Golden State Warriors 87, Phoenix Suns 85 — New era, same result


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npHRQfDwj6M?rel=0]

PHOENIX — Entering the season, many expected the Phoenix Suns to struggle for a variety of reasons, including defensive rebounding, a weak bench, a lack of a go-to scorer and the inconsistency of Michael Beasley.

It took just one game for all of these issues to result in a Suns loss, as Wednesday’s 87-85 season-opening defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors showcased many of Phoenix’s shortcomings.

First and foremost, the Suns failed to make a field goal after Luis Scola banked in a nine-footer with 1:43 remaining to put Phoenix on top by one.

Scola followed a Carl Landry dunk with a missed jumper, and after Landry hit a ‘J’ of his own to stretch the lead to three, Jared Dudley bricked a wide-open three at the top of the key.

“Myself, I had multiple chances to knock it down to tie, take the lead,” Dudley said, “Those are shots that we’ll make throughout the season but obviously it hurts now, losing that game, because it’s just one or two possessions.”

After Brandon Rush missed a trey with 10 seconds left, Golden State fouled Dragic rather than allow Phoenix to attempt another game-tying triple and he split the pair.  That appeared to be the game when the Suns sent Stephen Curry — a 90 percent career foul shooter — to the line to seal it, yet Curry continued his horrific evening by somehow missing both foul shots to give the Suns new life with 4.4 seconds left.

Goran Dragic charged into the frontcourt with a full head of steam for a potential game-winning attempt, yet he inexplicably passed to Sebastian Telfair as time ran out before he could even hoist up a last-gasp shot from well beyond the arc.

“I tried to shoot the ball, but there were three guys on me so I passed to Bassy but it was too late,” Dragic said. “Before we had three, four open looks, the shots didn’t go in and then they scored.”

The Suns were only in this position because of fantastic games from Dragic – who filled the box score with 17 points, eight assists and six boards – and Luis Scola, who went for 15 points and 11 boards in his Suns debut.

Phoenix yielding 17 offensive rebounds was nothing new, and the preseason bench concerns became a reality in the first half, as the Warriors stormed out on a 17-4 run to open the second quarter with the bulk of the damage coming against the Suns’ reserves (along with Beasley to begin the period).

The Warriors led by 17 at that point, yet with three minutes left to go in the third the starters managed to battle all the way back to take the lead. The bench pushed that advantage all the way up to eight about three minutes into the fourth, but the game was back to even by the time Gentry brought all his starters back with five minutes remaining in the contest.

The Suns were a shot away from winning anyway despite getting practically nothing from Michael Beasley, a player Gentry said he hopes becomes “the man” on this team earlier in the evening.

On this night, he spent more time cheering on P.J. Tucker than on the court, as he finished with just eight points on 2-for-9 shooting in 22:08.  On one particularly rough sequence late in the third after the Suns had regained the lead, Beasley grabbed a board, dribbled down the court and missed a jump shot before getting his own rebound and immediately firing up another brick. We know the Suns don’t want him to pass up any potential good shot, but it would be a stretch to describe both attempts like that.

Before the game, Gentry said the Suns are asking Beasley to do things no team ever has before and added, “The star players in this league are pretty consistent in what they do. They’re pretty consistent night in and night out in what they’re doing. That’s where we hope that we can get Michael to where we can pencil in pretty much what we expect from him, and on a good night know that that’s going to go up. That’s where we have to try to get him to.”

Tonight shows they have a ways to go on that count.

Beasley did not even play in the fourth quarter because Gentry so adored what Tucker — who last played in the NBA in 2007 — brought to the court. Tucker played his heart out by hustling all over the floor, locking up Klay Thompson at times (6-for-16 overall) and scoring 10 points to go with two rebounds, a steal and a block in the fourth quarter alone.

“I just thought P.J. Tucker was going pretty good,” Gentry said about why he left him in. “We’ve always been that way here, and we’ll continue when guys are going good they’re still in the game. … I thought that he just did a good job and was giving us the presence that we needed.”

Added Tucker, “Coach knows I’m going to play hard. At the end of the day, that’s what I do. I’m going to go in, push the ball up and make the right play. I appreciate it. I just go out there and put it all out.”

In many ways, Tucker and Beasley could not be more different. Tucker has not even played basketball in this country since Beasley was in high school (and the top high schooler in his class to boot). Beasley’s the player with all the offensive skills and athleticism, yet Tucker was the player pouring in 10 fourth-quarter points, including six in a row at one point.

Beasley is all talent and Tucker is all work. And you know what they say about what wins out when talent doesn’t work hard.

Beasley can put up 29 points in his sleep as he seemed to do in the Suns’ preseason finale, yet Tucker felt good just playing basketball in this country again.

I asked Tucker what his role on this team will be and he replied, “Exactly what I did today, playing hard, being in when they need me, staying tough, hard-nosed.”

If only Beasley could be a little more like that, some of the Suns’ most important problems would disappear.

Overall Gentry lauded the Suns’ “great defense” for limiting the usually high-scoring Warriors to 87 points on 38.4 percent shooting. Aside from Thompson’s 6-for-16, Curry and David Lee combined to shoot a pitiful 4-for-30 in the worst shooting game of Lee’s career.

For the Suns to still lose despite locking up the Warriors’ stars does not bode well for the rest of the season even though Gentry chose to focus on the positives.

“Am I disappointed? Yeah,” Gentry said. “Do I think there were a lot of good things? Yes, I do. Do I think we’ll get better? Yeah. I think we’ll get much better.”

Suns decline Johnson’s 2013-14 option

As expected, the Suns did not exercise Wes Johnson’s $5.4 million option for 2013-14, and thus he will become a free agent at the end of the season.

This news was somewhat of a foregone conclusion given that the decision needed to be made before his first game with the team, the fact that he’s not worth that much money and the fact that the Suns need to save as many salary shekels as possible to make another run at a max free agent.

Johnson did not play by coach’s decision tonight, and the fact that Tucker logged so many minutes instead of him does not bode well for how the team views him. He will get his opportunities without a doubt, but the days of Johnson being given anything for being the No. 4 overall pick are over.

And 1

  • Gentry: “When you guys talk about us I would like for everyone to say, ‘Man, they play really hard and they compete like crazy.’” Shocking that a coach with an expiring contract would want something like this.
  • Marcin Gortat blocked four shots in the third quarter alone, two shy of a franchise record for a period.
  • The Suns were a minus 15 in Shannon Brown’s 16 minutes; he shot 2-for-8. Dudley by contrast led the team in plus/minus with a plus 13 in 35 minutes. Beasley was the only starter in the negatives with a minus six.
  • I joined NPR Phoenix on Wednesday to preview the Suns’ season. Listen to the segment here.

Tags: Michael Beasley P.j Tucker

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Beasley was shut out of the offense early, then tried to force things….he has to find a niche(if not being the focal point) in the offense if the Suns are gonna get anything out of him.
    I’d like to see Wes Johnson get some of Shannon Brown’s minutes at SG.
    Warriors looked like crap & Suns still couldn’t win.
    4 for 21 from 3 pt range ?….ouch
    By Christmas, we could be rooting for a top 5 pick.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    same old suns…live and die by the three.

    Brown and Beasley were painful to watch…can’t believe Dudley missed two wide open thees to win…that doesn’t happen often.

    TUCKER = BEAST

  • DBreezy

    “We’ve always been that way here, and we’ll continue when guys are going good they’re still in the game. … I thought that he just did a good job and was giving us the presence that we needed.”

    After the team, including Alvin, praised and talked up Beasley all summer and preseason they’re toying with destroying it one game into the season. The guy clearly had a bad game, but Alvin had to know that chaining Beas to the bench for good would become the subject of a good deal of local media attention now and put a bigger spotlight on him going forward.

    It’s not like Alvin was unaware that the team could get off to an uneven start so why push buttons so early? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a coach make the kind of decision Alvin made with Beasley in the first game of the season. Not even guys like Larry Brown, Sloan or Pop do that in the first game of the season. Didn’t the guy have enough outside baggage to begin with? Now that he’s officially on the media radar, if he doesn’t have a big game Friday, the chorus and pressure just keeps growing.

    The more I think about it, the crazier it seems to me. Forget that guys like Nash, Frye, Hill, and Gortat could do almost anything and not be benched. Forget that only Gortat had a solid game on the starting unit from start to finish last night, with the others being allowed to play through it. What seals the stupidity of it for me is Hedo Turkoglu.

    Coming off the worst season of his career with tons of character questions, Hedo comes into camp late and out of shape. He is absolutely abysmal in preseason and does little to help himself out of it. He is awarded the starting job anyway over people who arguably played better than him in camp. He goes into the first game of the season vs. POR and is just as bad offensively as Beasley was last night with the added bonus of literally being a chew toy for Portland’s bigs. As I recall at one point in the first half he got so sick of trying to guard their bigs, he simply committed a foul that he knew would send him to the bench.

    Yet Alvin gave him his customary minutes vs what he did last night, and rode what was a disaster from the beginning pretty much up until Hedo got moved months later. Personally I would have thought it odd to have benched Hedo in the first game of the season, but he certainly had more reason coming into it than he had last night. He can’t even blame expectations which were much higher that season than they are this one. A very curious decision in context.

  • sun also rises

    And meanwhile poor Nash goes down to his second concerning leg injury in the last eight games. Can’t wait for our village idiot to come gurgling and drooling in here with his hands down his pants trying to convince himself (and nobody else) that we would have somehow been closer to winning this one if we had paid Steve 10 mill a year to disintegrate on our roster.

    But back to reality, hawki’s probably right. If it’s that bad I expect a flush like we had with our ORL deal, which would be funny if it weren’t so predictable.

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    Awful ball game. The Suns lacked chemistry and talent to seal the win when they were given the opportunity.

    Beasley got the ball in akward spots, forcing long twos and not passing the ball when double-teamed.

    Tucker was successful because he played closer to the rim. And that’s what Beasley should do. Cut to the rim and leave Scola open for jumpers.

    On the top of that, this new core of players need a new game philosophy, which means they need a new coach.

  • Dominik

    Overall I’m pretty confident with that performance.
    Honestly, I expected a bigger rop off, as Golden State led by 17. But they fought back and showed a lot of hustle plays.
    Tucker did exactly what he was known for here in Germany, he played tough D, gave 110% and scored down low. I was really surprised to see him getting close to 20 minutes that game but he surly earned that. Hopefully he can maintain that kind ofproductiveness.
    Scola did a nice job on the defensive end and brought the Suns back with his 7 straught points.
    His steals and rebounds were a big contribution as well.
    Gortat had a pretty decent game, too, I think.
    He cleaned the boards, had a couple of great blocks.
    Dragic and Beasley both lloked confident and kept going for buckets, though they struggled with their shots. A little more consistency of both, might bring a big boost to the offense.
    The 2nd unit was a bit disappointing, gently said.
    Bassy and Brown shot 4 3s with in very few possessions, in which they simply showed a lack of creativity. I expected the first unit to return about two minutes earlier then it actually happened.

    This season is going to be tough one for sure. But they can definetly build on games like that.

  • DBreezy

    Hawki,

    If we’re rooting for a top-5 by the end of the first quarter of the season in December, that could get ugly. It’s easy to brush off the issue of Gentry and Babby being in the last year of their deals right now, but it gets much more complicated if they’re really top-5 pick bad by December. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, that early.

  • richard lawler

    need new coach…always waits until the 5 minute mark to bring back the regulars..they’ve got to be in better shape than what he thinks …..come to think of it..maybe he can’t think

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    I was also surprised that Gentry didn’t bring Beasley back into the game when the Suns needed a 3 pt shot. By then, IMO, it was clear Beasley was looking for redemption, and the Suns didn’t have a go-to player in crunch time without him.

    Yes, Tucker helped get the Suns back into the game. But I don’t think Tucker would want the Suns to lose just so he could be on the court in the final minute.

  • bk

    It’s fine. If I remember correctly, they lost to Hornets in opening day by 2 too last season.

  • Ty-Sun

    1st game of the season folks. Dragic and Scola both had a very good night. Dudley and Gortat both had a fairly good night. Beasley sucked. Tucker was the star off the bench. If Beasley had half his heart he would be a monster. I was very disappointed in Morris also. I wasn’t disappointed in Brown only because I didn’t expect anything more from him. Telfair may have only played 11 mins but it was 11 mins without a single assist, 2 points, 1 rebound and FOUR fouls. I don’t see how Marshall could have done worse. Against Detroit, I’d like to see Gentry have Marshall and Johnson in the PG and SG spots on the second unit instead of Telfair and Brown.

  • Ty-Sun

    And 1… I also want Dragic to understand that I want HIM to take that last second shot – even if it’s a bad shot – at the end of games instead of passing. I trust him. I hope he will eventually learn to trust himself. I’d rather see Goran throw up a prayer at the end of a game than anyone else.

  • Ryan

    Brown was absolutely horrible, but as was noted earlier that was expected. Because he is horrible. Dragic, Scola, and Tucker played their asses off and I can def watch a team with those three. For me the jury is still out on beasley, it seems like hes making an effort to fit in at least.

  • Ty-Sun

    I still wonder why Johnson didn’t play in this game. Was it because he was “upset” because the Suns didn’t pick up his option (and pay him $5 million more than he’s worth next year)? Or was it just because Gentry knew that Tucker would play he ass off if given the chance and Wes wouldn’t.

    Whatever you think about the Suns this season, you have to love Tucker. He plays his heart out whenever he’s on the court and you can’t ask any more than that from any player. I want his jersey! 17 is the number I want to wear to Suns’ games from now on.

  • DBreezy

    It’s going to be interesting watching this offense come together and what adjustments are made. Overall they don’t seem to have the feared shooters or slashers, other teams that have been successful with this offense had.

  • Greg

    @Ty-sun, Johnson didnt play because….he isnt good. i dont care what flashes he had shown in the pre season, his last two years speak for what he will likely be able to offer the suns even if he gets minutes. play him over shannon brown? shannon brown had a bad night, but when he is on he can lead the team in scoring and carry the suns bench. wes johnson isnt this type of player. shannon brown will give us frustrations, but to say play him over brown, who was actually pretty good the last couple of months last season…and johnson who has been really bad the last couple of *years*…..i dont see how you are so quick to pull the trigger. its been one game. i am glad you arent the coach.

  • Tony

    What a freaking LOSER Sun Rises is. Not only is he that, but to take glee about Nash’s injury is just psycho behavior. I tell you all folks, to take joy about somebody getting hurt is just so pathetic that words alone cannot even qualify how despicable it is. Sun Rises Loser seriously needs to get a life.

    @Dbreezy,

    I couldn’t agree more with you about Beasley. Although he played poorly, contrary to Michael’s assertion, Dragic didn’t play very well either, only shooting 4-13, and he still played 37 minutes. The number one way to destroy a player’s confidence is by benching them after starting off poorly. While Beasley has a history of inconsistency, Gentry shouldn’t be so quick to go away from him even if he starts slowly. I don’t expect Beasley to change in terms of being more consistent, but you don’t want him to regress further and benching him is a very quick way of ensuring that he does regress.

    @Ty-Sun,

    explain to me why Dragic has earned your trust as the Suns go-to scorer in the final plays of games? To be fair, I didn’t see him play much when he was a Rocket, but other than Dragic’s one amazing game against the Spurs a few years ago, I can’t recall him making game-winning shots. It may be that I just don’t remember them at the moment or didn’t see them, but if either is not the case, why do you have such faith in Dragic’s ability to be clutch?

  • john

    A bad night shooting is different than having a bad game. Dragic had a great all-around effort, and he looked commanding on the court.

  • suns68

    If Dragic’s not the go-to guy in the clutch, who is?

  • David

    Tucker should never play more minutes than Beasley in any situation whatsoever if they are hoping for Beasley to be the player everyone wants him to be. Let alone on the final plays of the game when we need scores and pj tucker is more of just an energy spark. Never been so bothered with how gentry coached a game.

  • DBreezy

    Generically speaking, I’m not against benching any player on the squad for their play on a given night. I see this as a season to develop the young players and an identity and if it happens to result in a bunch of W’s and a playoff berth great.

    It’s the context that Gentry benched him in that was off to me. The first game of the season, in a game that pretty much everyone not named Brandon Rush was struggling at one point or another in? Keeping him out on late plays where offense was clearly needed in favor of guys like Tucker and Telfair? It’s not like he had a horrible preseason and this was some big trend Alvin was trying to get on top of.

    It’s still just one game, but it kinda looks like Gentry is once again coaching in a playoffs or bust style from the start. That’s not entirely surprising in a contract year, but is it necessarily what’s best for this roster? It was kind of odd to hear Dudley say that there was a lot of pressure on them to perform this season, the other day. You see comments from Scola about being happy here as long as they’re winning. You see guys like Gentry, Morris, and O’Neal getting extra surly for an opening night game vs the Warriors. So maybe that pressure is there, I don’t really know. I think I saw somewhere that they’re a 4pt underdog tomorrow vs. the Pistons, so we’ll see if there’s panic if that indeed comes to fruition.

  • Jimbo

    i’m with suns68; if anything, dragic should have the last shot by default because I wouldn’t trust anyone else with the game on the line. Not saying dragic is particularly trustworthy, but who else do you want with the ball in that situation? Dudley, who was throwing up wide-open bricks in the fourth quarter? Damn i miss the old days…looking at the roster, it’s scary to say that I cant pick out ONE guy who I would call a consistent 3 point shooter. Awfully tough to space the floor that way

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    DBreezy

    Wasn’t aware Babby was in last year of contract but wonder if his future is tied to Beasley’s performance ?

  • DBreezy

    Hawki,

    Per Coro comments on the site devoured by Facebook, my understanding is that Gentry and his staff are in the last year of their deals along with Babby. Blanks apparently has an additional year on his deal which surprised me.

    I would guess that Gentry’s future is most directly linked to Beasley and Babby’s to the overall shape of how this transition occurs. IIRC there were reports that Lance was far more willing than Lon to explore moving Nash in previous seasons for value to really start the rebuild earlier.

  • Scott

    I read in an article this morning that Gentry said he kept Tucker in the game instead of Beasley because with the players GS had on the court it meant that the SF could / would end up guarding Steph Curry. Can anyone explain that to me?

    I mean, I get that Tucker is considered an excellent perimeter defender and that Curry is a perimeter shooter, and Beasley isn’t a great defender, etc. But wouldn’t Curry be defended by a guard?

    To me, if you want Beasley to be the go-to guy, a scoring threat who takes pressure off of Dragic at the ends of games, then you put Beasley on the floor at the ends of games regardless of how well he’s played, because he needs the reps. If he fails, he learns from the failures, and if he succeeds, he builds confidence.

    But if he’s not on the floor, and there’s no other designated go-to guy, who gains or learns anything from the ending of the game? The only person I can think of is Dragic, and I don’t believe Gentry intended to give Dragic a lesson in scoring the winning bucket. If he did, he should have had Dragic better prepared.

    Somebody tell me again that Gentry’s a great coach, because I keep thinking he’s just an okay coach (and a better assistant coach) whose main skills are deflecting criticism and defusing conflict.

  • DBreezy

    @Scott,

    Gentry’s a solid coach imo, who’s best talents are instilling confidence and ensuring his teams always give a professional, if not always successful, effort. That latter point shouldn’t be given short thrift, as year in and out I watch a lot of lottery squads who have loads of talent, but the effort you get from them night to night varies widely. This was true of Gentry’s Clippers teams as well, who had guys who were much bigger knuckleheads at that time than the Suns have (Odom, Miles, McInnis, etc).

    What he isn’t particularly good at imo, is adjusting on the fly. He gets a lot of credit locally for saving the Suns from the Porter debacle and coming off as the ‘anti-traitorous D’Antoni’ There’s a few things that have always been funny about that to me. One, Gentry has largely tried to copy D’Antoni’s offense, but is nowhere near as good at adjusting it as D’Antoni. Does anyone really think Gentry could have had that Melo and Amar’e-less, pre-J.R. Smith Knicks roster go on that winning streak last season?

    Two, Gentry gets a lot of credit for playing a deep bench that simply did not exist roster-wise previously. Goran was easily the best backup pg in the Nash era and Fropez was clearly the best back center. Neither guy was here in the D’Antoni days and you can bet that they would have played.

    Three Gentry and crew get a lot of credit for bringing the defense that D’Antoni didn’t. I’m not calling D’Antoni a defensive coach by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some big holes in that claim. The Suns best years of defensive efficiency in the SSOL era have all been D’Antoni squads including the only finishes in the teens. Also while they improved after Woodson took over, the Knicks were at top 10 defensive squad all last season, while the Suns were….
    http://www.teamrankings.com/nba/stat/defensive-efficiency?date=2012-06-21

    I say all of that less as a rehash/argument of the past, but to illustrate why a lot of people seem to think he is a great coach. He wasn’t the first choice of Sarver, and it’s something that has come up time and time again imo. Remember how long it took after his first head coaching season for them to confirm that the interim tag would be removed? Remember how long it took to get a deal done and how many outs Sarver put in that deal? Remember Sarver’s reluctance to do anything with his deal even after the surprise WCF slot, that was part of Kerr’s departure? Or the uncertainty that summer where he was asked to be a part of the free agent process, but not allowed to take phone calls from other teams and only had his future confirmed after Babby was hired? The same thing occurred with his lockout contract and adding another assistant last season was not his idea.

    He’s probably on thin ice, but the problem for the Suns is who they can get to replace him. It was kind of an eye opener to see how many people passed on the opportunity to coach a still-star studded Suns team post-D’Antoni. The same when it came to replace Kerr/Griffin or add a defensive assistant. They didn’t get their top choices in any of those searches and several of them chose less attractive alternatives instead. Dell Demps chose to go to a league owned lottery squad where he knew that he would likely have to trade CP3 rather than the Suns-even after some serious Sarver wining and dining.

    I would love to see some up and coming coach come in and grow with this team in the vein of a Tibs, Spo, Brooks or Williams. However can they land them? I don’t want them going after Brian Shaw or Mike Budenholzer but then trying to sell us on someone of the Marc Jackson or Jacque Vaughn mold.

  • Tony

    @Suns68 and Jimbo,

    I’m not suggesting that Dragic isn’t a clutch player. The issue I am questioning is whether Dragic has established himself to be the go-to player in the clutch? Personally, other than the Spurs game back when the Suns were relevant, Dragic hasn’t developed a reputation for being a clutch player, nor has he developed a reputation for not being clutch either. The point I’m making is that it’s a mistake to elevate Dragic to the key player to go to in the clutch instead of taking a different approach, i.e., going with the hot hand. For example, if Beasley or Scola is having a great game offensively, then the ball in the final possession should be in their hands and not necessarily Dragic’s.

    @Dbreezy,

    no top-quality head coach will coach any Suns team until Sarver sells. Nor has Sarver shown any indication that he’s willing to pay top dollar for a head coach or a GM. Heck, he’s rarely shown any interest in paying for top players.

    The point is, in the NBA as in most things, you generally get what you pay for. I’ve felt for a long time that Gentry was being treated unfairly by the Suns FO in underpaying him, constant roster-changes with dwindling talent levels, and now to put him in a lame-duck status by not offering him an extension, once again shows how ludicrous the Suns FO really is. They are basically forcing Gentry to choose between developing players for the long-term, which means playing Beasley in the 4th quarter despite a poorly played game, versus coaching for the short-term and winning a couple more games at the expense of longterm player development. Since he is in his final season in his contract, it’s very foreseeable that he would choose the latter approach and risk hurting key players confidence levels, so that he can try to get the Suns a few more wins this season to elevate his bargainning position in any subsequent contract-related talks.

  • Scott

    I think Elston Turner is a possible candidate to coach after Gentry.

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