Phoenix Suns 92, Detroit Pistons 89 -- Balance keys the win

PHOENIX — On a night when Jared Dudley scored two points, the Phoenix Suns weren’t gasping for breaths on offense. It was a stark contrast to last season’s team, which never could afford a key member failing to produce in the scoring department.

A Kyle Singler three-pointer cut Phoenix’s lead to 91-89 with 4.2 seconds left, but the Suns held off Detroit for a 92-89 home victory on Friday. Both defense and offense had to do with that. Five players reached double-figures for the Suns, and they held the Pistons to seven points in eight minutes leading into the halftime break, building an eight-point lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Luis Scola said Friday’s balance was a good blueprint for how the team will look with its current makeup.

“It’s the only way we’re going to win games,” he said. “Sometimes somebody is going to score 25, 30 points, (but) most of the time it’s going to be like this. Most of the guys are going to score above 10. That’s the way we have to approach it.”

Marcin Gortat scored 16 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and controlled the paint with three blocks. Goran Dragic again produced with 15 points and 10 assists. Michael Beasley and Scola put in 16 and 13 points, respectively, and helped the Suns to a 52-39 rebounding advantage on the night.

“I thought we made some strides from where we were the other night, especially in the rebound department,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “You know, they had four early offensive rebounds and they ended up with 10 for the game.

“Offensively, we are very much still a work in progress,” he added. “We have to get a rhythm. We have to get a sense of what we are doing out there and the spacing.”

Detroit didn’t get within six points during the entire second half until less than a minute remained, and through two games Phoenix has yet to allow a team to shoot better than 42 percent. Dudley did his job in holding Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey to one point on 0-for-7 shooting.

It wasn’t all perfect defense. Detroit got going early with dribble penetration that led to Phoenix’s bigs rotating and then giving up the early offensive rebounds Gentry alluded to. Jason Maxiell had 13 first-quarter points and two offensive boards himself.

With a minute to play in the first quarter, Detroit went on a 7-0 spurt against the Suns, who slowly substituted the bench into the game. Markieff Morris was the first man off the bench, and Wesley Johnson was second.

Johnson hit his first shot of the game, a three-pointer with a minute left to make it 25-24 Detroit before the aforementioned 7-0 spurt. He saw time at the small forward slot with Brown at the shooting guard slot.

That happened because Beasley’s sleepy play on defense earned him a seat next to Gentry. He left Tayshaun Prince wide open on one play, fouled him from behind on the next after going for a steal, then fouled Prince on a jumper close to three-point territory within the final few minutes of the first quarter.

Detroit led 39-28 with eight minutes to play in the first half. But like the Golden State opener, Scola’s reinsertion into the lineup marked a change in fortune. He scored seven of the next nine points on a 9-2 Phoenix run, part of a 26-7 total run Phoenix used before halftime.

“We got to put our second unit in a better situation and give ourselves more room for error,” Scola said.

Phoenix had a 54-46 lead at the break thanks to Scola’s energy. Beasley even made up for his early defensive miscues, scoring six quick points in the final 2:30 of the half.

And the Suns’ bench showed much better in the second half, where Shannon Brown had 10 points to keep the offense humming. Brown finished with 14 for the game and closed in place of Dudley.

Phoenix had a 71-63 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“We’re a deep team,” Gentry said. “When guys are going good, I just think they deserve to stay in the game. Shannon made some shots for us. I felt good about the way Shannon was playing and I let him finish the game.”

Morris might have been the biggest disappointment on Friday. Outside of an emphatic put-back slam dunk, he went 3-for-12 from the floor with three turnovers in 18 minutes.

But his shooting struggles weren’t only on him. The Suns admitted they are still learning how to properly space the floor. They shot 43.5 percent from the floor and a lowly 2-for-11 from three-point range.

And while for the second time in a row Phoenix had double-digit deficit in the first half, they’ll take that they twice recovered and they once won.

Said Gentry: “I just thought it was a much-needed win, obviously. Kind of a gut check.”

And 1

Gentry said prior to the game to take little meaning out of P.J. Tucker’s use in the season opener, saying the plan all along was to play Johnson. A double-digit deficit against the Warriors, however, called for a defensive presence.

On Friday, Johnson saw first-half action while Tucker took over the same substitution pattern in the second half. Gentry said that he wanted both players to play so either would be ready for crunch-time minutes. Because Phoenix needed defense and not shooting as Detroit made a final push, Tucker got the nod.

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  • DBreezy

    The team has played hard overall in both games, tonight it yielded a W. Outside of the1Q, they basically owned the Pistons on the glass which was huge. Pistons have to be kicking themselves in the sense that after getting run over by the Rockets on Halloween, they were successful in getting the pace where they wanted. There were only 5 fast break points between the two squads and the game was low scoring by NBA standards-even lockout standards. Most importantly, I get to talk smack to my Pistons fan friend.

  • Scott

    Good to see Brown’s offense kick in. Hopefully Dudley’s won’t be far behind.

  • sun also rises

    When the Suns play like this they’re like a junior varsity version of the Clippers or Grizz. Capable of manning up and getting everybody involved, challenging teams with Gentry’s “man-in/man-out” system.

    It’s going to be competitive but not much else. Here’s to hoping that we can keep winning the games that we’re at least supposed to win.

  • bk

    We would get the #1 overall pick from Lakers if the season ends today. Very sweet~

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Brown did well and we won. Brown was bad Wednesday and we lost. Brown is almost our entire bench production. I was watching the Pistons anouncers on league pass, and they said that as well. So Brown just has to score 25 a game and we’ll go 81-1!

    That putback dunk by Kieff in the third qtr. Was sick.

  • silver

    Very very glad to see Brown drive to the basket. We need someone on the bench to get those shots when the outside FGs aren’t falling. I think if they bench plays well we will be able to beat anyone outside the elite teams.

    @bk We get the worst of either Miami’s or the laker’s picks. Here’s to hoping they both lose 80 games.

  • hawki

    So much for Wes Johnson getting Brown minutes…nice to see Beasley scoring & looking confident.
    Love watching the Lakers go 0-3.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Go Suns !!!

  • Sherman

    Nice to see after all the years of run and gun offense, the Suns win a game with the defense holding at the end.

  • john

    As this Suns team grows and learns, I’m thinking more and more that this could be an exciting season. They have played two poor teams so far, so I won’t get too far ahead of myself, but this team isn’t so severely lacking in talent like so many talking heads thought. Dragic and Scola look fantastic, Marcin showed up big this game. If those three can keep contributing like this and Beasley can keep from shooting the team in the foot, I think 40+ wins could be a possibility.

  • sun also rises

    Haha! Too funny BK. I don’t like gloating too much but the fact that both STAT and Steve are both sidelined and watching their new teams play better without them at least makes the fact that we didn’t sucker in and over pay for them that much easier to swallow.

    I feel sorry for Nash but he knew exactly what sort of mess he was walking into. And I wouldn’t be surprised if STAT is gone by the trade deadline, New York is getting sick of realizing how badly he and Melo fit. Watch ORL bite on that contract, as they seem to be the only team dumb enough for those kinds of commitments these days.

  • Al

    I only managed to watch the second half of the game. Seems that people going to Phoenix suns games still get their moneys worth. It is never over when Phoenix has a lead in crunch time. I was mad at Shannon at first, because he seemed to keep taking highly contested threes from the left corner…and missing. Fortunately, he stepped it up in the 4th and carried the second bench. Am surprise Tucker got the nod over Johnson in the 4th. I read that Johnson is one of the few that gives Kobe fits on defense which should make him a good defender. I have no idea why Gentry went with Telfair for the critical free throws. I think Shannon is the best free throw shooter out of all of them. On to the next game.


  • Jackson Giels

    Anyone else happy that the Hornets matched the offer for Eric Gordon after the recent news he will be out for at least 4 weeks? I know I am! And good win by the suns.

  • DBreezy

    One day we’ll be good enough again that our fans won’t have to get giddy everytime one of our former players or coaches has some sort of misfortune.

  • Bill-in-Tokyo

    A very disappointing game. They missed a lot of shots they need to make to be good. 2nd team has some real offensive problems. Folks, they almost choked a sure win into a lost. If Detroit had a “star”( like the 3 guys in their prime who just got hurt), he would have canned a 3 and beat us in overtime. And Gentry… I-go-with-the-hot-hand strategy. What type of consciously designed-offensive strategy is that? Clueless? Still lottery bound.