Phoenix Suns 104, Washington Wizards 88 -- Third quarter kill shot


Steve Nash led the Suns on a 31-6 kill shot of a run to put the Wizards away. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Steve Nash led the Suns on a 31-6 kill shot of a run to put the Wizards away. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

PHOENIX — In two consecutive games, the Phoenix Suns have blown out opponents, but for whatever reason, it took a little bit longer to get into kill-shot mood against the Washington Wizards a day after they blasted the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half.

Marcin Gortat scored 20 to win the battle against youngster JaVale McGee inside and the Suns outscored Washington 32-13 in the third quarter during their 104-88 home win on Monday. Phoenix (14-19) took the risk going with a zone defense in the third, forcing the Wizards (7-25) into off-rhythm jumpers that didn’t drop all the while making sure to pack the paint and keep John Wall out of the heart of the Suns’ defense.

The catalyst for that huge period — the best defensive quarter for the Suns this season — differs depending on who’s talking.

“I wish I had some deep thought about it,” head coach Alvin Gentry said of the Suns’ third quarter. “We were good defensively, and we got out and got easy shots. That’s all it was.”

A perturbed Randy Wittman, Washington’s interim head coach, wasn’t so sure it was anything the Suns were up to.

“Selfish is what happened,” he said. “We didn’t share the ball and tried to do everything one-on-one, and a good team like Phoenix is going to take that away from you. That’s all it was. I’m not going to put up with that. That’s something we haven’t been doing and I believe we were up one and go on a spree of the most selfish basketball I’ve seen since I’ve taken over.”

Arguing aside, the statistics told the story.

A 53-48 halftime lead for Phoenix dissipated in the first four minutes of the second half. Finding themselves down 55-54 with just more than eight minutes to play, a clearly-agitated Gentry called timeout.

“I was a little upset because we had talked about the defense we were going to play,” Gentry said. “We had half the guys in it and half the guys not. That’s why I took the quick timeout.”

That’s all the Suns needed to find cohesion.

After missing their first five shots of the quarter, the Suns all of a sudden ran off 16 straight points and had themselves an 85-61 advantage by the end of the third. They held Washington to 5-of-22 shooting in the period and got eight quick points from Michael Redd, who finished with 14 points off the bench.

Steve Nash put in 12 points and 11 assists in 27 minutes of playing time before sitting out the fourth quarter with the rest of the other starters, save Channing Frye.

Frye, who scored 19 and grabbed 11 rebounds, scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Suns gained a 19-10 advantage early.

“This sounds a little bad,” Frye said, “but I try to be as aggressive as I can for those first six minutes and see what happens. I think the more space we can get Marcin, and G-Hill and Jared, it helps. It just opens the floor.”

A lowly offensive start for the Wizards put them down 19-10, but their scoring was sparked by guard Jordan Crawford’s five quick points, part of a 7-0 run that helped Washington stay within six points, 31-25, by the end of the first quarter.

Crawford was one of the few bright spots for Washington, scoring a team-high 20 points off the bench.

Wall added 10 points, six rebounds and six assists, but Nick Young, the Wizards’ leading scorer at 17.5 points per game coming into the night, didn’t score until 37 seconds remained in the first half. He hit the first jumper of the second half en route to only six points on 3-for-13 shooting by the end of the night thanks to solid defense by Grant Hill.

On the evening, the Suns’ starting small forward tied Nash with a team-best +24 in the +/- column.

The Suns retained their lead in the fourth quarter with their bench play, and by the end of the game had allowed the Wizards to shoot 42.9 percent from the floor. More importantly, the Suns’ offense flowed like the old days as they hit 46.8 percent themselves and even outscored the young-legged Washington squad with a 22-14 advantage in fast-break scoring.

But this game is bigger than a single victory. It was a momentum builder after a big win the night prior, and with the last game before the All-Star break this Wednesday against Golden State, the Suns are still sniffing the playoff hunt.

“For the most part though, I thought we did a good job and were pretty consistent in what we were doing,” Gentry said. “We were a little tired I think, but defensively we were good and we did a good job rebounding the basketball.

“After a big win last night, and a really emotional win, to come back and take care of business like that I think is what we really need.”

And 1

  • Apparently, the logjam of a schedule isn’t hurting Phoenix so much. The Suns are 5-4 in the second game of back-to-backs this year, which obviously is a decent percentage considering the team’s overall record. Said Grant Hill: “Superior fitness and condition on our part. No, I don’t know. We have played well on second of back-to-backs. We have to keep it up. “
  • The Suns have now beaten the Wizards 10 straight times dating back to Dec. 22, 2006, when Gilbert Arenas poured in 54 in an overtime win.
  • The victory was only the second time Phoenix has won consecutive home games this season.

  • And1

    Question.

    When Aaron Brooks’ contract finishes in China, is he still with the Suns?

  • Grover

    Hard to call this a great win since it was after all the Wizards, but it was a much needed win. Good to see Nash and Hill with limited minutes – exactly what the Suns need against bad teams.

    Not Gortat’s best game. The box score only credited him with two turnovers, but it seemed like much more in person. He had maybe half a dozen times where he was unprepared to receive a pass or fumbled the pass. Part of the blame has to go to Nash as some of the passes were not as on target as we’re used to seeing, but Gortat needs to improve his concentration and awareness. He can get away with that against the Wizards, but he needs to execute better to make the Suns more consistent.

    Another great defensive outing for Hill. He’s lost quite a bit of power and pop from his legs on the offensive side (has he dunked yet this year?), but it doesn’t seem to have had much impact on his foot speed and ability to stay in front of his man. I have noticed he doesn’t help as much on defense as he used to, but its a small loss since he routinely is assigned the opponent’s biggest scoring threat and shouldn’t be helping much anyway. I haven’t decided if I think he deserves All Defensive Team recognition or not, but I’m blown away with his performance this season in context of both his age and supporting cast (or lack thereof).

    Shannon Brown… good god. Is the man brain dead? As much as I hate watching Childress shoot, at least he knows his limitations and restricts his attempts to close range. Let’s hope Gentry finally saw enough and plants Brown back on the bench. There was a couple minute stretch I think in the third quarter where Gentry was about to come unglued. I was trying to hear what he was saying, but I couldn’t tell if Gentry was yelling at Brown for several consecutive bad choices or if he was yelling at Telfair for not better controlling the offense and letting Brown off his leash. I found it odd that Telfair and Gentry were exchanging words when it seemed clearly to be Brown that was out of control.

    I know there are many here who are hoping the Suns lose in order to get a better draft pick, but I can’t go there. Let’s hope they keep it going.

  • Grover

    Brooks is not automatically a Sun. He is/was a restricted free agent, so the Suns will have the ability to match whatever contract another team offers before he can go elsewhere. Brooks signed with the Chinese team favored to win their championship and could be stuck in China deep into March or April (or so I read)

  • And1

    @Grover

    I hear you with the Gortat comments. That’s because we’ve been spoiled by Amare’s magnetic hands. But Gortat should know better. I better stop blaming Gortat though. I should blame Gentry. Gortat is a great asset as a center. But no way should he be their 1st option down the stretch. They should use Frye or someone else.

  • shazam

    gortat is playing the most minutes on the team..hes tired…lopez let him/us down…..very few can play as many minutes in this years schedule as well as gortat….m redd is they key for u non tankers out there

  • Scott

    I thought the Suns played at an even better pace (faster) than they did against the Lakers the night before. That was good to see.

  • steve

    I’m with you, Grover, on the Suns winning. I’ve never been a fan of the idea of bombing for a pick. I’ll play to win every single game because there’s no telling what the future holds one way or another.

    If the Suns do care about winning this year, they should match any offers on Brooks. I can’t even believe I’m saying that, but he’s so much better than our guards off the bench.

  • shazam

    i think the suns are a little better than they were last year…anyone agree or disagree?….why?

  • Mel.

    Okay. As much as we all agree that Alvin’s done some remarkable things for this franchise–and some equally baffling things, at that–it’s really, REALLY difficult to get behind the guy when he drops quote-bombs like these after a decisive victory:

    “I wish I had some deep thought about it,” head coach Alvin Gentry said of the Suns’ third quarter. “We were good defensively, and we got out and got easy shots. That’s all it was.”

    … I’m willing to give the whole “poker face” thing some play, here, but when the VotS boys are able to immediately identify what the source of the defensive success was (Beyond “uh, we decided to try it… you know. Whatever.”) while the coach comes off like he’s doing a tipsy Mike Brown impression… it doesn’t exactly exude newly-minted confidence or a sense of investment in keeping the changes going.

    Maybe I’m just lapsing on the side of nitpickery, but… c’mon, man! We actually won two games! GET EXCITED, GENTRY! BUIIIILD ON THIIIIS!

  • Mel.

    Also, I’d actually agree with that, shazam. I know that it might be a bit tough to sell the notion based on what we’ve seen through this half of the season, but I’d consider the following in weighing this roster against last year’s:

    *Despite a bunch of glorified rentals (Brown and Telfair) and at least one charity case (Redd), the team manages to demonstrate some degree of cohesion, on their better nights. That’s probably due entirely to the Nash factor, but in terms of the “on paper” quotient, this roster feels a hell of a lot more capable than the similar crash-and-paste job we had last year.

    *We’ve had Gortat from the get-go, and his consistency has been enough to ALMOST bail out close games or giveaways, especially when Frye was stinking the place up for the first few weeks of the shortened season. I credit Marcin with keeping us right above the water line (albeit barely), and out of Warriors-level territory.

    *The team hasn’t been partially blown up at any point, so far. Leave it to our ever-stalwart management to potentially ruin this by March 15th, but last year’s Frankenfranchise felt a lot more hopeless than what we’ve seen from the current lineups. Losing J-Rich (Regardless of the reasons) was a kidney punch, all bundled up with the admitted failure of the Earl C. experiment, the STAT hangover, the inexplicable glut of wingmen (Which is STILL partially problematic), and–yep, I’ll go there–the epic stupidity of the Turkoglu signing AND the VC acquisition.

    Actually, hold up. I’m willing to call it an argument, based solely on those last two points. Shannon Brown hasn’t exactly blossomed into the dynamo in this system, but if he’s officially the worst decision that management made this year… then yeah. There’s no way that this team’s worse than the “Hedo can manufacture at the four and play to his size” model, or the “VC’s still got something in the tank, and will take the opportunities provided in Phoenix seriously” versions…

  • Grover

    I don’t think the Suns are better this year. Nash is healthier and he’s playing better, but Hill isn’t as good offensively and Frye is shooting horribly. If anything I’d say last years team was playing a little better

    I think the suns could end the year a stronger team than last year (like thats something to brag about, right?). If Redd continues to improve, Frye rediscovers his shooting touch, and Brooks comes in to breath life into the backup pg spot.

    How depressing does that sound… The season rests on Redd, Frye, and Brooks. And our 38 year old point guard continuing to play at all star levels. And our 39 year old defensive stopper to continue to cheat time.

    I need a drink.

  • http://godaddy.com Big Daddy

    The Suns will retain restricted free agent rights on Aaron Brooks once his team is eliminated from the Chinese Basketball Association playoffs.
    For what it’s worth (very little), Brooks is averaging 20.5 points and 4.8 assists in China. His team is in first place, so he’s not expected to be eligible to return to the NBA until March. Brooks may choose to sit out the rest of the NBA season in search of a multi-year deal this summer.

  • GoSuns

    I kinda doubt that Brooks will sit out, he wants to make some money and needs to prove to NBA owners why hes capable and has continued to develop his game, I think we are a better team this year because everybody has an understanding of what they give to the team and some of our pieces are actually fitting (Morris, Redd, Telfair injects some much needed energy every now then as so Brown, Childress does what he can here and there, and Lopez is just inconsistent but hes still a 7footer so whatever) but the point is these guys are playing together and Dudz, Nash, Gortat and Hill are leading the pack, i’m excited four our suns and i realize they’re not the cream of the crop anymore and I dont even live in phx so I have to watch most games on gamecast on my phone but i still root for them and I’m looking forward to a great second half of the season

  • http://godaddy.com Big Daddy

    Robin Lopez is sickening. Watching him play just hurts, like I said in previous articles, he is the most uncoordinated professional athlete. Such a waste of height, I mean at 7 feet he should be DOMINATING. He’s got a good 2-3 inches on gortat, never mind the wingspan on the freak. Why can’t he play like his twin brother? Before even thinking the suns have a shot at making the playoffs, I’d like to see them win a couple more in a row at home.

  • And1

    The Suns this year vs last year are equally the same if not worse. And the reason I say that is because of the bench.

    Last year, if Nash didn’t play Suns lived by J-Rich & Dragic and won some games without Nash, and latter that year also won with Gortat, Frye, and Brooks leading the way. This year Suns only won 1 game with Nash out. I’m sorry but Telfair & Price is not reliable at all. I was wrong to say that Price is a good back up to Nash.

    Brown is a brick builder, Warrick a free basket giver, and Telfair & Price has this on and off thing similar to that of a woman having hormone changes, you can’t expect what comes from the next game from these guards. The key to greatness is consistency, and Nash has that, especially when it comes to energy & focus. I wish the guys really try to absorb that into their system.

    I really do hope Brooks come back to Suns because I think that will cure this years woes. I believe our Suns starting line up can compete even with the league’s best starting line-up. If you think about it, most of our loss if not all were due to the bench’s lack of production whenever the starters had to rest and sit out.

    If Suns get Brooks back this March and somehow makes a great trade using Brown, Warrick, Lopez, Price, and even Telfair for someone like for say a Zach Randolph type of player and a scorer. Then expect the Suns to turn lots of heads and even surprise all to win a ring this year.

  • Mel.

    Agreed about Brooks, but only if his head’s in the right place, and he’s inspired by the opportunity to either replace Nash (if Steve does indeed switch zipcodes) or split minutes with him (in case Two-Time opts for the extension and looks to retire in the purple and orange, which still seems like an off-hand possibility, given his mindset). I like what I saw from AB in terms of gutsiness last year, though it seems like every pundit with two opinions to click together has him pegged as a guy who’s going to chase the dollars or a role with a ready-made contender.

  • Grover

    And1 – love the trade idea, but I think we’d be lucky to trade Lopez, Brown, Warrick, Price, and Telfair for a box of donuts let alone a quality player.

  • Scott

    Even if Brooks returned to close out the season, if I understand it correctly, the Suns don’t expect to include him next year.