After a sluggish start to the preseason, Marcin Gortat finally found his groove Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors. The Suns’ starting center played 26 minutes and did not miss a shot, going 8-of-8 from the floor and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line en route to 19 points. Marcin also grabbed 10 boards to complete the first of what will surely be many double-doubles this season.
The Suns as a team, however, were not quite as perfect on the night as Gortat, losing 107-92 at Oracle Arena. With the loss, the Suns fell to 3-3 in the preseason while the Warriors improved to 6-2.
Fueled by Gortat’s 12 first-quarter points, the Suns jumped out to a 28-25 lead after 12 minutes. The second unit, which played most of the second quarter, was unable to hold that lead though, and the Suns trailed 55-46 at halftime. Phoenix never got closer than five points the rest of the night. Coach Alvin Gentry after Monday night’s game vowed to give the bench players plenty of minutes against Golden State, and he was true to his word. He seemed more concerned with playing and evaluating the reserves than the score of the game. None of the starters, save Gortat, played more than 24 minutes in this one. Every bench player except Diante Garrett (four minutes), Ike Diogu (DNP-CD), and Solomon Jones (DNP-CD) played 10 minutes or more.
Markieff Morris was the biggest standout from the bench. He scored 15 points and grabbed seven boards in 26 minutes of play. Morris alternated minutes at the power forward spot with starter Luis Scola. Scola scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Disappointingly, he collected only two rebounds in his 23 minutes on the court.
Sebastian Telfair (16 minutes) and Kendall Marshall (13 minutes) took turns spelling Goran Dragic at the point guard spot. Marshall was the more effective of the two on this occasion, scoring eight points and hitting both of his 3-point attempts. Dragic played only 20 minutes, but still managed six assists and eight points. He hit two of his three attempts from downtown. Wesley Johnson scored no points and committed five personal fouls in just 13 minutes of play. Coach Gentry alternated between Johnson and P.J. Tucker, who had a slightly better night, scoring six points on 3-of-3 from the floor.
Two substitution patterns stood out in this game. First, either Scola or Morris was on the floor at all times. That said, they were never on the floor together. Gentry does not seem to be exploring the idea of Scola at center and Morris at power forward like some, including myself, have speculated he would. Second, Gentry seems to be looking for a spark from Johnson or Tucker. Johnson has been ineffective for the last two days, which has forced Gentry to sit him in favor of Tucker. As noted yesterday by Michael Schwartz, Gentry is looking to Tucker for energy off the bench. He’ll need more out of both of these guys as the season progresses.
Starting wings Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley both had forgettable nights. Dudley made only one of his six shots in 19 minutes, while Beasley shot 3-for-11 from the field in 24 minutes. Beasley is shooting under 35 percent in his last four preseason games. Clearly, he is still getting comfortable with his role in this offense. The Suns are relying on him to be a scorer. He’ll have to be much more efficient if Phoenix is going to have any chance of being successful. Overall the Suns shot under 32 percent from 3-point range. That number will have to improve if Phoenix wants to prevent defenses from collapsing down on Gortat and Scola when the regular season begins.
Golden State was led by rookie Harrison Barnes and David Lee, both of whom dropped 16 points. Stephen Curry was nursing an ankle injury and did not play. Centers Andrew Bogut and Andris Biedrins were also sidelined with injuries, which forced Golden State to start Festus Ezeli at center. Bogut and Biedrins’ absence definitely contributed to Gortat’s big game and the Suns winning the rebounding battle 39-37. Despite missing some big name players though, the Warriors still shot 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. Clearly Elston Turner has some work to do with the reserves.
The Suns will host the Nuggets in their final preseason game this Friday. Then Phoenix will have five days to fine tune before the regular season kicks off Halloween night against the Warriors in US Airways Center.