the draft. If that is the strategy this year, I am in!

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    You guys are still mental if you really believe that Amare wanted to be in the valley. He never wanted to remain. He wanted a big market team – a real big market team in an environment where he could take advantage of that city in other ways and he’s already done that with tv show appearances and such.

    I know people on this site parrot the “Sarver sucks for not keeping STAT” thing a lot, but seriously, Amare wasn’t staying in the valley.

    It’s taken longer than I would have liked, (I wanted it to begin as soon as it was 100% clear that Amare was signing somewhere else), but the direction towards a rebuild has been marked out. Cap space in the future looks good and lots of contracts are coming off the books.

    Anyway, about the game, Channing Frye is a shooter. Cold right now, but as always, he will heat up. Price has looked awful so far and for Telfair not to get any time in spite of that, wow.

    I’ve been pushing for Dudley to be given a starting role for two years now. He continues to show exactly what he brings. He’s going to score 18 a game if given the time and he’s going to do it with very few attempts. Dude is a great fit.

    Through two games, I’ve got to admit, I like what I see out of ‘Keef. If he can knock down even an 18-foot shot with regularity, I’d love to see him eventually start beside THORTAT!?!?!? because it just seems like he could be what we all want Frye to be which is a big who can stretch the floor but, when needed, can bang inside and grab some boards.

    Not looking so good for Chilly, though. I maintain that it’s mainly because Grant Hill [still] has his starting spot, but either way, his preseason hasn’t been very promising.

  • http://godaddy.com Big Daddy

    Preseason game. That’s all it iz. I’m not worried about this squad….a fully healthy suns team can make the playoffs and be a pain in the ass.

  • sun-arc

    On the one hand, this is a preseason game, and you can’t say we’ll play like this all season long. And, also, there was so much improvement on effort and defense in this game over tuesday night- at least in the first half, that it is heartening.

    On the other hand, all playoff teams come out of the gate with some sense of confidence in their play, and we really aren’t seeing that. This team looks a lot like they did during preseason last year, which isn’t a good sign as this season will have far less practice time, or time altogether, to find cohesion and chemistry.

    The positives: Morris is alright. He was a good selection, and appears ready for NBA action right now. He just needs to be more careful with fouling.

    Defense and effort was better, at least in the first half. If they can do that consistently for 48 min every game, they should be a decent team, if their offense comes back.

    Dudz and Lopez are alright.

    Hakim’s shot looks good. And he’ll look better when he isn’t the #1 option out on the floor, with less attention on him.

    Landry put in good effort again. He’s got a good head for basketball, though he had an empty stat sheet again too.

    The negatives:
    back up PG play. Actually, all the back ups looked lousy. Totally confused on offense and defense.

    Brown was almost completely useless. He wasn’t passing the ball, even when he got into trouble, he’d just jack up the shot. His effort wasn’t great. And he wasn’t running out to for fast breaks at all. The coaches need to really get on him.

    Chilly, welcome to the bench for good. I believe you are no longer Hill’s back up. That job now belongs to Hakim and Dudley, the latter of which has to play big minutes to keep Brown off the court.

    Frye needs to calm down a lot. His shot isn’t dropping and he’s frustrated, and making silly fouls. His game will come, though. And when it does, it’ll help the entire team out considerably. Though, at this point, not enough to keep them from being a lottery team. They need much more than Frye for that.

  • steve

    I feel it in the water… I feel it in the earth…

    0-66 is coming

    Robert Sarver has single-handedly started the apocalypse of Planet ORNG. His penny-pinching antics pushed Joe Johnson, the greatest shooting guard to ever play the game (and certainly not one of the most overpaid guys in the NBA right now. No, not that), out of the Valley for nothing. He bought Amare’s plane ticket out of here and packed his bags… after he offered the same amount as NYK with the stipulation that Amare actually perform up to his contract (what a novel concept… you should only get paid for the work you perform? What country is this?) He gave up the rights to basically an entire all-star team when he traded away Rondo and Gortat (the latter of which he managed to steal back for next to nothing while getting rid of one of the top 5 albatrosses in the league)

    Robert Sarver is the worst owner in all of sports. Say goodbye to the playoffs, Suns fans. You won’t sniff it again as long as he’s around. In fact, say goodbye to Phoenix. The Suns are probably going to be contracted within five years if Sarver doesn’t sell the team to someone competent. This is the beginning of the end for the franchise. It was fun while it lasted. Phoenix Suns, 1968-~2015 – The Greatest Team to Never Win a Championship.

    All of the above is false (except the first line. Tolkein knew his ish).

  • shazam

    im going to hollywood to pitch a new movie..its called “Kill Chill”

  • Mike Meez

    Positives:

    Dudley looked great. He was in mid-season form already. Hustling for loose balls (including an awesome hustle play for loose ball in Denver’s backcourt followed by an and 1, though he missed the free throw actually), knocking down 3s. By far the best performance.

    Warrick looks like he’s got his shot back. Apparently he’s always had a shot but you wouldn’t have known it last year. If he can get that going, he really will be a poor man’s Amare.

    Markieff showed promise. I don’t think he’ll start but I can see him being a solid backup to Channing Frye. Another big man that can stretch the floor and drain 3s, but who is also a better defender. He’ll learn how to avoid fouls but shouldn’t be as big of deal anyway once we get Gortat back and Markieff doesn’t have to play that many minutes.

    1st half defense: There were stretches in the 2nd quarter where they were playing great team defense, I don’t care who they were guarding.

    Negatives

    Nash and Hill looked rusty. It’s only a preseason game so I think they were holding back a bit but hopefully they’ll get into form and be able to stay healthy.

    J-Chill was awful in limited time. He shows no interest whatsoever. Not engaged in anything going on. Ugh

    Channing has off games but 0-6 is especially bad and it was weird to see him get that frustrated in a preseason game. I’m glad he actually cares, but ya gotta keep your composure.

    Fropez. I missed the first few minutes, but everything I saw was awful. He can’t score. He can’t play defense. I’m over it. I’d rather have Siler as our backup, even with his screaching (very odd, did anyone else hear that?).

    2nd half defense: Suns got pushed around and the Nugs scored at will

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Hello guys,
    Italian is a fan of the Suns. I love this team since the days of Sir Charles … how far away those days …!
    I am a “little” worried about this preseason …
    I do not know what’s going to follow the Suns because Europe is difficult but I believe that since the new owner is not how things are going well ….
    But we talk about the team this year:
    - Nash is a great player … as G. Hill … but are now descending parable …. I hope that the short season can help!
    - Dudley and Frye hope that you continue in the game and become the point!
    - I think Gortat is the man who gives me more confidence now!
    - M. Morris for what I have seen and read is presented well in the preseason I hope will soon become a reference point for this team, we need it! I seem to have the right character to impose itself: I hope to become a star! I hope so … because it is easy to emerge in a mediocre team …..
    - Lopez does not seem “neither meat nor fish” we say in Italy …. bland … for years …!
    - I expected more from Warrik … is a spectacular player … only that … but maybe too light to be a power forward …. “too big” to play small forward (and I do not think that has a good shot from outside to do this …)
    - Price, Telfair, Siler, Landry: “In our film,” can only do the extras … but we also lack the key players …
    - Brown, it seems a good player, nothing more, nothing less, for a year can be good …
    - J. Childress: but how can it be under contract in the NBA as a player?? I really do wonder what this … In Europe it was a nag … I do not think he did better than before … and it is that since the Suns has earned the contract he has! So I could play for a lot less …. …. …. and I’d better at least as a commitment!

    I think short guys in the valley there is only to reconstruct a team that can earn the fantastic fans who (even in the world) … that can make us dream …. maybe you can give us a title … but I do not know if this leadership is able to do that!
    I hope that you create salary cap space to buy some star free agent in the future but I do not think that there are in the next market.
    I hope that I have seen here from Italy and / or misunderstood the situation …. but I think I’m so wrong!

    Go Phoenix Suns for more!

    Ps: sorry for my English but I use an online translator!

  • Tony

    Morgan,

    the Suns have been my favorite team for years. No matter how bad the Suns are, they are still my favorite team. What pisses me off so much is that Sarver took an elite team and single-handily turned them into a lottery team.

    Folks, you cannot chalk up the last two pre-season games as just pre-season games and nothing more. These games are used as an indication of the cohesion and talent level of the respective teams. The Suns didn’t just get blown out by the Nuggets twice, they were blown out once at home and with the Nuggets not playing two starters and two key role players off their bench. Sure the Suns did not have Gortat, but the fact that Denver just steam-rolled the Suns is clearly an indication that it would have been far worse for the Suns had all the Nuggets been available and even with Gortat.
    It used to be that the Suns were seriously lacking in rebounding with sub-par although underrated defense, but they more than compensated with the best offense in the NBA. Now, without any go to scorers and with Nash at 37 no longer capable of consistently dominating for the Suns, this team’s offense is likely to mediocre at best.

    Steve, you have no clue what you are talking about. Hey, you are probably perfect to work in Sarver’s front office. The Suns did not “steal” Gortat back. If you consider giving up J-Rich nothing, then you are more ignorant than I originally thought. Sure, they got rid of Hedo, but they also gave up Earl Clark, who at the very least could play some defense.
    Furthermore, no one ever said Joe Johnson is or was the best sg in the league, but I will say this…he’s certainly a lot better than Shannon Brown and Dudley.
    Finally, getting a guaranteed contract is extremely important to professional athletes because of the inherent risk of injury. There was nothing wrong with Amare wanting a guaranteed five year deal, and clearly, Sarver either should have given it to him or replaced him with another elite level pf.
    In any case, Steve you have no clue what you are talking about concerning the Suns. For example, how’s your boy Childress playing for the SUns? You said look at his stats as if that’s a proven indicator that he can shoot? That is so stupid. He has historically taken so few shots, especially at or past ten feet, that natually his shooting percentage is going to be good. The same goes with his 3-point percentage. You are just a mouthpiece for Sarver.

  • A-ROCK

    I only watched the 1st half of the game and noticed some good points to this team, first Morris is a strong player keep shooting we need a STAR IN THE DESERT, Dudley is on his game, Brown keep shooting F’ what the fans say here you have mad potential, Nash stop turning the Damn ball over for 9 assists to your 5 turnovers it’s disgusting, Nash you need to shoot more or get SHOT IN YOUR A#@, We need a real center. We need to play a combination of small ball with Nash, Brown, Dudley, Morris and a Center that is competent (Gortat) since that’s all we have and maybe substitute Warrick in there. With that said everyone else needs to stay on the bench. The Stupid coaching staff is the ones that LOST THESE PRESEASON GAMES FOR US with their Stupid substitutions every Play literally. I hate Coach Gentry he was an assistint coach for a reason and I will stick to that, the only reason he is here is because Sarver doesn’t want to pay for a real coach.

  • A-ROCK

    Mr. Morris what ever you do don’t listen to Fry’s B%$#@ A#@ just play your game bro while he is riding the bench like he did in Portland for being soft as Baby S$#@, we out here in PHX aren’t like that. He needs to get slapped and he needs to be looking up to you, you showed more of an inside out game than he ever will, and if he is lucky enough to play with you then while he is spacing the floor as a big man shooting 3′s you will be gobbling up the boards and dominating the middle. Thanks for your determination for the game we in Phx appreciate it greatly! F$#k You Channing Fry!!!!!!!!!!!

  • sun also rises

    Are Tony and A-ROCK the same guy?

  • Tony

    Sun also rises, you are such a dummy. You and Steve would be perfect for Sarver’s media team.

  • A-ROCK

    I like your points Tony, Your not hurting anyone with the truth at all, the truth is what hurts so Preach brotha! You can open the eyes of the blind but it’s up to them to keep them open to focus on whats going on around them.

  • steve

    I had the same suspicion, sun also rises, but their writing styles are so drastically different. Sure, that can be faked, but who would take the time to create multiple personas on a sports blog?