Golden State Warriors 106, Phoenix Suns 104 — Another letdown

Posted by on February 23rd, 1:10 am

PHOENIX — Entering tonight’s game the Phoenix Suns seemed positioned for a run out of the West’s dungeon, at least so much as that can be the case for a squad sitting in 13th in its conference five games under .500.

After all, Phoenix had just followed perhaps its best win of the season Sunday over the Lakers with a convincing effort Monday against Washington and 10 of its next 12 games were scheduled for downtown Phoenix.

Then the first quarter happened tonight against the Warriors to remind us all why the Suns were in this dire predicament in the first place.

The Suns hemorrhaged 39 points to the Warriors (a Golden State season high) in a pathetic opening period that had head coach Alvin Gentry fuming when Monta Ellis’ game-winning jumper over Grant Hill prevented a Phoenix comeback from 21 down and gave Golden State its first win in Phoenix in 14 tries, dating back to March 8, 2005.

“The game was lost in the first 10 minutes of the game,” Gentry said of Phoenix’s 106-104 defeat. “We got an opportunity to do something good and we come out like that is just ridiculous. It’s unfair to the fans in the stands. The way we approached the game sucked. What we do is exactly what I said in the first timeout. We dig ourselves a hole then we have to play so hard to get back it’s a perfect storm.

“The difference in the game was what happened in the first 10 minutes in the game. I am disgusted with the way we played and I’m disgusted with the fact that we got a chance to end the break on something upbeat and positive and instead we just walk through the first 10 minutes of the game and that cost us the game.”

The Suns dug themselves a 16-point hole in those first 10 minutes of listless play. During that time they rolled out the red carpet for David Lee to score 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting while Stephen Curry added nine for a Warriors squad that shot 60 percent for the period.

Jared Dudley said that such a bad quarter can be blamed on many things, including blown pick-and-roll coverages and offensive rebounding, and Channing Frye said he needs to improve his weakside help defense and energy.

“It was one of the toughest games this season, definitely,” said Marcin Gortat. “Giving up [39] points in the first quarter is unacceptable. That’s how you lose a game, and there’s no way you can come back and win a game.”

But the thing is, the Suns nearly did just that.

Curry exited 9:42 into the game with another foot injury and did not return aside from 18 seconds at the end of the first half. The Warriors could have used his firepower as the Suns held Golden State to 44.4 percent shooting in the second half and came all the way back from 21 down to tie on a Frye jump hook with 4:25 remaining.

Be it effort, execution or just great offense from Golden State, the Warriors were unstoppable with Curry on the floor but it was a different story with Nate Robinson in his place.

After Golden State surged ahead by four with 1:24 left, the Suns battled back to tie once again when Hill scooted through the lane for a layup.

That gave the Warriors one final shot with 11.6 seconds remaining, so of course they called the same unoriginal play every other NBA team does in this situation: an isolation for their best player.

Monta Ellis is that man and he got that call despite the fact that Hill limited him to 18.0 points on 30.6 percent shooting this season and 18.8 on 41.2 percent shooting last year as well as 9-for-22 marksmanship tonight heading into that shot.

Ellis drove right, stopped on a dime and faded away for an impossibly tough attempt with Hill draped all over him but just like Eric Gordon in the season opener his shot dropped through the bottom of the net.

The Suns really could not have asked for a better defensive scenario — a player prone to bad shots taking a crazy difficult one on their best defender — but there’s a reason Ellis is one of the league’s most feared scorers.

The Suns had one last chance with one second left to secure only their second three-game winning streak of the season, as Hill found Frye breaking free to the corner for a potential game-winning three but Lee jumped out to contest and Frye’s shot clanked harmlessly off the front iron.

“I’ll be honest, once I shot it I thought it was a good look,” Frye said. “I couldn’t even see the rim. David Lee did a good job of putting his hands in front of my eyes, but it shouldn’t even have got to that point.”

Indeed it should not have, but now the Suns are left to ruminate over their second straight crushing loss to Golden State in the last week and a half.

In fact back on Feb. 13 in Oakland the Suns seemed to have righted the ship having won four of five entering that contest, only to blow a 12-point second-half lead that triggered a four-game losing streak.

Things seemed to be looking back up once again after these last two wins only for those pesky Warriors to zap the Suns’ momentum once again.

Now the Suns must face a reality that has them three games in the loss column out of 12th in the West with more than half their schedule in the books.

“We have to decide what kind of team we want to be,” Gentry said. “Do we want to be a tease where we win a couple of games, then we decide not to play the first 10 minutes or are we going to be a team that bears down and tries to grind this thing out so we can get back into the playoff race? We have to decide that, and I mean we, everybody, players and coaches, too.

“We have a chance to do something good here, end up on a high note and then we’ve got [nine] home games out of the next [11] coming back. We’ve got to decide. What do we want to be?”

The Suns may want to be a playoff team, but a blown opportunity like this speaks volumes as to what they are.

And 1

The Warriors took the season series against the Suns for the first time since 1994-95. That is partially due to the fact that they only play three games this season whereas most seasons the Suns would have a chance to go for a split in the fourth. … Frye scored a season-high 22 points but he needed 23 shots to get there. … Gortat produced another superb game with 21 points and 15 rebounds, his third 20-15 game in his last four. … Nash dished “just” nine assists, his first single-digit outing since Feb. 3 in Houston when he also handed out nine helpers. … The starters once again all played heavy minutes, with Shannon Brown’s 18 the most anyone saw off the pine. As Gentry put it pregame, “We’re not Major League Baseball. We don’t have pitch counts.” … Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez of the New York Red Bulls soccer team attended the game as guests of Nash.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Alvin Gentry · Golden State Warriors · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shazam // Feb 23, 2012 at 1:25 am

    shame…old players knowing they arent competing with enough talent to win..is very sad to watch…this can all be traces back to that little window when kerr had just left and sarver was making the decisions…spending money on childress,warrick,turkeyglue instead of one good replacement for amare or at least he should have spent his money on something better than that troika of trash

  • 2 robeiroman // Feb 23, 2012 at 7:15 am

    The only thing good that came out of that season was trading for Gortat. Warrick and Childress hardly play.

  • 3 Morgan McCoy // Feb 23, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I was at the game and the 1st qt was really flat. I knew some bad things were probably going to happen when dudley air balled his 1st free throw.

    Frye couldn’t buy a bucket in the 1st half, and even Nash missed a free throw, and seemed a little off on his passes.

    What drove me crazy with Frye was the fact that he wasn’t contesting shots. He would be in good position on a shooter but his hand would be at his waist. GET YOUR HAND UP IN THE FACE OF THE SHOOTER. HANDS DOWN MAN DOWN!

    After the 1st qt the suns played hard. The bench looks better, even though Telfair has no idea how to run a offense. How hard is it to run and pick and roll with Lopez or Gortat out there. It’s not!

    Even though Frye missed the game tying shot, he put his big man pants on and beasted in the 2nd half. He played like a true big man. He played D, rebounded, and posted up players.

    Again loved the hustle of Dudley and smart basketball iq. He made a lot of nice plays out there.

    Suns should have won this game. I loved the effort in the last 3qt. If the Suns played hard like that every game good things will happen.

    And I don’t know how Markeiff Morris dunk at the end of the 1st qt didn’t become a Top 10 play of the day on nba.com. It was filthy! Plus it was nice to see Lopez to follow that dunk with two dunks of his own.

  • 4 steve // Feb 23, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Telfair is a prime example of what freakish athleticism can get you in life. He is not a good basketball player, and it’s 100% because of his head. There are dozens of people reading this comment right now who have more basketball smarts than him (sadly, we’re all just lacking the freak gene). I honestly can’t stand to watch him play. When he is in, he INSISTS on dribbling aimlessly until the shot clock gets to about :06 then forcing an errant layup or pressing a teammate into a rushed, contested attempt. He is flat out awful, and I don’t understand how he has a job in the NBA. Does the NBA have an equivalent to the Wonderlic? If not, it needs one so we can keep guys like that off the Suns.

    I don’t know if Price is any better as far as intelligence is concerned, so the only thing that MIGHT work would be to leave Hill in with the second unit some more, or try to let Childress operate with the ball (one thing about Childress that can’t be questioned is his brain). Telfair and Price simply won’t work. It’s proven. Stop trying it.

    Dudley is pathetic. I like him. He tries. He does make some nice plays, but he also makes some DUMB plays. He was giving Dorell Wright space all night long. Wright looked like a SUPERSTAR out there. I know Lee had a big night and Ellis hit the winner, but it was Dorell Wright that truly won the game for GS last night, and I can’t tell you how many times I was putting my face in my palm after watching a lackluster effort from Dudley on the defensive end. He’s somewhat similar to Shannon Brown in that he’ll try hard for about 5 seconds… then he just seems to lose focus, his attention wanders, and mistakes happen. Also, where has Dudley’s shot gone? He can’t buy an outside bucket to save his life. I was watching him in shootaround, and he just looks off. His shot has betrayed him, and he needs to get it back.

    I can’t complain about Channing too much, but that rebound he didn’t grab at the very end pretty much sealed the deal (or at least it put the ball squarely back in GS’s court). He had a good game, but he also lacks that focus. That determination that is going to keep him engaged all 48 minutes. He got lazy for a few seconds, and it cost his team the game. It’s unacceptable, and almost every player on the Suns is guilty of it every time they step on the court.

    Robin looked great. I don’t know what it is that pisses him off, but we need more of it. Same with Channing. When those two guys are mad, they’re extremely effective. I’ll find out what makes them mad, then the Suns need to hire me to be the official anger management counsellor for the team, in that I will anger Channing and Robin before every game so they’ll actually play halfway decent.

    Gortat is Gortat. Can’t nit pick him too much, HOWEVER, there were about 4 instances when he got the ball about 5 feet from the hoop and went to an easy fade rather than power dribbling and going up for the slam. I know he’s got a good thing going with his touch right now from 5 feet, but I’d much rather see my big take it to the rim than hit a virtually harmless 5-footer. Gortat, THROW IT DOWN!

    Nash needs to take more than 4 shots. There is no excuse for the best shooter in the NBA to defer to his miserable teammates the way Nash does. Nash needs to be taking 12-14 shots per game. If nothing else, at least it keeps the other team honest in guarding Nash, and Nash will then be able to find his open teammates more easily. GS was sagging off Nash all night BEGGING him to shoot, but Nash simply wasn’t interested.

    Ugh, so much frustration. I just wish our team would be smarter. Yes, they are playing with inferior talent. I understand that. They’re probably not going to win most of their games, and talent really does win out most of the time. HOWEVER, the only way they’re going to be able to overcome their lack of talent is to play SMART. They just don’t do it. They don’t play to their strengths, they don’t avoid their weaknesses, they show no signs of improvement. They know what they’re doing isn’t working, and then they go out and do it again the next night.

    Sorry this was so long. I just needed to vent.

  • 5 Scott // Feb 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    In team play, some things can be contagious. Things like defensive effort, hustle, accurate or inaccurate shooting, shot blocking, taking charges, and so on … if a team isn’t mentally strong about how they want to play, a lack of focus can unconsciously drag a team into the gutter.

    Every member of the Suns team needs to be responsible for maintaining their own focus. They also need to take notice if a teammate is playing a step too slow, or taking defense a touch too lightly, and they need to make sure they don’t pick up that habit themselves. If anything, when they see a teammate taking it easy on the court, they need to play with a greater fury to demonstrate what the proper playing level is.

    I don’t think the Suns intended to give that game away. They just didn’t come out with a hard focus on winning. There was no one on the floor who was by nature “hungry.”

    I’ve mentioned this before about the Suns lacking a member with an alpha attitude, where – in the case of Amare – most of the time he was intent on scoring. With Amare gone, mainly what you have here is an easy-going bunch. Nash wants to dish assists, Hill wants to help the team through defense, Dudley wants to hustle, Gortat wants to man the paint, and Frye’s just there to add whatever. None of these guys is psychologically driven to score, to rebound, to win. They’re all helpers. There’s no inciter / igniter.

    If the Suns had a player with an alpha mentality (and a game) who wanted to win, he’d act like a magnet and all the other players would align around him. But there is no such player.

    Maybe Redd could be that person, if he was starting. His personal goal of being “the best” might be the catalyst the Suns need. He’s tended to defer so far, being new to the team and not in shape, which might have undermined his game a bit. But I think Gentry needs to start him, give him the ball, and say “Take this team and make it a winner.”

    Redd may not be ready for extended minutes yet. If so, pull him early and put in Dudley, if need be. But ignite his will to win and start him, as it could help set the tone for the whole team. If Redd’s will to be the best is consistent, then it can help bring consistent play to the team.

  • 6 fan in chi-town // Feb 23, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    i hear you, man. its incredibly frustrating to root for this team every night when it seems like we want them to win more than they want to. winners do whatever it takes to win. losers become complacent with their habits. i look at this roster next to indiana’s and i do not see any reason why we cant be as succesful as that team is right now. i mean, they have one former all star on their team, an unproven coach, and a bunch of guys that just want to win. we have one of the best PGs ever, a good big man, and a coach that has been to the conference finals. why arent we getting more W’s?

  • 7 KeZ // Feb 23, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I would love to see Paul Millsap in a Phx unifrom…….

  • 8 And1 // Feb 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Inconsistent is what I’ve been tellin ya’ll about.

    Nash needs to shoot more.

    I want the Suns to trade Brown, Price, Telfair, Warrick, Childress for any scorer out there.

    @Kez

    Millsap would be nice or Monte Ellis, I hear Ellis will be traded somewhere.

    C’mon back Brooks.

  • 9 Grover // Feb 23, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Ive seen several simar posts now suggesting trading Brown, Price, Telfair, Warrick, and Childress for something good. I love that idea, but it won’t work.

    Brown, Price, and Telfair are all free agents after the season. The only reason anyone would care about them would be if they needed to rent them for 30 games for a playoff or championship push. Can you picture any team thinking any one of these guys is their missing ingredient? I can’t.

    Warrick and Childres are under contract for a couple more years each, so if a team valued them, they might trade you something back to secure the next couple years of their service. Both guys are most likely overpaid relative to what they could get in a free market, so why would somebody trade us back anything useful?

    All of these guys are worthless as trade bait. They might get included in a trade to balance salaries and make a trade fit the rules, but they will be throw-ins. *Maybe* you find a team who is desperate for a specific position and is willing to give up a second round pick to solidify their season or cover for an injury. Maybe for similar reasons somebody would need Childress’ defense and would be willing to take the final years of his contract and give the suns back an expiring contract which gives the Suns more room next year. There is no way this collection of castoffs can be turned into anything useful this year. I wish that weren’t true, but it would require an owner on the other side who’s even dumber about basketball than Sarver. There aren’t any.

  • 10 Scott // Feb 24, 2012 at 1:06 am

    @Grover -

    The Suns could trade expiring contracts to a team that is locked into a contract they don’t really want. An example might be the Bucks, who owe another $7 million next year to Beno Udrih, who is playing 15 min a game.

    The Suns could trade them Telfair (to act as the Bucks’ 3rd PG) and their choice of Warrick, Childress, or Brown. A deal for Brown and Telfair would work for the Bucks if their main goal is to reduce payroll for next year. (It would save them $7 million.)

    Of course, signing Udrih would mess with the Suns’ plan to have massive amounts of cap room for FAs, but as we’ve already discussed, it’s unlikely the Suns will sign anyone not already on the roster (Nash, Hill, Redd, and Lopez).

    A trade of Telfair and Brown for Udrih works, but not until the trade restriction ends on March 1 (just as games resume after the break).

    Why Udrih? He’s a poor man’s Steve Nash. He is the same height, build, and can do pretty much everything Nash does, including defense, just not quite as well. He’s run a team before, and presumably he can run the Suns’ bench better than any 2nd PG the Suns have had for years, being a little better than Dragic was.

    Heck, since the Suns would be saving the Bucks some decent money, the Suns could even ask for the Bucks’ conditional 2nd round pick, if it doesn’t go to Boston (which it does, if it is #45 or lower).

  • 11 Grover // Feb 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I agree technically the Suns could do that, but why would they? Udrih is an ok backup pg, but he isn’t worth $7mill against next year. I would think the the Suns would be better off keeping the cap room themselves next year, and if they can’t use it to get a couple studs, rent another player on a short term deal and keep the flexibility for the year after that. Telfair and Price are only laid a little over $1 mill. For no more than $7mill. They should be able to get something better than Telfair or Price and at least equal to Udrih. Mediocre NBA players, especially smart but athletically moderate types, are not hard to find.

    Udrih is a perfect example of why these guys aren’t tradeable. Childress and Warrick are overpaid and have too many years attached. Our short term players aren’t any better than average and don’t fill any need for other teams other than being short term commitments. The only resin the other team would take them is to get out from under and overpriced contract, but in that case, why would the Suns do it?

    These are the kind of guys that are included in trades for better players to make the math work. They’re never the point of the trade. For the Suns to make a meaningful trade, the have to part with something valuable to other teams. For the Suns, that would be limited to Nash, Gortat, and Morris.

    I know everybody here says Gortat and Morris are untouchable, but why? If you could package either or both of them maybe even throw in a draft pick and in return get an obvious franchise player (e.g., Howard, Williams, Wade, Paul, Kobe… That list of guys nobody has to argue about whether you can build around them), wouldn’t you do it? The point is nobody on this team should be untouchable. Everyone should have a for sale sign on the back of their jersey.

  • 12 steve // Feb 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I agree that no one should be untouchable. EVERY player has a price. I would even move LeBron James if the price was right. The only way you’re ever going to get anything of value in a trade is to give up something of value. That’s the way it works, unless you’re dealing with KAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!

  • 13 Tony // Feb 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    To echo Steve’s and And1′s comments, I too do not understand why Nash doesn’t shoot more. I’m sure playing the most games of any team in Feb probably has taken a toll on all the Suns players, especially Nash, so he probably didn’t have the energy to set everybody up and find his own shots. With that being said, Nash is still the Suns best shooter and even a tired Nash is a better shooter than anyone else on the team.

    There’s no reason for us as Suns fans to get our hopes up for any Suns playoff appearances for the remainder of this season. The Suns schedule only gets more difficult come March and they will finish either in 12th or 13th place in the west. I know the frustration stems from this team beating the Lakers one game and then losing to the Warriors the next, but this inconsistency is the result of such a flawed and talentless roster put together by the Three Stooges. The Suns basically have to play nearly perfect or perfectly to beat any decent and above teams. So although they can play well for one or two game-stretches, as soon as some fatigue sets in or one key role player has an off-night, the team’s lack of talent prevents the Suns from compensating and winning in some other fashion. This is exactly why they are an inferior team. So although Gentry can fume about the team’s inconsistency, it’s only going to continue with such a lousy roster.

    To the people thinking the Suns could just trade their way out of this mess, just ask why any team would want way over-paid role players like Childress, Warick, Frye, and even Dudley? When considering the new CBA, it makes it even more difficult for teams to afford top players, so these teams are most likely not going to have any interest in the above mentioned players. The only way the Three Stooges can dump their overpaid role players via trade is if they attach them to a trade involving either Nash or Gortat. Now I’m pretty sure the Stooges will amnesty Childress this off-season, as they should, so that will leave Warrick, Frye, and Dudley.

    Finally, this whole notion of the Three Stooges saving cap room to make big signings in the near future is just ridiculous and really should cease to be apart of any legitimate discussion. This coming off-season, the biggest restricted free agent names have already signed extensions as most predicted, and in the two biggest unrestricted free agents in Williams and Howard are not going to sign with the Suns. If they were just in it for the money then they would stay with their respective teams because those teams are able to give larger contracts based on the CBA. So that leaves the second tier free agents like Gerald Wallace, who is a good player, but is already 30 and has probably already reached his max-potential. The point being that there need not be any real concern about making sure the Suns have enough cap space to sign a star player because of the most pressing concern that star players are not likely to have any interest in signing with the Suns and playing for Sarver, unless they have no interest in winning a championship.

  • 14 Scott // Feb 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    @Grover -

    I disagree about Udrih. It is HARD to find a good backup PG, and trading for him is a good way to get him. The Suns had a solid, cheap backup in Dragic and paid to get rid of him; Houston’s so happy it’s highly unlikely he’ll be coming back. Brooks isn’t that good; the Suns knew that, and were only offering him a 1 year contract this year.

    And how many games have the Suns lost this season due to lack of a good backup PG? The Suns could have been in playoff contention with a quality 2nd PG. (They’re only 5 games out.)

    Yes, Udrih is overpaid. He should be about $5 million. I’d say he’s comparable to Calderon, who is making $10 million (overpaid). But of all the PGs out there (there’s not many), he’s the only one that can run the team if Nash is out with injury, which is what the backup PG should be able to do.

    If you have a list of other PGs to consider, please post ‘em. I thought I did a pretty exhaustive survey, but I’m open to suggestions.

  • 15 Grover // Feb 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I don’t suggest any backup PGs for this year. I suggest waiting for the summer and signing a free agent that costs roughly the same or less than Udrih ($7.4 mill). Finding good and CHEAP backup point guards is what is difficult. Paying $7-8 mill for average talent is easy. Hinrich, Miler, and Felton are all UFAs this summer, all are currently paid roughly the same. There are also numerous PGs with player options that might be enticed into 1-2 year contracts for $7 mill.

    I’m not bashing Udrih at all. I’d be happy as hell if he were Nash’s backup today, but I’d rather have the 2012 flexibility and roll the dice on bigger named FAs. If we don’t get them, it’s not that hard to find Udrih caliber PGs for $6-8 mill a year.

  • 16 Grover // Feb 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    I screwed up my thought… what I meant was keep the cap flexibility, aim for a couple big time free agents, and if that fails, THEN sign a FA PG who is roughly the same cost as Udrih.

    Committing to Udrih for next year now is going the wrong direction. The whole point is clearing space to give us options. If those options don’t pan out, then you go for replacement players. Don’t go for non-playoff caliber players this year.

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