Golden State Warriors 102, Phoenix Suns 96 — Letdown on the glass


Steve Nash and the Suns were outraged after their second-half collapse in Oakland. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Steve Nash and the Suns were outraged after their second-half collapse in Oakland. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Just as the Phoenix Suns started clicking, another letdown lurked right around the corner.

On Monday night that letdown materialized in the form of a 12-point blown lead in the second half, more struggles on the defensive glass and a heavy dosage of David Lee, as the Warriors ended the Suns’ hot streak with a 102-96 victory in Oakland.

The Suns entered tonight having won four of five while winning games in a variety of different fashions. Their bench come alive to beat Charlotte, they used a complete game that Grant Hill described as vintage “Phoenix Suns basketball” to take down Atlanta, and they exploded for stretches of electric offensive basketball to defeat the Bucks before Kings coach Keith Smart lauded the Suns’ defense after Saturday’s win in Sacramento.

They seemed to have regained their mojo, but thanks to their old arch nemesis rebounding the Suns allowed the Warriors to hang around long enough to take control at the end.

“You’ve got to finish games. You’ve just got to finish games,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry repeated on the Suns’ postgame show. “We did a terrible job of finishing the game, and I said to the guys at halftime, ‘You can’t play around with a team like this that has that many weapons. One of their guys is going to get hot, and we’re going to regret it.’”

Although the Suns bottled up Monta Ellis (18 points of 5-for-20 shooting) and Stephen Curry (nine, 3-for-10), Lee was the man who got hot to the Suns’ regret tonight. Lee finished with a fat stat line of 28 points and 12 boards on 13-for-22 shooting, and it all started on the offensive glass, where Lee grabbed four of the Warriors’ 15 caroms.

This of course is nothing new, as the Suns entered the night ranked 25th in defensive rebound rate — and they were even worse last season — yet once again it’s a major reason they lost. The Warriors grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half alone to stay within three points at the break despite Phoenix shooting 50.0 percent and Golden State 37.3.

“It all started in the first half when we gave up so many offensive rebounds,” Gentry said. “We did a really good job offensively, but we gave up so many offensive rebounds that they were able to stay in the game.”

Still, the Suns built a 12-point advantage midway through the third, only to see the Warriors roar back to take the lead with a subsequent 10-0 run as Lee scored 15 in the period and Ellis 11 following his 2-for-12 first half.

The Dubs led throughout the fourth, extending their advantage to a game-high 10 points when Nate Robinson capped a 9-2 run with a long three-point bomb. The Suns quickly answered back with a 7-0 run of their own, but Jared Dudley missed a potential game-tying three and then Ekpe Udoh hit a back-breaking bucket in the paint that sealed the game when Dudley could not knock down another open three down five with 30 seconds left.

“I def have to hit one of those shots at the end of the game!!” Dudley tweeted. “But now we gotta put that behind us and get ready for Denver tomorrow.”

Gentry left the arena “disappointed” because he felt the Suns had a great chance to win if they would have taken care of the things written on the team’s whiteboard, which he said included (as always) offensive rebounding, turnovers (the Suns committed 14) and the transition game.

“We didn’t win those battles,” Gentry said. “The last time we played them we won those battles, and we didn’t win those battles tonight.”

The Suns lost despite a monster game from Marcin Gortat, who nearly matched Lee with a career-high-tying 25 points and 12 boards while hitting 11-of-17 shots. Nash did his job with 14 assists complementing seven points, Channing Frye continued his hot stretch by chipping in with 18 points and Markieff Morris added 10 fourth-quarter points as the Suns made their comeback.

The Suns’ 29 assists also tied a Warriors opponent season high. On the flip side, no Sun other than Gortat pulled down more than five rebounds and the team knocked down just 5-of-25 shots from long range. It goes without saying that this is a completely different game if the Suns hit just a couple of them.

The loss was disappointing mainly because this was a winnable game against a below average opponent on a night the Suns controlled things through two and a half quarters.

It especially hurts because the Suns now must finish off this three games in a row stretch with tough ones at Denver and home against Atlanta before facing the Lakers twice in a row. Toward that end every Suns starter played at least 31 minutes (including 36 for Nash and 34 for Hill), yet it all went for naught.

Overall the past six games have been encouraging and the Suns certainly are playing at a higher level than they were earlier this season, but if they are going to make a surprise run back to the fringes of the playoff picture this is the kind of game they needed to take care of.

  • BoomShakaLuka

    Suns aren’t winning any battles with Channing Frye on the roster. This dude needs to be traded/amnestied as of yesterday. He’ll put up the points on occasion, but it’s fool’s gold.

    He went 1-8 from downtown. He’s still content with just camping back at the three point line and hoisting. Does he not realize he can step in about 10-15 feet and make it a lot easier on himself?

    It’s equally frustrating because he’ll get continually manhandled defensively, and out-muscled on virtually each rebound or loose ball.

    Get a PF in here who’s going to play the position the right way. I’m sick of this preoccupation with the stretch 4 who thinks he’s a SG.

  • steve

    FYI, the amnesty deadline is long gone. He could definitely be traded though, and I would be all for it. I really don’t like Frye’s game one bit. It’s nothing against him as a person, because he seems like a good guy to have on a team from a chemistry standpoint. The fact is he’s just not a well-rounded player who can contribute in multiple ways on any given night. The Suns need consistency more than anything, and Frye is not the type of player who can provide that.

    I think he would be fantastic for a team like Miami, where they could simply sit him on the bench if he’s not hitting. Miami has three other guys who are going to be on more often than not. The Suns have one and a half of those types of players.

  • Scott

    @Boom -

    I don’t think the Suns under Gentry are interested all that strongly in an inside game. He seems to be purposefully looking to assemble a small ball perimeter shooting team.

    Gortat appears to be the only Suns player who has been given scripted plays near the basket, and a lot of his offense is actually near and mid-range jump shots or lay-ins with no one around the basket. None of the Suns’ big men can spin to the hoop if they have a defender on their back, possibly because they tend to catch the ball too far out. Inside scoring does not appear to be practiced or otherwise orchestrated by the coach.

    Anyway, I believe this purposeful reliance on jump shooting is what is causing you to be so down on Frye. If every jump shooter was as reliable as Ray Allen or Steve Nash, there wouldn’t be a problem, but these two guys are likely to end up in the Hall of Fame because such consistency is rare.

    On those occasions where the Suns are clicking and the perimeter shots are going in, it looks like the Suns are winners. But when those shots aren’t falling, the Suns can’t get inside to score higher percentage shots, and they lose.

    I’m also waiting for Gentry to move Redd into the starting lineup. I realize Dudley is performing well in that spot, and it’s a hard decision to move him, but if the Suns are serious about winning, Dudley and Frye have to go to the bench, and Redd and Lopez have to join the starters.

  • Scott

    @steve -

    IMO, the problem with Frye is that he’s being played as a starter. To me, he’s a dominant bench player. He can play with the starters in stretches if there’s a mismatch or if he’s playing well, or if there’s an injury to a starter, but if you’re looking to assemble an elite team capable of going deep into the playoffs, he’s a 2nd unit guy.

  • Al

    Actually Frye did do score a couple of his points close to the rim posting up. As for David Lee, the dude was just too much for the two bigger suns to handle on defense. I don’t know if it was just luck, but Lee just kept hitting shots off the glass like he was Tim Duncan in his prime. Phoenix needs a big like Lee that has great handles and doesn’t have to be fed the ball so much to score. Frye is a tall SF 3 point specialist, Kieff is still learning, Gortat is still developing his game, and Lopez is extremely turnover prone.
    The thing that annoyed me the most about this game was the amount of second chance points the suns allowed the warriors to score off 15 offensive rebounds! This proved to me that the size does not matter when the suns are trying to go for a rebound. The big just don’t have the ability to get in the right position and box out properly even against a small team like the warriors.
    Finally, the back up point guards did some hustle plays, but they seem to have a really hard time getting anything going. Seemed like they just kept passing the ball around the 3 point line or to someone inside the paint that was well defended that led to a few turnovers. Current Second unit just isn’t cutting it, which is why I insist Brown to be placed at 1 (He’s already talked about his discontent of lack of playing time.) Gentry with his mad scientist mindset should give that a shot, otherwise he is just some wasted talent sitting on the bench. Expect Brown to play either today (against Denver) or tomorrow (against Atlanta). Hopefully this week doesn’t turn into a nightmare for the Suns. They have a chance to get back to .500.

  • KeZ

    I know Brown´s a ballhog but come on….. the guy can score buckets and play some defense. Warrick not dressed for action?! Wtf is happening to my beloved Suns!

  • steve

    Warrick is one of the few Suns who can score often, but I’m ok with him not playing because he has shown very little (if any) commitment to improving his game on the defensive end of the floor. MAYBE his metabolism really won’t let him put on pounds, but I highly doubt there is nothing he could do to gain another 15-20 pounds and get more of a conventional 4′s body. He’s just simply in no-man’s-land with his size. He’s too slow to be a 3 but too scrawny to be a 4, and he’s simply not tough enough mentally or physically to be out on the court.

    As for Brown… I think he’s one of the best cases of braun over brains. He has the physical tools and coordination to be a fantastic player in the NBA. He could easily be a top 5 SG (if only because that position is super weak right now). However, like Warrick, he has shown no commitment to improve his game over the years. Everyone knows what his deficiencies are, and they are not physical limitations, they are mental blocks. He constantly jacks up bad shots. His vision is awful. In general, I think he never looks like he’s on the same page as the rest of his team. He’s just a pain to watch, in all honesty, and the first word that comes to my mind when I think of Shannon Brown is “slacker.” He seems lazy to me.

    I think Gentry has found the right guys to put on the court if working hard is to be valued over talent. We all know the talent isn’t there this year, but at least I can see a lot of the guys on the floor hustling and working. In all honesty, there is no better way to represent yourself as a man or your community and fans than to work hard even while losing. Losing builds a lot more character than winning. I’d definitely rather win, but in some ways, I cherish a season like this. It isn’t often Suns fans are faced with a losing team.

  • Zak

    Frye’s not a bad player. He’s not really a starter but not a bad player. He’s developed some bad habits since he’s been with the Suns, mostly shooting too many 3′s. Yeah, he was 1-8 from downtown in this game but he was also 6-9 from inside the arc and 3-3 at the charity stripe (not to mention adding 5 rebs, 4 assists, 1 stl and 1 block). Gentry needs to tell him to forget the 3′s and play closer to the basket. That won’t make him “great” but it should at least make him better. It might even give him the opportunity to grab a few offensive rebs… of which he had zero in this game.

    The real overall problem is that the Suns only have 3-4 true starters on this team (4 if you truly believe that Redd can make it back even close to his old form) plus a bunch of subs/role players. I also like Morris and think he may have the potential to become a starter but he’s too inexperienced right now to play well against other starting PFs in the NBA.

  • KeZ

    @Steve –

    Well written buddy!

    Our Phx team is in “no mans land”. Not good enough to make the playoffs and not bad enough to get a top 5 draft pick!

    It´s hard to watch when we(fans) don´t have a clue what will happen this season because right now where stuck in the middle of a playoff spot and a high draft pick…..

  • Zak

    As for starting both Gortat and Lopez…

    There is no way anyone can convince me that Lopez could play the 4 spot so that would mean starting Gortat at the 4 with Lopez playing the 5. Stan Van Gundy is a very good coach IMO and it just seems to me that if Gortat could actually play the 4 spot that Van Gundy would have had him there beside Dwight Howard during the years Gortat played in Orlando.

    I certainly wouldn’t mind being proven wrong! But Gentry’s tried almost everything this season except that so I assume there has to be a reason he doesn’t put the two of them on the court at the same time.

  • Zak

    As for Brown, if you could pair his physical ability with the brains of Nash or Hill… he would be an all star.

  • steve

    @Zak

    I’m not sure I agree with you about Lopez and Gortat not being able to play together. Be warned, I don’t really have any concrete evidence to back myself up, but here are my observations:

    When Gortat was in ORL, that offense consisted of driving and dishing out for a 3 or driving and dishing to Dwight for a dunk. Obviously Gortat doesn’t have 3-pt range, so I think their option of playing the two of them together was limited in that regard. Secondly, I don’t know if they really had a third center to speak of, or even someone they could have used as their third center. If they truly had no third center, then that would limit their ability to ever use Gortat and Howard together even further. Third, I don’t think Gortat was nearly as polished of an offensive force as he currently is, meaning they would have two bigs who would need to be within 5 feet of the basket to score effectively.

    In the case of Lopez and Gortat, the first point about the ORL Gortat is still true. Phoenix runs a very similar offense in that it’s all about penetration and dishing. HOWEVER, I think the Suns could really benefit much more by running a high-low than Orlando ever could have, especially considering the limited range of their bigs (more on that in a second). To the second point, the Suns have four guys who are capable of playing the 4/5 at an NBA level (at least in spurts). If Gortat and Lopez were rolling together, the Suns would still have Frye and Morris getting rested and ready (and if Lopez/Gortat would be our high-low lineup, then Frye/Morris would certainly be our stretch-the-flood lineup). To the third point, Lopez and Gortat have both consistently shown they have a decent shot up to 15-18 feet from the basket. I think their range would make it much easier to run a high-low PnR game, which might prove more effective than our current PnR game, especially when Nash isn’t the one running it.

    In my opinion, a team that shoots as poorly as the Suns have been shooting needs to get more opportunities closer to the basket. They aren’t going to do that with their current scheme.

    FYI, I’m also of the opinion that Lopez and Gortat won’t work together, but it’s not because I believe it CAN’T work together. I just don’t think anything of Lopez as a competitor. I think he’ll shrink and become worthless if he’s out there with another inside threat. He’ll defer to Gortat and we’ll be playing 4 on 5.

  • Zak

    @ steve – I think that the 4 needing to have 3 point range is very over rated. Yes, they need a good outside jumper to be really effective but they don’t need to be a 3 pt shooter. And I wasn’t saying that Orlando should have STARTED Howard and Gortat together but that there plenty of opportunities to play them together for at least short periods of time without the need for a third center… but they didn’t.

    From what I’ve seen of both Gortat and Lopez is that they are both a little too slow to keep up with starting 4′s in the NBA defensively. If they played off the better 4′s, they would shoot over them and if they played them tight then they will blow by them on the way to the basket. It’s not really either of their offensive games that I question at the 4 but their defense. IMO Bosh, Amare and many other NBA 4′s would eat them alive if they had to try to defend them. But it still may be worth a shot. As I said, I would love nothing more to be proven wrong.

  • Zak

    Frye is NOT an NBA center no matter what people want to believe. Trying to play him for more than a few minutes at the 5 spot is just insane. He’s an oversized 3 who is a little too slow to play the 3 spot. He’s not strong enough to play the 4 spot but shoots the 3 well enough and grabs enough rebounds to stay there. He’s just tall enough to think of as a center but virtually every other center in the NBA will destroy him if he plays that position against them. He plays well enough to stay in the NBA but he doesn’t really fit anywhere.

    Putting Gortat and Lopez together in the starting lineup may actually work but leaving the backup center position to Frye just doesn’t make sense. Putting Hill in as the backup center makes more sense than Frye.

  • steve

    I think the 4 stretching the floor is a useless basketball concept that needs to be killed with fire. So, I think we agree there. I was just presented Frye/Morris as a stretch option because Gentry seems to love playing that way.

    I agree with everything else you said except I do believe Gortat could keep up with the 4′s in this league fairly well. The only reason I even knew who he was at all before he came to PHX was because I remember him DESTROYING Stoudemire on both ends of the floor in a game where Stoudemire got Howard into foul trouble. Small sample size, admittedly, but Gortat stuck in my head after that. I think he’s definitely more of a 5 than a 4, but I think if he HAD to guard the 4 right now he’d be pretty effective. And, in all honesty, I don’t think he could be any worse than Frye or Morris at guarding the 4-spot.

    You certainly have sound reasons, so I’m not trying to pick a fight or anything. I just wish we could see this in action so we could KNOW how Gortat would do at the 4 and how Gortat/Lopez would work together rather than guessing.

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

    Using the 4 position to keep an offense flowing is not useless. In fact, it is critical. From Karl Malone to Charles Barkley to Kevin Garnett to Love, to LMA, to Timmy Duncan and Rasheed Wallace.

    It is one of the better “newish” concepts in basketball.

    That is not the issue. The issue is what else is installed in said offense.
    All of those guys had their plays where they pulled guys away from the basket or even attacked from distance. Love, LMA, and even Bosh in today’s NBA are perfect examples of the 4 spot providing great spacing.

    All of those guys pull people out, but they also have plays that attack the rim and plays that are designed for others, but when the shot goes up, they’re inside to help with offensive boards or they are instructed to crash the boards.

    Two problems in Phoenix.

    Channing Frye is not an inside player. Strange because when he came into the league he had a nice mid range game and his length gave him a decent mini-turn-and-face inside shot. The result is that he is ALWAYS outside, and this is wrong.

    Other problem is that Gentry hasn’t installed any sort of lane-attacking offense that blends well with his spread attack. If Nash is going off of a Gortat screen, there should be some weakside action going on where Hill or Childress or Redd is getting to the rim.

    Those two issues are crippling Morris, who, even as a rookie has already shown that if things like that were installed, he would thrive. Because they are not, he is turned into a Channing Frye 2 even though his game does not Mirror Frye’s.

    But again, this all goes back to the team scripting the offense out to suit Steve Nash.

    When he is gone, these things will show up.

  • Scott

    Orlando really couldn’t play Gortat at PF with Howard at C, because – as noted – there was no other backup for Howard. Also, since Howard drew the double team, they preferred to use Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson to stretch the floor, under the theory that if you double team Howard, a shooter will be open.

    IIRC, even when Gortat was traded there was no other backup for Howard.

    Furthermore, no one – not even Gortat – knew that Gortat had an offensive game till he got to the Suns. I’m pretty sure he said in interviews last year that he surprised himself with his offensive production. That’s quite different from saying something like, “Oh yeah, I’m the top scorer on my national team, so I knew I could do it, I just never got the chance in Orlando.”

    As for Gortat and Lopez having any synergy together, I think they probably would. It would have to be tried out, of course, and better to check it out in practice before putting it on the court. But Robin was used to playing with his brother, Brook, who was a scoring PF. And Robin has played alongside Amare. As Steve noted, Robin would prefer to be complementary to a PF on offense, but that’s what he’s used to, as opposed to how he’s being used now, as lone guy in the paint, receiving the ball 8-12′ out.

    For that matter, while I never saw them play together except in a few video clips, I understand Markieff was the complementary C to his brother Marcus at PF … same as with the Lopez twins. Has this disabled Markieff? No, he’s doing fine … but he’s also being played in a manner that suits what he knows from college: tight on-man defense and either shooting from the perimeter or at the hoop.

    If you want to play Robin according to what he knows, then you get someone in there at PF who is going to share the paint, who is going to be the focal point of the front court offense. Robin then helps create the opportunity for the PF to score, or acts as a secondary option scoring either by short pass or put back. Robin can also run pick and rolls with Nash like Gortat does. He just doesn’t have a comfort level with being a primary scorer because he’s never been that before, and it looks to me like he’s not comfortable right now with how he’s being used because he A) gets used so sparingly he probably has to think about what he’s doing, and maybe even rummage through his long term memory about what to do when he gets the ball, and B) he’s not a solo, back to the basket type scorer.

    I remember how happy Robin looked when Price bolted past the basket one day, feeding Robin the ball where Robin could put it in. That act improved Robin’s whole game that day. If you use the player according to their abilities, and help them get into their offense, they’ll play better all around. That’s one of the reasons why players like playing with Nash, because rather than chronically misuse you, and make you try to adapt to him, he tries to get you in position to score and then he gives you the ball where you can catch it and score.

    As for Frye, he can play excellent defense at center, but it seems to take so much physical and mental energy he has little left for offense. If he’s playing PF I think it’s more difficult for him to defend that position successfully than it is at center, but he has a little more energy for offense. That’s my impression.

    I normally recommend that Frye play C for the 2nd unit because defending the opposing bench C is typically not as demanding as defending the starting C; there’s fewer minutes, for one thing, and a lower power / skill level from the bench C. So in that case Frye still has energy left for offense. And we’ve seen him play well at backup C, so there’s proof of this.

  • Scott

    @steve -

    Yes, Amare would get Howard into foul trouble and out would come Gortat and he would handle Amare on both ends.

    Gortat has asked Gentry to allow him to play PF with Lopez at C. That suggests to me that Gortat believes it can be done.

  • Tony

    Rich,

    Morris’s game in college was shooting from deep. That’s primarily how he improved his game and was a big reason why the Suns drafted him. So let’s not pretend he has some dominating inside game. Last night he did well in the post against smaller players playing out of position. He’s not going to have that same amount of success going against real caliber pfs.

    Scott, this idea that Lopez should start is ridiculous. The guy has been playing horribly and you want to reward him by putting him in the starting lineup? As bad as the Suns offense is now, pairing Gortat and Lopez together will decimate any offensive spacing. Gortat has dramatically improved his post game but not his mid-range shot. As such, how would he have any effectiveness offensively when whoever’s guarding Lopez can easily provide help defense on Gortat and not have to worry about Lopez? It’s why the Suns are such a better team when Frye shoots well because then defenses are stretched and the paint isn’t clogged preventing pick&rolls and drives to the basket.

    People, the Suns problems offensively are not the result of the system but the lack of TALENT!! Other than Nash, none of theses players are exceptional on the offensive end and most are not all that good defensively either. This roster is simply overmatched against most teams because of the inherent lack of talent on the Suns. What’s also killing the Suns is the horrible backup pg play. You could combine Telfair and Price and still not have an NBA quality backup pg. This is what happens when you have a cheap owner who’s also incompetent, and who hires other incompetent people to fill critical roles in the front office. Nothing’s going to change next season either. The Suns will still be a lottery team and utterely irrelevant.

  • steve

    Good post until the misinformation in the last couple sentences. However, I would contend that Gortat has, in fact, dramatically improved his mid-range game. He’s better than the average big at hitting the 15-footer (or at least he was a couple weeks ago when I checked). He’s no Tim Duncan, but he’s far better than most 5′s.

  • Scott

    I agree that the Suns have failed to take the backup point guard situation seriously. There’s been one bad move after another, with the last good move in that area being the purchase of San Antonio’s pick and using it to take Dragic.