Phoenix Suns 125, Los Angeles Lakers 105 — Scoring in bunches

Posted by on April 8th, 1:37 am

PHOENIX — Last night in Denver the Suns gave away a game that Steve Nash described as “heartbreaking.”

He proceeded to tweet that he’s going to count to 10 presumably to try to get over the defeat but that it frankly did not help much. The Suns had reason to be upset as they coughed up a late five-point lead and did not score for the final three minutes in a critical loss that dropped their Hollinger Playoff Odds from 39.0 percent to 24.3 percent.

Yet one day later while playing their fourth game in five days, the Suns were all smiles after blowing out the Kobe-less Los Angeles Lakers, 125-105.

Michael Redd could not stop talking about how much fun he was having during his postgame interview and Alvin Gentry echoed that sentiment by starting his press conference by saying, “Well that was fun.”

We have not heard those words uttered after a Lakers game too many times in recent years, yet even with Bryant sitting out with a shin injury this game was nothing but utterly satisfying for the Phoenix side.

Although the starters have carried the Suns most of the season, as has been the case lately it was the suddenly dynamic reserve unit that won the game tonight.

The bench exploded for a season-high 38 points in the second period to turn an eight-point deficit into a five-point lead as the reserves played the entire quarter. Michael Redd caught fire once again on his way to tallying 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting, and Sebastian Telfair adeptly controlled the offense while scoring 13 points and dishing four assists.

Sure, it certainly helped that the Lakers don’t possess much of a bench, but this unit is really coming together nicely. Just like the vaunted 2010 bench everybody knows their role and executes it to perfection.

For the game the Suns reserves outscored their Los Angeles counterparts 48-10 as Phoenix’s bench enjoyed its second-highest scoring game of the season (and the other came in an early blowout loss). More importantly in the 18 minutes this unit shared the court together the Suns outscored the Lakers by 28 points per 100 possessions.

“I was most proud of that second unit that came in because they’ve kind of had their ups and downs, but I thought they did a great job,” Gentry said. “Collectively as a unit I thought they did a really good job. When they went in the game that’s when the energy level really went up and the intensity really went up. I think we kept it there until the end.”

Redd continually tried to deflect the credit coming his way, saying he’s just taking advantage of an opportunity that arose with the Hill injury, but he’s really been the key to the bench’s revival. He’s averaging 18.3 points per game during Phoenix’s past four contests (scoring at least 15 in each of them) after tonight’s 23-point outing, and he has caught fire for a stretch in every one of them.

The Suns have lacked scoring off the bench all season, so the unit completely changes when he provides a consistent threat.

“He’s turning a corner,” Nash said. “We’re seeing more consistent basketball out of Mike because his body has been getting better and better, so I just feel excited for him that he feels better every night and he can do the things he’s accustomed to doing. What a player, you can see the runs that he can go on.”

Added Gentry, “Anybody in here has seen that before. It’s not something that we haven’t seen. Once he gets going he’s pretty tough. Our guys did a really good job tonight of understanding who had the hot hand, and we found them.”

In saying that Gentry was also speaking about Shannon Brown, who took the torch from Redd and burned white hot throughout his 20-point third quarter outburst in which he nailed 8-of-12 shots and 4-of-6 treys.

Along with the help of seven Nash assists in the quarter, the Suns followed up their season-high second quarter effort by scoring a season-high 37 points in the third quarter to turn this one into a rout.

Brown told Redd he was inspired by the veteran’s hot stretch and then went out and did him three points better.

“It got me going, it got me excited,” Brown said. “Every time he shot the ball they had to fix the net. I came out in the second half, got it going.”

The Suns were so busy scoring they barely had time to turn the ball over and thus they set a franchise record by committing just three turnovers the entire game, breaking a mark set on Jan. 17, 1995, against Denver.

That’s even more impressive considering Phoenix played a quick pace at 97 possessions and raced out to 22 fast-break points without hardly turning the ball over at all.

When you combine the torrid stretches from Redd and Brown with a pair of season-high quarters and mix in a great job of taking care of the ball you get a season-high 125 points in a game in which Phoenix outscored the Lakers 101-73 in the final three quarters.

The Suns hung an offensive rating of 128.5 on the Lakers behind a scorching 60.5 true shooting performance thanks to a 14-for-29 effort from behind the three-point line.

Any way you slice it, the Suns’ offense decimated the Lakers with one of their strongest performances of the season.

“We did a really good job of playing an up-tempo game but not overdoing it and taking the shots that were available,” Gentry said. “I thought we did a great job with the turnovers.”

Obviously this would have been a completely different game if Kobe Bean Bryant suited up, but as things were the Lakers countered the Suns’ potent attack with Gasol and Bynum but not much else aside from Metta World Peace, who had a nice game with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

Gasol and Bynum combined for 53 points and 31 rebounds while attempting 52 shots (that would never happen with Kobe around), and they led the Lakers’ domination on the glass (20 offensive rebounds, 54-36 overall edge and Phoenix’s biggest blemish of the evening). But they weren’t quite efficient enough to keep pace with the Suns’ attack.

With Denver losing tonight at Golden State, the Suns now enter the final 10 games of the season just one game out of a playoff spot.

If they can get anywhere near this kind of contribution from the bench it’s not a stretch to think Phoenix can crash the playoff party after the Suns played a superb final three quarters to throttle the Lakers.

“It was a really good win for us,” Gentry said. “It was a much-needed win.”

And 1

  • Before the game Gentry said that Grant Hill is “making great progress” in his rehabilitation from meniscus surgery. The Suns won’t rush him, but Gentry said the team may get him back for the season’s final five games.
  • Days after my feature on the Suns’ special training staff, Gentry paid them another compliment while answering a question about whether he felt Redd would be this effective this season. “Once again, I think our medical staff can make anyone healthy enough to play,” he said. “Really, the guys that we have here, our medical staff, they’re the greatest.”
  • Redd on tonight’s stellar outing: “I’ve been doing that for the last eight, nine years of my career. It’s always an honor to be in that zone and play like that. … I’m rolling right now. I’m accustomed to being in that position.”
  • It’s hard to believe after the way the Suns dominated the final three periods, but they actually trailed by double digits (26-16) with two minutes left in the first quarter. That means the Suns have now won seven of eight home games in which they trailed by double digits and eight of 13 overall. They also own the second most double-digit comebacks in the league behind only Oklahoma City, eight of which have come since March 1, and that also means the Suns outscored the Lakers 109-79 thereafter.
  • The Suns have now won consecutive regular season games against the Lakers for the first time since 2006-07, which is also the last time they split a season series against Los Angeles.

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

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: Los Angeles Lakers · Michael Redd · Offense · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap · Shannon Brown · Turnovers

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 PennyAnd1 // Apr 8, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Damn that was fun

  • 2 Scott // Apr 8, 2012 at 10:12 am

    “… This unit is really coming together nicely. Just like the vaunted 2010 bench everybody knows their roles and executes it to perfection.”

    Whoa. Way too early for this heady praise. It’s more accurate to say that at this late point in the season the Suns’ bench is inconsistently showing signs of life and can occasionally win a game.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, three of the best players in that squad are playing for contracts: Brown, Redd, and Lopez.

  • 3 Al // Apr 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    @ Scott Agreed.
    This could have been much closer game, but was extremely surprised that Kobe sat this one out. I chuckled when Steve sank his last shot from long mid range and the camera zoomed to Kobe’s face on the bench. Was happy that Phoenix broke another franchise record against the lakers for least amount of turnovers after having 16 against Denver.
    It seems that Gentry finally understood that there has to be a go to score in the last few minutes of the game; which is why Redd was in the line up at the final minutes. Bring on the Wolves.

  • 4 Tony // Apr 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Great win for the Suns! It’s always nice to see them blow out the Lakers regardless of whether Bryant played or not. This was a must win game because of the Nuggets loss the night before and the Suns took care of business like they needed to. Props to Brown, for although he took a lot of bad shots, he was making them. I wish the guy would look pass more as he’s not going to usually stay in such a zone as he had in the 3rd quarter.

    Also great news that the Warriors beat the Nuggs! Suns are in a good position to sneak into the playoffs.

    I liked Gentry allowing the 2nd unt to play the entire 2nd quarter but he almost blew it by letting the 2nd unit play too long in the 4th. When he finally did bring the starters back in, the momentum had swung all the way to the Lakers and if not for big shots by Frye and Nash, it could have been a different outcome. Gentry has got to learn to be quicker with his in-game adjustments.

    @Scott,

    firstly, Brown isn’t even in the 2nd unit now. Secondly, I doubt Redd is even worrying about his contract at this point. The guy had to struggle so much just to make it back to this level and I bet he’s just enjoying the moment, not worried about anything else. It’s great to see what’s he doing. Lastly, as far as Lopez is concerned, as long as he stays healthy, he’s going to get a nice offer from some other team. His size and athleticism makes him a valuable asset.

  • 5 Scott // Apr 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    @Tony -

    Of course Brown is a 2nd unit member. He’s been starting lately because of Hill’s injury, but if Hill was to come back to the lineup, Brown would be back to the bench.

    If Brown was scoring more consistently in bunches, *Dudley* would be the one going to the bench. Ditto for Redd (if he was consistent, he’d be replacing Dudley). So, it’s nice that these two may be finally starting to roll, but there’s less than a dozen games left. I’m not sure Gentry is going to promote either player over Dudley at this point. He’ll probably just try to play the bench more, and hope the 3 of them challenge each other to play better.

    Also … you know Brown has a tendency to turn the ball over or miss on a pass. The way you use him is to finish plays. When he starts passing, you have to be extra careful to make sure the ball makes it safely to the next person.

    In fact, it’s probably not coincidental that the Suns had a record-breaking fewest turnovers night in a game where Nash had fewer minutes (only 26) and Brown was scoring a high percentage of shots (50% overall).

    @Al -

    Well … Gentry hasn’t really had a go-to scorer to tap. He composed his starters of all the players that he thought could score, and that’s why he often closed with the same guys.

  • 6 Tim from British Columbia // Apr 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    A very exciting win for the Suns even if the “great” Kobe Bryan was on the bench. It was a a pleasure to watch Kobe’s obvious frustration on the bench as the Suns ran over the Lakers. He seemed to be seething at times especially since he dislikes the Suns so much. I loved that Michael Redd did so well (what a come back guy) and also to see Shannon Brown do so well against his old team was really cool too. If the Suns could play this kind of game the rest of the season (especially the bench) the playoff spot could be theirs. GO SUNS!

  • 7 Tony // Apr 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    @Scott,

    I don’t know, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy for Gentry to put Brown back with the second unit if Hill returns this season or if the Suns make the playoffs. I would not be surprised if he does take Dudley out of the starting lineup and put in Hill instead, especially because a few seasons ago Hill showed that he is not effective coming off the bench at all. Even though Brown drives me crazy with his decision-making and his lack of knowledge that he doesn’t always have to shoot the ball when he gets it, that instead, he can pass the ball, he does bring much needed quickness and athleticism to an otherwise slow perimeter 1st unit.

  • 8 Evnerl // Apr 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    This is it 10 games to go. If we go 8-2 we can get in the playoffs and avoid the Thunder and Spurs. Problem is we have to play the Spurs twice and the thunder once in that 10 games, so we have to only lose 2 of those games and win every singe other game. If we fail then nash is gone and we start a new era of suns basketball.

  • 9 Scott // Apr 9, 2012 at 12:00 am

    @Evnerl -

    The Suns are going against top notch competition the close out the year. If they can go 8-2, they can do just about anything.

  • 10 steve // Apr 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

    If the Suns make it to the playoffs, I’d prefer that they play the Spurs in the first round over anyone else. Beating the Spurs is the next best thing in this universe to beating the Lakers (and I think playing the Lakers in the first round is out of the realm of possibility at this point).

  • 11 Phoenix Suns 125, Los Angeles Lakers 105 — Scoring in bunches – Valley of the Suns | thepalmbeachproper.com // Jun 3, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    [...] Phoenix Suns 125, Los Angeles Lakers 105 — Scoring in bunchesValley of the SunsPHOENIX — Last night in Denver the Suns gave away a game that Steve Nash described as “heartbreaking.” He proceeded to tweet that he's going to count to 10 presumably to try to get over the defeat but that it frankly did not help much.With Kobe Bryant a no-go, Lakers are a no-showLos Angeles TimesBryant misses first game of season with injured left shinUSA TODAYSuns take down Bryant-less LakersChicago TribuneESPN -Washington Post -SportingNews.comall 845 news articles » [...]

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