Preseason is about the small victories.
Especially for a team like the Suns with so many new faces to integrate, it had to be encouraging that three crucial starters — Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and Luis Scola — played so well together in the Suns’ 100-94 victory over the Dirk-less Mavs on Wednesday night in Big D.
Although plus-minus figures should be taken with a grain of salt on a game-to-game basis, it still was nice to see that trio combine to outscore the Dallas starters by 20 points in their shared court time.
Along with Marcin Gortat, the Suns will be relying on those three starters to lead the team statistically and by example. If Alvin Gentry continues to go with the shift approach to substitutions, that trio will be logging many minutes together, so this early chemistry is huge.
The Suns jumped out to a 24-16 lead before Dragon, Dudley and Scola took their first rest 7:05 into the ballgame. The Mavs proceeded to outscore the Suns 38-25 the rest of the half to take a five-point lead into the break as Phoenix scored about as many points in the final 17 minutes of the half as it did the first seven.
The Suns shot an ugly 33.3 percent in the second quarter without that trio, including a 1-for-5 performance from Beasley, 0-for-4 from Markieff Morris and 1-for-4 from Bassy Telfair as bench play and five minutes of Beas and Gortat ruled the quarter.
The starters got the team back on track coming out of the halftime intermission. After O.J. Mayo drilled a trey to put Dallas up by six a minute and a half into the third quarter, the Suns ripped off a 17-2 run capped off by a JD trey. Dudley scored eight points during the run and Dragon dished four assists during a period of time in which Dallas hit one shot.
Overall, Dudley scored 16 on 7-for-9 shooting, Dragic went for 12 points and six assists and Scola 9-4-4, all in under 20 minutes.
“Anytime you have a high basketball IQ like Goran and Scola do, those guys just kind of feed off each other,” Dudley told reporters. “The more games you play the more comfortable you get. I know how [Scola] likes to pass the ball, I know where he likes the ball. And Goran, obviously playing with him before in Phoenix, he’s just so much more mature. He’s kind of slowed down, before he was one speed. We definitely have good chemistry going on. Defensively we have to get a little better on how we are going to do with the rotations, but I thought overall we played well offensively. Good things, from the first game in Sacramento we have definitely improved.”
As Dudley said, each member of that trio is a very smart basketball player, and Dragic is already familiar with both players from his previous stints in Phoenix and Houston. Obviously they have a ways to go before they just naturally know where each other will be as seemed to be the case during the Olympics for Scola and his longtime Argentinian teammates, but that will eventually come for high IQ players like them.
Of course, the long bench with Gentry trying out some of his non-roster players eventually helped the Mavericks battle back to within 90-88 on a Josh Akognon layup with four minutes remaining. The Suns seemed to be trying to give the game away when Akognon stole it from Bassy Telfair in the backcourt for a layup to once again cut the lead to two with a minute remaining in the game.
A huge scramble for the ball ensued on the next crucial Suns possession, and it ended with non-roster point guard Diante Garrett coming out of the pack to find Ike Diogu underneath for a monster crush. After Dominique Jones missed a five-footer at the other end the Suns had earned their first road win of the preseason to move to 2-1 overall.
“I think it was a typical preseason game,” Gentry told reporters. “There were some good things and bad things that went on this game. Some of the guys you get excited about and some of them you like to see do more. I do like how we’re playing hard and competing like crazy this preseason. I thought Goran did a great job tonight controlling the game and I also like what Luis is doing, too. … I think the big thing with us is the rebounding part and we did a much better job tonight. I was happy with the effort, but of course we have room for improvement.”
On that front the Suns did outrebound the Mavs 45-37 after being outboarded by the Kings and Blazers by four apiece. Most importantly, the Suns yielded 16 and 17 offensive boards to Sacto and Portland, respectively, but gave up just nine to Dallas. Allowing offensive rebounds has been a long-time Phoenix weakness, so it was nice to see the Suns with a strong effort in that realm for one game at least tonight.
Four different Suns reserves grabbed at least five boards, led by Morris’ six, and Diogu pulled down five in a mere six minutes. Morris wasn’t so good shooting the basketball, missing 12 of 14 shots, but it never deterred him as he confidently attempted a long ball with under two minutes left up two as if he had been draining them all night.
In all the Suns should feel good about the fact that three of their starters played so well against the Dirk-less Mavs as that unit continued to develop the continuity that could lead the Suns to surprise their critics come the regular season.
Central Division preview
The following are the Central previews for the NBA blog preview series:
Chicago Bulls: BlogABull.com
Detroit Pistons: DetroitBadBoys
Indiana Pacers: Indy Cornrows
Milwaukee Bucks: Brew Hoop
- There’s a new Suns hub on Reddit that can be found here. For those who aren’t familiar, Reddit features links to popular stories, photos and videos from around the web that users can vote up within their specific categories.
- AZ Front Row TV sat down with Bassy to discuss the upcoming season and his business ventures.
- Dudley on Twitter: “Great team game tonight.. We’re slowly getting better each day. Everybody is buying in to the coaches and trying to improve.
- Diogu played just the six minutes and Tyler Zeller and Solomon Jones both received DNP-CDs as the Suns did little to sort out this potential competition for a final roster spot, if they choose to sign any of those three players. Kendall Marshall also did not play by coach’s decision for the first time as Telfair made his preseason debut after sitting out the first two games with an ankle injury. Garrett missed three shots in 10 minutes but made that crucial late dish to Diogu to help salt the game away.