Preview: Phoenix Suns (11-15) at Sacramento Kings (10-16)

Phoenix Suns 98, Sacramento Kings 84



PHOENIX — Odd as it sounds, a three-game road trip might be just what the doctor ordered for the Phoenix Suns.

With a better winning percentage on the road (6-8) than at home (5-7), the Suns might benefit from a three-game road trip that begins tonight against the Sacramento Kings.

“I think with new faces, new guys, us getting away … you hang out more, you bond a little more,” guard Jared Dudley said. “I don’t know, maybe you sleep a little better on the road when you don’t have kids and wives. Hopefully we can continue because we have three big road games coming up.”

Head coach Alvin Gentry knows that a decent road record means nothing if Phoenix can’t win in US Airways Center. His players still haven’t played well with consistency, and he’s hoping this road trip can set fire to their play at home.

“You can’t be a sub-.500 team at home and make the playoffs,” Gentry said. “I’ve never heard of that.”

Yet, the Suns found offensive cohesion in their recent three-game winning streak, and it’s arguable that remained in the 96-89 loss to the Rockets on Thursday. It was rebounding that ultimately lost the game for Phoenix, and it wasn’t just giving up 22 second-chance points to the Rockets. That poor rebounding also affected the Suns’ own scoring, especially from their bench unit.

En route to a 15-point second quarter, the Suns scored three points in the first seven minutes of the period during Thursday’s loss to Houston. Again in the fourth, Phoenix’s offense went stale.

They scored only 13 points in the last 12 minutes.

“You can’t do that,” Gentry said. “It’s hard for us to win if we’re going to get 28 points in the second and fourth quarters. We give up 50 and score 28. That doesn’t add up.”

Michael Redd has been the only consistent scorer off the bench for the Suns, scoring in double-digits in the last three games. Meanwhile, no other Phoenix bench player has hit the 10-point mark.

Scoring has been a problem, and Josh Childress said the solution lies on the other end of the floor.

“I think what we have to do is really focus on getting out of the half court,” Childress said, “and getting into the up-tempo, pushing the limits defensively. Just causing havoc. We’re stuck in the half court game, we’re not hitting shots, we’re not scoring.”

Three keys for Phoenix

Taking Sac seriously. I know, I know. Any NBA team can beat any other NBA team on any given night. I know the Kings have a 10-16 record. They are 26th in the NBA in offensive rating and 27th in defensive rating. But Sactown is on the rise behind their talented young roster and invigorating first-year coach Keith Smart. DeMarcus Cousins is a double-double waiting to happen, Tyreke Evans can score in downpours, and the Kings have won four of their last five — and two of those wins came against Portland and Oklahoma City.

Bring the help. Outside of DeMarcus Cousins, most of the Kings’ scoring comes from their backcourt. None of the four guards that play the most minutes — Evans, Marcus Thornton, and rookies Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas — shoot above 41.5 percent from the field. That means the Suns can probably get away with over-helping, as they’d rather crowd the lane (and Cousins while they’re at it) and let the Kings’ guards take jumpers instead of allowing them to get to the rim.

Managing minutes. After the Sacramento game, Phoenix has a day of rest before playing three games in three days. Dudley said he hadn’t played a schedule that stacked since competing in conference tournaments at Boston College. So how Gentry deals with dolling out minutes tonight will be noteworthy, as it could affect a brutal three-game stretch thereafter.

“We’re still in the process of figuring out what to do,” Gentry said, adding that their decision-making will come one game at a time. “I’ll also talk to Steve and Grant and Michael and see how they want to approach it.”

  • shazam

    i think part of why we lost to houston was because of how gentry has been giving too many minutes to gortat…in a normal season it wouldnt be too bad..but in this compacted season gentry is killing him…many of the minutes arent needed either thats the confusing part…a lot of what gentry does is confusing come to think about it…FIRE HIM

  • Tony

    He gotta play huge minutes beacuse Lopez is a BUM!

  • bob_s

    Lopez not a bum, just inconsistency personified. Gentry takes him out when he repeatedly misses easy lay ins, like a cleaning lady who forgets to empty the waste basket.

    Like most, he needs more minutes to gain effectiveness,
    but wont get them if he continues to miss the easy stuff.

    Comments on Houston: On ESPN highlights, Lopez was doing a great job staying in front of a guard or small forward on a break. Instead of taking the 2nd guy on the break, Redd was directly behind Lopez, practically crawling up his back. Ball handler passes to second guy, easy lay-in. Has Redd had a pre-frontal lobotomy? Why did no one in the back court yell out to Redd to take the guy behind him ????????????

    What was Nash doing trying to defend under the basket while Gortat and another big were right there defending? Ball handler passed to Nash’s guy at the 3-point line, easy open shot, placed on ESPN highlights. Not age or fatigue on part of Nash, just not taking his own man. TAKE YOUR OWN MAN, GUYS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! These 2 stupid plays the difference in the game.

    Oh, and once again, where is the offensive rebounding outside of Childress ???

    Gentry should not be held responsible for curing obvious mental deficiencies?

  • Scott

    I agree with Childress that ending up in half court sets on offense … yet lacking an inside attack … they’re prone to stall out. What they used to do in the half court is throw the ball down to Amare. So if they can’t (won’t) play big inside, they simply have to run faster and get down the court before the defense settles in (small ball).

    Also … I realize they spent $30,000 for a couple days of studying with Olajuwon, but maybe they should watch tape of Scola. He never leaves his feet yet he reliably scores.

    As for Lopez, he’s not being used right, and the 2nd unit play is all unplanned. The 2nd unit needs preparation and consistency in their offense. My impression is that Gentry is doing this year what he appeared to do last year, and that is to simply throw all his garbage players at the 2nd unit PG and tell him to make something of it.

    I guess Gentry was fortunate in his first year that the 2nd unit naturally came together. Seeing what he’s done since then, I don’t think we can give him credit for that unit’s success.

    @bob_s -

    Yeah, I’ve noticed weird defensive lapses. And I find it ironic that right after Gortat gets quoted in the press as having come to the conclusion that rebounding “comes from the heart and the simple desire to get the ball” … right after that he fails to ring up double-digit rebounds in games and describes himself as being lost on the floor in a daze.

    My solution, as I’ve said before, is to have the option available to put 2 big men in the paint on offense for higher percentage at the hoop scoring and stronger rebounding.

    I still think Redd and Lopez should be with the starters, and Dudley and Frye should be with the reserves. That gives the starters two quality paint defenders /pick and roll targets, plus 3 shooters and penetrators. It gives the reserve unit solid offense and defense (Frye, Morris, Childress/Warrick, Dudley, PG du jour) that should beat the reserves of every other team out there.

  • Scott

    Let me add that just as Nash and Hill are the captains of the starting unit, Gentry should make Dudley and Frye captains of the 2nd unit. I believe that if Dudley and Frye are calling the shots and holding players accountable, the 2nd unit will work.

  •!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    First of all, Lopez is absolute trash. THORTAT!?!? Has to log major minutes and I’m okay with that if Gentry was actually installing things to allow Marcin to take advantage of his skill set more often.

    Instead, he leaves him out there to do all of the dirty things. Now, while he should be doing some of those things it shouldn’t be his first priority out there. He is the best option on offense after Nash and that’s where Gentry should have him attacking. He’s going to rebound and defend anyway.

    Gentry has him out there trying to do all of the dirty defensive / offensive stuff by himself for the benefit of this spread offense. This is wrong and needs to be corrected.

    JMZ is not and should not be the captain of the second unit. Unfortunately, the captain of the second unit now plays in Houston and he has not been replaced.

    I agree that the second unit has no identity. In my opinion, I think the second unit should be the true small ball / SSOL squad.

    Telfair / Price / Redd / Chilly / Warrick, (or Morris or Frye).

    Have them play that soft help-but-let-them-shoot-jumpers Mike D’Antoni defense, then RUN.

    Telfair and Price are migraines on the offensive end, but they’re on-ball defense is stellar so the breakdowns shouldn’t be so bad. Warrick screens and rolls, (because he’s probably still the best dive man on the team and actually has a half-reliable mid-range shot now), and Redd uses the sniper scope from everywhere. Chilly is going to do the dirty things.

    I’d run that, and sub out Redd as needed and whoever is at the 5 as needed before the starters come back.

  • Tony

    Thanks sombody agrees with me look at Lopez stats his whole career he is 7 foot tall and cant even give you 10 points and at the bare minimum 7 rebounds a game he should be able to get atleast 10 a game he skinny his footwork sucks and he misses layups he is pure garbage and that explains why Phoenix did not offer him an extinsion and to pay him almost 3 million is absolutly obsurd you cant even trade him cause nobody want him and he has no trade value like I said BUM!!!!

  • Tony

    Ohh and by the way here is another sad fact about Lopez in the 4 years he been on the team and the size he got he dont even got 800 rebounds……

  • shazam

    totally agree w/ you TONY i came late to the dumpez party that you threw a long time ago but im leaning over the porcelain puking with everyone else now

  • Tony

    Lopez not the only problem Channing Frye is a problem all he want to do is shoot threes at 7 foot he he needs to stay down around the basket if he had a jumper like Dirk than mabe I would give him a pass but he dont if you gonna shoot the least you can do is find a mid range jumper first…its rediclious if you watch the games he roaming around the three point line and when he is in the post he dont look comfortable…..and his footwork sucks also

  • Scott

    The Sacramento game is now over, and I have to say that Grant Hill maybe didn’t have his best game of the year, but he looked like he was finally in excellent shape, with lots of energy.

    When the pre-season started, Hill had such a round baby face. He didn’t seem heavy to me, but his face showed extra weight. I was wondering what the deal was. His face in the commercials shot in previous years is lean.

    Of course, then I found out about his knee operation and his struggle to get back into shape.

    Well, now that leanness is coming back to his face, and he’s playing great. :)

    It was also good to see Price get back onto the court. Maybe he doesn’t have the same court vision or passing ability as Telfair does, but I think he’s better on his own personal offense and defense. The rest of it may come with more minutes. I think he may have the right tools; they’re just a little rusty, though.

    Also, in the battle of the rookies, I thought Morris came out as the clear winner over Fredette, who was picked a few spots earlier. Things may change later on – who knows – but at the moment, the Suns clearly made the better pick.