Dallas Mavericks 122, Phoenix Suns 99 -- Rule of three


Dirk and the Mavs scorched the Suns with 55.2 percent shooting and 14 treys. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Dirk and the Mavs scorched the Suns with 55.2 percent shooting and 14 treys. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Three Dallas players roasted the Phoenix Suns for 20 or more points, and the the Mavericks used the three-pointer to open up a lead that ended in a 122-99 blowout on Monday night.

Led by Delonte West’s 25, Vince Carter’s 21 and Shawn Marion’s 20 — all scored in 28 minutes or less — Marcin Gortat’s 17 points, 10 boards and four blocks weren’t nearly enough for the Suns.

Of late the Suns have struggled to defend the paint, and despite looking rather efficient on offense with Steve Nash sitting out with a left knee contusion, deepening those struggles at US Airways Center was the Suns’ failure to run the Mavs off the three-point line.

“They have a great offense, they have different counters, they have people who can score in different ways,” said Jared Dudley, who scored 15 points. “It’s just a tough team to guard, and once they start hitting shots the floodgates really opened.

“It was really tough for us, even when we had our hand up on good defense they were hitting it,” he added. “(With) bad defense, they made us pay every time. This is becoming a common theme around here.”

If you’ve ever seen a Clive Owen movie in which he totes a firearm, you’d seen this game before. Against Phoenix, Dallas built an 18-point halftime lead by shooting the Suns up for 10-of-16 three-pointers. The Mavs also controlled the interior with 15 second-chance points in the first half while outrebounding the Suns 23-13.

The Suns were trailing 40-37 with 7:38 left in the half, but by the time a 26-11 Dallas onslaught was over, the Mavericks just had to play keepaway in the second half.

“Tough loss,” Gortat said. “They were shooting the ball very well today, but you know what? End of the day, we let them do that.”

Somehow, the product on the court didn’t look so bad, and that was likely due to the Suns being relatively safe with the ball — five turnovers at halftime — and shooting a solid 48.6 percent. But next to the Mavs’ 57.4 percent shooting at halftime, that meant little.

All of Phoenix’s woes continued in the second half, and Dallas finished the game shooting 55.2 percent to Phoenix’s 43.8 percent accuracy.

The Mavs didn’t show signs of tired legs coming off a hard-fought, overtime win against San Antonio the night prior. Carter himself scored 21 mostly off catch-and-shoots to follow up a 21-point performance last night.

Phoenix found itself down 31-24 after the first quarter as both teams shot above 51 percent from the field, and Dallas didn’t turn the ball over once in the period.

Josh Childress provided a spark off the bench, scoring nine first-half points while guarding Dirk Nowitzki when Grant Hill sat. J-Chill ended the night with nine points, four rebounds and two steals in his third game back in head coach Alvin Gentry’s rotation, and his play received the only positive comments of the night.

“The guy is a true professional,” Gentry said. “We gave him an opportunity, and I think he responded and did a great job.”

In the second quarter, the Suns got their hands in the passing lanes and created some turnovers, but their own defense became the victim of Dallas’ ball movement. Even when Phoenix made a good play, the Mavs were always at the right place at the right time.

A Channing Frye block of a Marion shot went straight into the hands of Carter for a wide open three-pointer, and VC drilled another on the next possession to take a 49-43 Dallas lead to 12 points with 4:11 left in the half.

West hit two three-bombs in a row less than two minutes before halftime and Jason Terry added another as the Mavs built a 66-48 lead going into the break.

“You’ve got to stay positive,” Dudley said. “I mean, you should be frustrated. You’re losing, the way we’re losing at times is frustrating. The only thing you can do is come in, look at film, look yourself in the mirror and work harder.

“Defensively, we played really bad tonight.”

Childress impresses

The Suns’ often-benched small forward provided a spark for Phoenix, combining with Hill to hold Nowitzki to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting. No, it wasn’t enough, but perhaps the Suns could use more players who are willing to put in that kind of effort. Marcin Gortat thinks so.

“If we’re going to have 12 Josh Childress’ (on the roster), we’re going to win the game,” Gortat said, unprompted. “The way … the guy came into the game after sitting for 15, 16, 17 games, he came in fully professional, he was prepared and ready, he hustled, he ran and he gave 120 percent. It was incredible what he did.”

As frustrated as they might be in the locker room afterward, it was rare to see frustration on the players’ faces during the game outside Childress (he slammed the ball hard on the floor after losing a dribble out of bounds early), Dudley (the forward looked more aggressive as the game got more embarrassing) and backup point guard Sebastian Telfair (he dove on the floor for a loose ball and was in a controlled attack mode throughout).

Change of point

Replacing Nash goes beyond the numbers, but the Suns should be encouraged that starting lineup replacement Ronnie Price and his backup Telfair combined for 11 assists and only four turnovers on the night. That means it’s probably safe to say the margin of defeat wasn’t completely due to Phoenix missing its star player.

Editor’s note: The score was originally counted as a 124-99 win for Dallas but was changed to 122-99 after the final buzzer, apparently due to two free throws being counted as field goals.

  • Tony

    Wow, this Suns team is horrible! So, who’s the next defensive specialist are the Three Stooges going to hire to “improve” the Suns defense?

  • Scott

    It was good to see Childress out on the court, showing he can play. He even took and hit a 3. I hope he’s doing a lot of shooting practice and correcting his tendency to move when he shoots. IMO, he’d have no trouble getting court time (with the Suns or any other team) if he’d just make that correction.

    The blow out was a great opportunity to get Redd more time, which didn’t happen, and it was a great opportunity to try the Gortat / Lopez front court, which didn’t happen.

    I’m still clueless about what Gentry plans to do to get his team more successful. It’s the 2nd season in a row where I just don’t understand his thinking.

  • Ty

    Scott completely agree. I’ve always thought Childress has gotten the short end of the things and somehow seems to always be the odd man out in Gentry’s rotations. When I see him play as far as i can remember he always plays hard and is an efficient player when he gets the minutes. It’s a shame that he rarely gets the opportunity to play in games more and develop with the team.

    I was thinking the same thing with the substitutions. I remember thinking in the 3rd when the game was all but over that Redd was the only player who hadn’t played yet. I just don’t get Gentry’s plan, a player in practice is one thing, but actually playing in a live game and developing the rhythm is another, something I think he has robbed Redd and Childress of. Your game strategy isn’t working, you keep putting in the same lineups for the most part, and you keep losing. You would think Gentry would be experimenting with some different stuff after so many losses?

  • Scott

    @Ty -

    I’m just not sure if / how / where he expects it to get better. No matter who he has out on the floor, the strategy is the same, and it seems to be failing regardless of the players and their effort.

    Of course, if something was to happen and suddenly the Suns were to start clicking, Gentry would look like a genius. I just don’t see how it’s going to happen, though.

  • http://mailinator.com Sturmtank

    @Scott,Ty
    If Gentry is to stupid to put a defensive lineup on the floor for the last possession against the griz’, how can you expect these things?

    again: nash should not be on the court for that possession. he’s not a good defender and you know he’s most probably going to run into a pick …

  • https://twitter.com/#!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    BLAKE GRIFFIN DESTROYED KEN – Wait. Suns site…

    Okay so right. Can we all please get off of Gentry? There is NOTHING wrong with what he has tried to do. As a coach, you can only work with what is given to you and what has been given to him is an incomplete team. Don’t believe me? Believe SNOW, (Nash). Even he said it. The team is flawed.

    Gentry’s updated coaching philosophy is rock-solid when he has the proper players to work with. He simply does not.

    You can’t ask him to adjust. Adjust what? With whom?

    The only thing he can do that he hasn’t already tried is convert the offense to an inside / outside attack where the 3 man comes off of back-screens to attack the basket on the weak-side with an increased amount of throw-downs to Gortat.

    Doing that totally destroys the room needed to run a system in a way that makes Steve Nash lethal. So… It’s not happening, even though the team is more suited for it.

    Otherwise, it is what it is. Chily – of course he’s going to produce when he gets some time. I don’t know why he sits in favor of guys like Telfair or Shannon Brown. He brings true defensive grit to the team and he can attack the rim in a variety of ways. People forget because he’s been buried on the bench and before that overseas, but JC can really play the game of basketball if used to his strengths.

    Personally, I would play him and Hill at the same time with JMZ being the interchangeable part, and if the initial shot off the PnR isn’t there, I’d make Nash the spot-up shooter, and let Gortat dictate the action sort-of what I mentioned above.

    To be honest, in regards to Gentry, I think he’s hand-cuffed by the powers that be. We all know that he can adjust on the fly and he’s good at doing it, but the last two seasons he hasn’t. I don’t think it’s because he’s stubborn. I think Sarver wants a certain product on display on the court, and I think Gentry is trying to deliver that instead of totally changing things up.

  • steve

    Childress looked very good in the first half. He was active, he was attacking the rim, creating opportunities for himself and teammates, he was shooting… and then in the second half he just kind of disappeared again. I don’t know why the effort isn’t always there, but I think it’s clear that when Childress puts forth any sort of effort, he produces on both ends of the court.

    By the way, Vince Carter is quite possibly the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball. Wait, not even “quite possibly.” He is. End of story.

  • Cam

    Two things I noticed in this game. The mavs didn’t start to pull away until right after Childress had to sub out in the second quarter after committing his third foul. Second, Fropez didn’t enter the game until the end of the third quarter. I wonder if Fropez is in Gentry’s doghouse for some reason? Go Suns.

  • Zak

    All I can say right now is that I hope the FO has some sort of plan for the future. The band-aid trades and acquisitions haven’t helped with the exception of ultimately bringing Gortat to the Suns. Yeah, I don’t have a lot of faith in the front office having a “good” plan either but I at least hope that they have some sort of plan for the future other than hoping that this team will just suddenly start playing better.

    And I agree that Gentry isn’t at fault but it’s very possible that he may still get the blame – and the axe – eventually.

  • steve

    A coach can really only do so much, so I agree that this is not Gentry’s fault alone. I’m not even sure how much he actually contributes to the problem. Every coach in the NBA makes mistakes, just like every other person on earth, but I don’t really think Gentry makes more mistakes than most coaches. But, I am also thinking that if anyone is going to be made into a scapegoat, it’s going to be Gentry. I certainly hope that’s not the case, but I’m getting that feeling.

  • Tony

    I agree with most of the postings in that Gentry should not be blamed for the Suns woes, he simply has minimal talent to work with and as a coach, he can only do so much. This team is probably in the top 3 in the league of worst talent. The Suns have only two legitimate starters in Nash and Gortat. Neither Hill, Dudley, or Frye would start on any good team.

    With that being said, Gentry does seem to have a tendency to wait too long to make in-game adjustments. Last night was a perfect example. Throughout most of the game, Gentry doubled Dirk in the post. Normally, this is perfectly understandable. However, Dirk is having an off-year and didn’t even look like he was healthy and was struggling out there. Gentry should have guarded him straight up, especially since the Mavs were on-fire from 3-point distance.

  • Zak

    My opinion is that Gentry is a good, maybe a very good coach, but just not a great coach. Great coaches can take sub-par talent, make the most of it and get wins against more talented teams. Gentry just needs more talent to make the most of his coaching skills. He could take a talented team to the finals but he doesn’t have that this year. Being a little slow in making in-game adjustments isn’t fatal if you have enough talent to work with. This team just doesn’t have enough talent to compensate for that. If I were to offer one complaint about Gentry it would be that I think he might be too conservative to gamble at times. But that’s understandable with the lack of talent he has this year and the heat he might be feeling about his job security. Whether the FO is giving him heat or not I’m sure he’s feeling it because in all pro sports the easy way out for the FO to excuse a bad season is to blame the coach.

  • Scott

    @Rich -

    To the best of my recollection, all I’ve said is that I don’t understand why Gentry is doing what he’s doing. I think the Suns GM was trying to provide Gentry with talented players (from what was available), but for whatever reason these talents are not coming together into a synergy but are instead producing less than they should.

    I’ve already mentioned, as an example, that the Suns’ leaders in FT production are down for their careers (with the exception of Warrick). Why is this? Can’t they just drive in and get fouled? As I’ve said before, and not facetiously, I’ve not played basketball, I don’t entirely understand what’s going on. I don’t know why the Suns aren’t being more aggressive on going inside. Maybe they are just being defended too well for their current offensive scheme to work?

    The Grizzlies game, which the Suns won, was the first recent game in which the Suns actually went to the line more than the other team. However, while helpful, this is not a pure indicator of success; the Suns also went to the line more than the Mavs in this last game. (The Suns shot 17 of 20 from the line, while the Mavs shot 12 of 18.)

    Dudley, in the Mavs game, had the worst +/- for the team, at -23. Yet he was the most aggressive of the Suns, shooting 6 for 6 from the line, he was the biggest rebounder not named Gortat (Duds bagged 5), and he also shot 3 of 4 from behind the arc.

    Possibly if Nash had been there, the Suns might have won this game? I don’t know, but looking at the stats, the Suns generally had decent percentages shooting from 3, the problem was they weren’t making enough of their 2s.

    The Suns also have a rebounding problem. In the Mavs game, they rebounded 33 whereas the Mavs got 44. I’m told that rebounding is mainly a matter of aggression; that if you want it, you can get it. It’s also a matter of positioning, in that you typically have to be close to the basket, and you have to box out the opponents. Also, it helps to have more than one player attempting to rebound, especially if the other team has 3.

    Now Gentry says his team is playing hard and with energy. And yet where is the rebounding? And why are the free throw numbers for everyone but Warrick, Lopez, Brown, and Price down?

    This is why I suggest going with a bigger front court lineup. (Well, one that plays big, instead of playing small.) It seems like the Suns all too often can’t get within 10-15 feet of the basket without getting turned away, whether it is for shooting or for rebounding. Maybe they need two big guys fighting for position down low, as was the case when Amare played PF, in order to open up the perimeter shooting.

    Instead, Gentry is trying to spread the floor, playing small ball, with the intention of making the Suns more difficult to defend. Unfortunately, the Suns aren’t quick enough or crafty enough as a group, and it is doing the opposite. It puts one defender on Gortat and one on everyone else; no one draws the double team, and no one can reliably get away from their defender. The result seems to be that the offense stultifies on most half court sets.

    Rich, you say that the Suns can’t play an inside/outside game because of Nash, yet isn’t that what they played when Amare was on the team? Isn’t that what they played the year Amare was out and they could throw the ball down to Diaw? Wasn’t Marion the 3 sweeping in from the wing?

    I don’t understand.

  • V

    Gentry is a pretty good coach, though he does leave much to be desired in terms of in game substitutions and rotations. When the Suns were (are having) trouble scoring in the fourth, he should have been going to Hak so that Nash can have someone else to run the pick and roll game through. Hak also gets to the free throw line better than anyone else on the team, which the Suns sorely needed. For some reason Gentry was barely playing him for a long stretch of games, especially after his strong start to the season.

    I’m sure it’s difficult, but he really needs to adjust rotations and substitutions much better. Like Dudley said, he wants to know his role, and Gentry is leaving everyone, including himself, guessing. Gentry said he wants to play guys who can help him win. Since he didn’t play Lopez that game, that implies Lopez can’t help them win. Maybe the front office is going to pair Lopez and Brown/someone else in a trade to get a player with legitimate scoring punch.

    Also, for those of you who think Gentry should be fired, I highly doubt that’s happening this season. There is nearly ZERO time for practice. You can’t possibly expect that the front office will make the players learn a new system without any practice time.

  • Zak

    @ Scott – I have played basketball and I can tell you that every player just has his own “comfort zone” in the game. Some love driving to the basket and others like the jump shot. The best players do both well and feel comfortable in either situation. The Suns have mostly jump shooters on the team. As for rebounding, it’s more instinct that technique. Some guys just seem to know where the rebounds are likely to come – I don’t know why – and get the best position that they can when the rebound comes. It doesn’t matter how well you can box out if you’re in the wrong position to get a rebound. Good rebounders just see the shot going up and instinctively know where it will go if it doesn’t go in the basket and get to that point. Being tall helps in getting rebounds but that isn’t all it is.

  • steve

    @Zak

    I’m not going to try to understate the importance of “instinct” when it comes to rebounding. However, I think what is often referred to as “instinct,” I actually understand to be an understanding of simple geometry and projectile motion (sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is). In baseball, when a fly ball is hit to an outfielder, every good coach will tell that fielder to run to the spot he thinks the ball will end up, stop, find the ball in the air, complete the catch. Also, their initial step is often taken before contact is made by the batter based off of the bat’s angle. Infielders do this much more than outfielders, and it’s absolutely crucial for an infielder to judge the location of a hit ball before it’s even hit. In football, on a long bomb (post or fly more than 20 yards downfield or so), a receiver is taught (among many other things, and this is when it’s allowable) to time his route so that he runs through the pass at the point where it meets his hands (aka, be running as fast as you can when you catch the ball). Jugglers don’t actually watch the item they’re catch go into their hand. They see the object at the top of its arc and know where it’s going to land…

    It’s the same in basketball. You see the shot arc, understand the angle of the shot, determine where it’s going to hit the rim, and then you’ll have a pretty good idea of where the rebound will fall. There is a science to it that can be taught or learned. It’s not all instinct. (but I understand the point you were trying to make)

    Secondly, what I was really trying to get to is that technique is just as important as “instinct,” in my opinion. As you pointed out, obviously you have to be in the right place. However, I have learned as a short basketball player (5’9″ with shoes) that the ONLY way I’m going to get rebounds from guys 6′ tall and over is by boxing them out properly. The tallest guys I play with regularly now are about 6’5″-6’7″, and I can grab boards from them on a regular basis using both “instinct” and technique, but if I didn’t have the technique, the “instinct” wouldn’t matter.

    I often catch the Suns trying to outjump their opponents rather than boxing them out and MOVING their opponents away from the ball. Boxing out isn’t JUST about putting a body on a guy. It’s about putting a body on him, then getting him out of position to even attempt to make the rebound. Often times, the Suns fail to box out, and almost always, they fail to move the opposition out of their way.

    So, again, I’m not really disagreeing with you, I just have a slightly different take on “instinct” and its relative importance to technique. Both are absolutely critical, and I don’t value one over the other. In order to be a great rebounder, you have to have both.

  • shazam

    this song is dedicated to our beloved suns season

  • Ty

    @Zak -”Great coaches can take sub-par talent, make the most of it and get wins against more talented teams.” I guess this is what concerns me the most. I understand we don’t have the most talented players but a coach should be able to elevate his players, to make them play above their talent level. Say what you will about the talent level of our players, but we have seen all of them step up as individuals from time to time. I consider nearly half the job of the coach to be able to rally his team, to make them play as a team. I’m certainly not calling for Gentry’s firing, but well I don’t know he needs ti do something to make this team want to win.

    @Cam -”I wonder if Fropez is in Gentry’s doghouse for some reason?” Really, a 7 footer who can’t rebound or score and has been given every opportunity to succeed and you wonder why he is not playing?

    I’m ready to accept that this is a throw away season and we are playing for a high draft pick. But I will be extremely upset if we don’t make some serious moves in the offseason. Bottom line is we need to spend money. Compared to the rest of the league our payroll is extremely small, and if we’re not winning which free agent is going to want to come here? I’ve been arguing with friends for years that our big problem wasn’t that we were so cheap. But the numbers don’t lie we need to spend some money to win.

  • Tony

    Zak,

    a major reason for the success of players like Frye, Dudley, and Lopez was due to the exceptional talent surrounding them. In other words, the Suns “big 3″ of a younger Nash, Amare, and J-Rich were the focal points of team’s going against the Suns and as such, this allowed guys like Frye, Dudley, and Lopez to thrive. Now, however, with an older Nash, and Amare and J-Rich gone, the Suns don’t have star players to take attention away from the Suns role players so that now, Frye, Dudley, Lopez, and the other Suns players are no longer left open or able to get to the basket with ease.
    My point is that this is not a case where the Suns players are failing to live up to their abilities, but more so that what we saw from them in the past was exceptional and primarily based on Nash, Amare, and J-Rich.

    As far as this off-season goes, the Suns are going to have a ton of cap space with nobody of max value to spend it on. It’s a pipe dream for anyone to believe the Suns will sign Howard and/or Williams. Westbrook, Love, and Gallinari, have all signed extensions, so there’s no star or superstar available for the Suns to sign. I think even the Suns front office recognizes this as rumor has it they are going to offer Nash an extension between $8-10 million for next season, more than he would command from other teams. Since they’ll have so much cap space, spending $10 million on Nash won’t afftect their ability to sign third-tier players, those who are good players but not star-caliber. Sarver knows that if he doesn’t sign any star players and lets Nash walk via free-agency, that as bad as Suns home attendance is now, won’t compare to how empty U.S. Airways Arena will be if Nash isn’t a Sun.

  • Scott

    @Tony -

    As I’ve been saying … I think the major FA signings the Suns are likely to do next season are Nash, Hill, and possibly Redd.

    It’s going to be difficult to get anyone else.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I still think Dudley gets a bad rap. I think he is a pretty good player. He isn’t a star, but every player on a squad won’t be a star. You need that guy that does his job and JMZ can do that job.

    @ Scott – I wasn’t calling you out personally, just a general defending of Gentry.

    Also, I don’t believe a great coach can get a lot out of a little. A great coach can get a lot out of good talent and championships from great talent. When there isn’t any talent there, the coach can only do so much with it.

    Still, I think the overall problem is Steve Nash. I’m calling the “Ewing Theory” in that the franchise, right now, is better off without him.

    Not because he’s not great, because he’s still a monster.

    But, he is a monster that needs specific things and they are no longer available in Phoenix.

  • Marley

    Hoot hoot!

    Look at VC light up the Suns!

    VC is LOL right now!

  • Zak

    Again, no disagreement on rebounding. It’s a blend of technique, “instinct”, physical ability and size. All I was saying was that the best rebounders have that “instinct” which in my opinion is an innate ability to quickly observe and understand the physics of the shot and the possible reaction of the ball as it approaches the basket and makes contact. Yes, I’m sure it can be taught and learned to a certain degree but it’s certainly not a skill that everyone can learn. Good technique, physical ability and size will make a good rebounder but not a great one. I never meant to say that technique isn’t important just that having that “instinct” – however you want to describe it – is the difference between a good and a great rebounder with all other factors being relatively equal.

  • Zak

    Yep, Tony, a lot of the success that many of the present Suns players had in the past was probably due to the fact that they weren’t expected to be “the man” on any given night and everything they contributed was a plus when playing with J-Rich, Nash, STAT and, to a lesser extent, Hill. Other teams didn’t focus on stopping the role players when planning on playing the Suns so they had great nights occasionally which made them seem to be potentially more than just role players.

    And I agree there will be no big FA signing for the Suns. The mood among the top NBA players these days seems to be in trying to form up a “super team” instead of joining a team on which they would be “the star” player. I suppose that’s the result of a more realistic attitude among even the stars that won great player on a team just isn’t enough to win a championship anymore. Batman and Robin may not be good enough anymore. The new ideal is to have as many Batmans as you can get.

    My hope is that the Suns do NOT try to make any big trades this season and start trying to rebuild through the draft. If they can make a few minor trades this year that will add draft picks, even 2nd round picks, I’m all for those.

  • steve

    I don’t get that sentiment that is making players join up though if they are actually thinking that one transcendent player surrounded by the right people can’t win a championship. Dirk did it just last year, and Wade did it a few years back against the Mavs. I think it would be extremely difficult to argue that any other player in those series even came close to producing the amount of wins as Wade or Dirk in their respective Finals victories. One player can win if he’s surrounded by the right guys and/or he’s willing to shoulder the load (I’m looking at you, LeBron). I firmly believe LeBron’s Cavs teams were good enough to win it all, but the lost when LeBron shied away from the moment. LeBron is good enough to win one on his own (btw, I don’t like LeBron. Disliked him before the “Decision,” dislike him even more after it.).

    Anyway, I really hope this is just a phase the NBA is going through and that it will pass, otherwise the Milwaukees, Minnesotas, Indianas, Charlottes, New Orleanses, etc etc etc of the basketball world are doomed to first round exits at best. The bullies of the playground are stacking the teams, and it’s just not fun for me to watch.

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