Breaking down the Suns’ final play against the Hornets

After Eric Gordon drilled a 20-footer with 4.2 seconds left to give the Hornets an 85-84 lead on Monday night, it was Alvin Gentry’s turn to design a game-winning play that would catapult the Suns to a home-opener victory.

As seen in the video above, Gentry drew up a play that would, ideally, have Steve Nash throw the ball in, come off a Robin Lopez screen and receive a cross-court pass from Markieff Morris for a game-winning jumper. Morris’ pass sailed out of bounds, however, and the Suns never got a clean look at the basket and fell to the lowly Hornets.

Here’s a closer look at the play and what went wrong: 

As you can see here the play starts by Lopez setting a backscreen for Hill, who spaces the floor by filtering over to the right corner. Meanwhile, Morris is screening for Dudley, who pops out to the opposite corner. Neither Hill nor Dudley were legitimate threats, they simply came off of screens to do nothing more than space the floor.

After Morris screens for Dudley, he pops out to the free-throw line extended and receives a pass from Nash. Lopez then hunts down Gordon, who’s defending Nash, in attempt to pick him off and spring Nash for an easy jumper.

But here’s where things go awry. Lopez does a terrible job getting a body on Gordon and Nash is unable to shake free immediately. Even with Lopez’s poor screen, however, Nash has some space to work with.

As you can see above, he has a clear lane to the hoop with 2.8 seconds left and the ball still in Morris’ hands. But instead of cutting all the way to the hoop, Nash slams on the breaks and fades to the right wing.

Morris thought Nash was going to curl harder and threw an errant pass. In addition to their miscommunication, Hill wasn’t deep enough in the corner and threw off the Suns’ spacing. Overall, I’d chalk this up to a simple miscommunication between Nash and Morris.

This wasn’t a bad play by Gentry at all. Designing a play to free up one of the league’s best shooters for a jump shot to win the game can rarely be faulted.

But putting the ball in the hands of a rookie playing his first NBA game is definitely questionable. Morris, although he’s a solid passer with a decent basketball IQ, is the last guy I would want to make a pressure-packed cross-court pass.

I would have either brought Channing Frye off of the pine or used Hill as the passer, as he clearly has great chemistry with Nash. It clearly wasn’t a bad play call by Gentry. If Nash cut all the way to the hoop, he would have had a layup. Or if Morris knew Nash was fading to the wing, Nash probably would have gotten a shot off.

  • Sun-arc

    Good analysis. Looked like the play was kind of working. But- Nash probably would not have gotten free for the pass with Gordon on him- and, when the defense on hill collapsed, if he go the ball but had to pass, hill likely would have missed the jumper or run out of time. Seems like someone should have been slashing under the basket at that moment. We miss JR.

  • Scott

    I think Morris made the right pass. The closer shot was the higher percentage shot. Nash just didn’t run the right way.

  • Carlos

    In my opinion Lopez miss calculate Gordon speed and instead of making the screen closer to the middle of the field he went outside and left Gordon free (Lopez didn’t even touch Gordon on that screen). If Lopez had set the right screen Nash would have be free from Gordon and he won’t had hesitate for a second to go to the hoop for an easy lay-up or try to make a long shot, instead Gordon mess-up with Nash and Morris timing and force Morris to trow a really bad pass, that even if Nash had gone to the hoop he won’t had reach that pass since it was too high.
    3 mistakes by 3 players, which honestly you can not blame them since they were the best 3 Suns players on this game, and this is their first game of a short training camp.

  • Mel.

    Nice, Mike. While watching the game itself, it actually looked like Markieff just got jangled and hot-shotted the pass as a way to get rid of the ball; this side of things more or less justifies what he was doing out there, and how it went askew.

  • Mo

    LOL! Fell to the ‘lowly’ Hornets. Both teams started the season 0-0. If the Suns lose to the Hornets on Friday how ‘lowly’ does that make the Suns?

  • Geo

    Its too early to start predicting how good the suns are going to be. Just because we lost to the “lowly hornets” doesnt mean the suns are doomed. The lakers have lost two in a row and one of them to the kings but does not mean they are going suck.

    There were alot of positives for the suns and I hope our shooters “Fry, Dudley,Hill” start getting hot pretty soon.