Phoenix Suns 117, Charlotte Bobcats 110 -- A win is a win

Marcin Gortat challenges Brendan Haywood's shot. Gortat recorded seven blocks on the night. (Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

Marcin Gortat challenges Brendan Haywood’s shot. Gortat recorded seven blocks on the night. (Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

It wasn’t pretty down the stretch, but the Phoenix Suns held on by the score of 117-110 to earn a much-needed win against the Charlotte Bobcats and salvage what had been a disastrous Southeast road trip.

Marcin Gortat and Michael Beasley both flirted with triple-doubles, and Shannon Brown hit all six of his three-point attempts in the fourth quarter to lead the Suns to victory.

After holding their first two opponents to less than 90 points, the Suns hit the road and left their defense behind. They allowed 115 and 124 points to Orlando and Miami, respectively, in the first two games of this three-game trip. The defense was no better tonight in Charlotte, but the Suns shot a season’s best 46 percent from the floor and had six different players in double figures. At this point in the season, the Suns need any win they can get no matter how ugly it might be.

The offense was really clicking in the first quarter as Phoenix raced out to 31-22 lead. Marcin Gortat was locked-in and agile around the hoop on both ends. He had nine points and two blocks after 12 minutes and finished with 23 points, 10 boards, and seven blocks.

Michael Beasley also looked good early. Beas was intent on scoring inside via penetration and post-ups instead of settling for his jump shot, and he finished with 21 points, 15 boards, and seven assists. Goran Dragic looked like he was on his way to a big night as well by scoring eight points and handing out three assists in the first, but foul trouble forced him to sit for nearly eight minutes of the second quarter.

Dragic being sidelined combined along with Jermaine O’Neal’s continued absence put the Suns’ rotation into disarray. Coach Alvin Gentry was forced to play Gortat extra minutes and use Luis Scola at the five spot to get Marcin rest. This discombobulation allowed Charlotte back into the game, as the Bobcats cut the Suns’ lead to five points in the second.

The Suns fired back as Jared Dudley hit a three in transition and followed it up with a short jumper from the elbow. It seemed, for a moment, as if Dudley had found his shooting groove, but he made only two more shots the rest of the night and thus his cold streak continues. It looks to me like Jared is thinking too much when he’s on the court and that in turn is making him tentative. Last season, Dudley was at his best when he was the energy guy — a player the rest of the team could feed off of. He didn’t hesitate to shoot open threes, even if they were in transition, and he penetrated with a purpose. He is not doing any of that this year. Though Jared is the locker room leader, that doesn’t mean he can’t play with the free-wheeling style he did last year.

The third quarter was a period of furious runs by both teams. First the Bobcats reeled off 12 straight unanswered points to cut the lead to four. Spurring Charlotte on was the outside shooting of 7-footer Byron “B.J.” Mullens. The former Ohio State player hit four treys in the third quarter and 6-of-10 for the game. Most of his makes came against Luis Scola, who refused to honor Mullens’ shot and sagged off in help defense repeatedly. Michael Beasley stemmed the flood by hitting two successive shots, which started the Suns on a 14-2 run of their own. Charlotte then closed out the quarter on a 16-5 tear that cut the lead back down to four points heading into the final period.

Charlotte’s momentum continued into the fourth as they tied the game at 85, but the Bobcats were never able to grab the lead thanks to Shannon Brown. I didn’t watch the game in HD, so I can’t be sure, but Brown may have been engulfed in actual flames NBA Jam-style in the fourth quarter. He was that hot from beyond the arc. It didn’t matter if the shot clock was dying or a Bobcat defender had a hand in his face, Shannon could not miss. His six threes were the only reason the Suns didn’t squander this win. Charlotte had all the momentum, and their crowd, which had been silent all game, had finally started making noise. Brown squashed any hope of a comeback.

While Brown’s shooting was very impressive and very clutch, the Suns should not have needed those shots to maintain their lead. Phoenix should have won this game by 20 or 30 points, but shoddy defense prevented them from putting the game away. The Suns’ defensive plan was very clear from the outset: 1) Don’t respect Charlotte’s outside shooting. 2) Pack the defense in inside the arc.

On paper, this seems like a solid plan. No one in the Bobcats’ backcourt is a great jumpshooter. Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jeffrey Taylor are athletic slashers, not shooters. So the Suns played five feet off of everyone and never ventured beyond the arc to defend. This approach proved to be problematic for two reasons.

First, it allowed B.J. Mullens to score 24 points on the night. His shooting brought Charlotte storming back into the game in the third quarter when Phoenix should have been putting them away. Second, it allowed the Bobcats’ guards to penetrate freely into the key. Playing five feet off Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker only allows them to get into the key with a head of steam. On one hand, their constant penetration allowed Marcin Gortat to rack up a career high in blocks, adding to his NBA-leading total. On the other it put Dragic and Gortat in foul trouble at unfortunate times in the game and put Charlotte on the line way too much.

Sessions should never shoot 14 free throws in an NBA game, but he did in this one, as he and Kemba Walker went 17-of-20 at the line. The Suns made no adjustments over the course of the game. They really had no one other than Dragic who could stay in front of anyone consistently, and Goran only played 33 minutes.

Another glaring defensive issue was transition defense. The box score says the Suns only gave up 15 fast-break points, but that figure doesn’t account for layups off made baskets. There’s no excuse for getting beat down the floor after scoring a bucket. Charlotte used its speed to do just that several times and keep themselves in the game. Their inability to get back on ‘D’ nearly cost the Suns a win.

When asked about blowing another big lead, Gentry told Paul Coro “We did this a few days ago and ended [up] losing the game, actually getting blown out. We rectified the situation so hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.”

The last thing worth discussing is how Gentry handled the rotation. Beasley played 43 minutes and was too winded to make a shot down the stretch. After shooting 50 percent in the first half, Michael finished 7-of-21 from the field, shooting mostly jumpers in the second half. Beasley’s jumper is inconsistent because he doesn’t always have his feet underneath him. Sometimes he’s leaning way too far forward. Sometimes he fades back as he releases. There simply too much variability in his motion right now.

He needs to be more consistent in his mechanics if he wants to have any hope of shooting a higher percentage moving forward. I thought the Suns would have been better served by having Scola on the floor instead of Beasley for some of those minutes. Scola didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t in foul trouble and was productive earlier in the game. The Suns played the first half of the fourth with the lineup of Brown, Telfair, Tucker, Beasley, and Morris.

That group had no creativity on the offensive end and no focus on defense. The only reason they didn’t choke the game away was Brown’s clutch shooting. It seemed as though Gentry wanted to see how that group would play with the game on the line. He held off bringing Gortat and Dragic back in until 5:20 left in the game. I think he knew once Gortat and Dragic came back in, Phoenix would pull it out, but that didn’t stop the final period from being unnecessarily close down to the final minute.

In the end, the Suns got the win and that’s all that matters. They don’t give points for pretty in the NBA.

And 1

  • Scola, Gortat, and Beasley are developing some great passing chemistry with one another. They combined for 14 assists between the three of them. Both Scola and Beasley hit Gortat with fake shot-jump passes that completely froze the defense and led to uncontested layups.
  • Goran Dragic is sixth in the NBA in assists with 8.8 per game.
  • Marcin Gortat continues to lead the league in blocks with 4.2 per game and is currently fifth in rebounds with 11.8 per game.

Tags: Charlotte Bobcats Marcin Gortat Michael Beasley Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • David

    While I agree that Beasley lost his jumper when he lost his wind, I completely disagree that Scola should have played in the 4th quarter instead. He should have gotten a bit more rest in the third, but whether his jumper was falling or not, he was being very effective and initiated the offense from the high post nearly every critical possession. He had by far the highest +/- in the game and was, finally, effective outside of just his scoring.

  • Luka

    Gentry needs to be fired ASAP. Go ahead and promote Turner. The defense, and the in-game rotation problems will be solved.

    Also, get Dudley back on the bench. He’s good in a vacuum of about 20-25 mpg. Anything more and he’s inconsistent. Promote Brown to starting 2 guard like everyone said in the beginning. Quit being dense Gentry.

  • bk

    Projecting to be a 20~30 win team, this game should be won.

  • Raz

    @Luka: This Gentry should be fired sentiment is way out of line … its only 5 games in, and how could Gentry have expected BJ Mullens to shoot like Ray Allen for 3?

    Also, even while Beasley shot poorly, I thought his energy was awesome! If he plays with this effort all season, he is going to turn into a pretty good player!

  • Scott

    Garrett is a decent defender at both guard spots, with length to bother smaller guards. He’s also got shot modest creation skills and shoots better off the dribble than off the catch. Maybe Gentry doesn’t have confidence in him yet, but he sounds like an option for bench SG if Brown moves into the starting lineup.

    I still think Morris should play at C when the Suns want a faster, higher scoring 2nd unit.

  • Sillmarillion

    What an amazing game! Although it became close which was totally unnecessary the game was nice to watch.
    Gortat was awesome, not only because of his line, but he also had this confident look on his face, he was a leader on the court and I mean, SEVEN blocks, hello?! I remember some people writing here that the Suns gonna be in trouble in the BS-department…
    Brown was a dream to watch. I agree, it’s a shame that the Suns got into this 85-85 situation, but Shannon stayed cool and hit shots like a mashine. It’s good to know that there is a guy who can handle the ball in tough situations.
    I liked Beasley. My favourite moment of the game was when he lost the dribbl, made this awesome dive on the floor and didn’t lose the ball! That’s the hustle everyone wants to see. If you fight that hard people and fans gonna respect you, even if you miss shots.
    PJ Tucker on the other hand made me mad. What a nice fastbreak he led in the 4th quarter, but why didn’t he pass the ball to Goran? Dragic was right to yell at him and Tucker reacted like a little girl and of course misses the FT…

  • Elviro (Italy)

    good game from the offensive side but much merit of brown that has created his shots from three and I think that brown should start in the starting lineup!
    Gortat is not a surprise: it is strong, a certainty of this team!
    As usual good Dragic, drives well and the team has given many assists despite the problem of fouls;
    B-Easy has made a good game, has enormous potential but is discontinuous, should obtain continuity in performance because he can perform well in all the matches!
    Now we must continue to grow, increase our team chemistry and grow in defense!
    I do not want us to be just a strong team with the weak and weak with the strong … !
    We have to fight in every game!

  • Flood

    Hey I know this is looking like its going to be a rougher season than we’re used to. I also appreciate this blog and its analysis and discussion. So do you think we can liven up the blog titles a bit? “No Chance” and “A Win is a Win” are pretty bleak. Why not “Tough night against the champs” and “Got one baby!”

  • Voqar

    Another wierd game to watch, which seems to be the theme. Suns outplayed them so much of the time but managed to make moronic mistakes, take horrible shots, and lose interested in defense enough to make you worry.

    There was a time during the game where the Suns were passing like mad for several possessions, getting great looks, and being disruptive defensively. It was a beautiful sequence on both ends. If they could ever do that consistently, they’d be san antonio…err…they’d be so much better off.

  • Voqar

    @Flood I thought “A wins is a win” was appropriate because they were playing one of the worst teams and almost flushed it. Against most of the rest of the league, if they played like that, it’s a sure L.

  • john

    Great game from Gortat. So far, his numbers this year have been fantastic (better than his season averages from last season). I realize it’s early, but hopefully Gortat can continue to show his doubters he is not simply a product of Nash.

  • Scott

    Speaking of Gortat, I like how he decided to stop taking charges and start blocking shots. That’s a criticism that had been leveled against him, and clearly he’s responded well to it.

  • Luka

    @Scott Agreed, Gortat has easily been the Suns best player to this point.

  • Lex

    Nash was Gortat’s creation. :)