Phoenix Suns 114, Portland Trail Blazers 87 -- Complete victory

PHOENIX — Alvin Gentry made two changes to his starting lineup, but the way the Suns played it almost seemed like he swapped out his entire team before Phoenix’s 114-87 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday evening.

This night was different from all other nights because the Suns shot 59.7 percent from the field despite entering the game shooting 43.1 percent with a high of 48.9 percent Friday against the Lakers. Phoenix scored a season-best 125.4 points per 100 possessions despite coming into the game averaging 99.7, per the NBA’s stats tool.

The Suns also played perhaps their best defensive game of the season, yielding a season-low 89.3 points per 100 compared to a season average of 107.2. Phoenix gave up 40.3 percent shooting, their best performance since the opening night clank fest against the Warriors.

Instead of falling behind early, the Suns shot 63.2 percent in the first quarter to lead after the first for only the third time all year and the first since Nov. 7 in Charlotte. That Bobcats game was also the only other time all year the Suns did not trail by double digits at any point in the game as the Blazers never led by more than four.

“Obviously it was our best game, our most complete game for 48 minutes,” Gentry said. “I thought that from the start of the game all the way though we did a good job. I thought overall it was by far our best performance. We shot the ball exceptionally well because I think we had good ball movement, and we got easy shots. We created easy shots for ourselves.”

After using the same starting lineup for the first 11 games of the season and playing that unit together for heavy minutes, the Suns substituted Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown for Luis Scola and Jared Dudley. Needless to say, for one game at least the move certainly worked.

In 18 minutes with the starting lineup of Dragic-Brown-Beasley-Morris-Gortat, the Suns outscored the Blazers 46-39 while shooting 61.3 percent. In 13 minutes of Telfair-Dudley-Tucker-Scola-O’Neal, the Suns won 30-20 while draining 61.9 percent of their attempts.

Granted this came against a listless Blazers team, but no matter whom Gentry put on the floor good things happened as every active player was in the positives of plus/minus, led by Tucker’s plus 23 in 27 minutes.

“Everything that we do is still a work in progress, and I’m not going to yell from the mountaintop right now,” Gentry said. “It’s one game, and we played real well, and we’ll see Friday if it’ll work, and then we’ll keep trying to figure out how we can play combinations of guys, but I thought they played well tonight the combinations that we had, and obviously it’s a much, much needed win for us.”

The lineup change brought about a different Marcin Gortat, as the middle was more open with Morris spacing the floor on the perimeter. Gortat also came out aggressive after making comments about wanting to have a bigger role in the offense last week.

He said he worked extremely hard the last two days and did a much better job sealing off his man for easy buckets, as he played a superb offensive game with 22 points and seven rebounds on 11-for-14 shooting without even logging a second in the fourth quarter.

“I tried to put myself in a better position to score and make myself available to teammates, and I’m just glad Coach gave me the opportunity to help the team offensively,” said Gortat, who had scored 21 points the past three games combined. “I’ve learned in the past three days that you’ve got to play the game with a little bit of anger. That’s what I learned from our veterans, that’s what I learned, and I had a little bit of anger inside me. I just tried to prove it and show that I’m the player, that I’m capable of scoring inside. It’s one game, I’m not trying to get excited. There’s still a lot of work in front of me. I’m just going to try to continue now.”

Gortat wasn’t the only Suns big man to explode tonight as Jermaine O’Neal came off the bench to put up 17 points and five rebounds on 7-for-9 shooting to go along with two blocks in a mere 18:30. For the game in a full 48 minutes, the duo scored a ridiculous 37 points on 18-for-23 shooting and pulled down 12 rebounds.

That surely says something about the kind of defense played by Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland, but when was the last time the Suns got such production from the center spot?

“Jermaine was unstoppable today,” Gortat said. “He basically showed the full package today offensively. I’m trying to work on it.”

Of the players actually involved in the starting lineup shakeup, nobody benefited more than Morris tonight. The Kansas product entered the night shooting 35.4 percent from the floor and before Saturday he had never made more than half his shots in a game this season.

However, tonight he scored a season-high 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting while pulling down seven boards in a mere 25 minutes of play. He has now scored 35 points on 15-for-22 shooting in his last two contests and is starting to turn around what had been an abysmal season to this point.

“I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, so I just came out and played hard,” Morris said. “Just do what I do and not try to over-think the game, just play hard.”

At the other end, Morris helped limit Blazers stud LaMarcus Aldridge to 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting — nine points below his season average — and four of those points came in garbage time with Morris on the bench. Morris aimed to play Aldridge physical and make him take shots he didn’t want to shoot, and it worked as the former Longhorn languished on the perimeter much of the contest.

Brown (10 points, 2-for-4), Scola (four points, 2-for-4) and Dudley (four points, 2-for-4) did not make much of an offensive impact, and the Blazers hardly looked like a team that had won three in a row entering this one.

However, every lineup Gentry tried played well and they all just seemed to make more sense than the lineups previously drawn up. It seems to have been proven that Beasley-Scola-Gortat is a bad fit, so although Scola doesn’t necessarily deserve to be benched, Morris just works better with the starters. Likewise, Scola should eventually become the primary bench scorer, a role that should help that unit become less lopsided. Tonight it was still a superb defensive lineup (75.8 defensive rating).

The Suns needed a blowout like this in the worst way being that it’s the kind of victory that has escaped them all season. The nature of the win makes Gentry look like a genius for pulling the trigger on the lineup change, but everyone in the organization understands that one superior 48-minute effort won’t mask the problems that have surfaced in the first 11 games.

‘This is just one game,” Gortat said. “We’ve got to continue to play like that. If we share the ball, if we distribute the ball, we move the ball, look how much fun we have. We’re beating the team by 30, so it’s just fun. It’s fun playing, it’s fun winning. It’s no fun losing.”

And 1

The Suns have won four straight home games against the Blazers and 13 of 15 since 2004-05. … Beasley played a mere 18:56, collecting five points and two boards. At least for one night, decreased PT for Beas was a part of the rotation changes. … Morris on whether it was bad timing that he got sick last season upon earning a starting job: “I think I got sick when they told me. I felt pretty good until they told me that. I don’t know what happened after that.” … The Suns blew out the Blazers early last season as well, a 25-point drubbing that ended up being the team’s biggest home victory of the year. … Before the game Dudley retweeted a Dan Reeves quote that said, “Difficulties in life are intended to make us better, not bitter.”

Tags: Marcin Gortat Markieff Morris

  • shazam

    the suns will beat the heat in the finals 4-0

  • melon man

    Not one block from Gortat tonight. While this lineup may have worked I still think we need to start shopping the Hammer Gazelle around. If stepping it up only means having a center that just scores, then Im not interested.

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    Lol, he goes 11-14 with 22 points, 7 rebs in just 28 minutes and you complain about it? Seriously, what is wrong with you? Maybe Robin Lopez would be better, he went for a fabolous 3-21 last night.

  • melon man

    I didnt see the game so I can only go by the stat line and 0 blocks to me means he’s not doing his job. Apparently his opponents werent that great so we can see how he does against someone who is better. As for RoLo, I said nothing about bringing him back but Im looking forward to watching the match between him and Gortat on Friday.

  • melon man

    Oh and as far as rebounds go he should be getting plenty, that’s his job. Suns need more offensive rebounds. Getting boards on the defensive end is nothing special, again thats his job. Thats like saying that raising good kids is something special. It’s really not because youre supposed to raise good kids.

  • shazam

    With Ryan Anderson scoring in bunches and Anthony Davis over his concussion, Robin Lopez’s time and effectiveness on the court have decreased. The 7-foot center has scored in double figures just once in the past five games and has eclipsed five rebounds only once in that span as well.

  • bill.thomas

    @melon man: Yeah, I can’t figure out why people think that raising their own kids constitutes doing a great service to society. Of my four living siblings, all are raising kids, and at least 3 of them think that they’re doing society a huge favor by raising their own kids. I will bet $5000 that none of these kids will ever have a significant favorable impact on society, but still, they’re doing society a great service. Go figure.

  • JR

    Putting Scola on bench might be a good move, not because he’s playing bad, but because he can create for himself, Gortat and Morris need some help from Goran, so Scola will stay solid as he is and Gortat and Morris will get better.. hopefully

  • bill.thomas

    @shazam: Robin is just a very erratic figure, not worth $5 mil a year to us or to most MBA teams, but worth that much to Dell Demps.

    @The Marshall Hate: I’m sure if Marshall could get the minutes The New God (Austin Rivers) is getting, he’d produce about the same as The New God.

  • bill.thomas

    @JR: Agreed

  • bill.thomas

    @JR: What’s Gortat’s problem????? The pizza is better here than in Poland (in Poland, the primary topping is potato slices), and he’s making more money here than the entire GDP of the city of Lodz.

  • bill.thomas

    Speaking of Gortat, could someone show him the way to the weight room? Bicep curls would be a good start.

    Charles Barkley: “I don’t lift weights because they’re heavy, and I don’t run because it makes me tired.”

    Message to Gortat: You’re no Charles Barkley !!!

  • Luka

    PJ Tucker should be starting.

  • bill.thomas

    @The Hammer Gazelle: he probably sleeps with a dominant woman.

  • JR

    @bill.thomas: I assume you referring to the article, i find out about it from the commentators and just read it and it don’t look that bad, English version seems more like a statement that hes unhappy or something, Polish version looks like two guys taking off the record, it wasn’t professional but i wouldn’t pay much attention to this, it’s just Gortat bein Gortat.
    and if it goes to culinary tastes, ye he might be happier among Irish potato lovers in Boston… jk’in go Suns!!!

  • Serek

    @JR: or in Chicago with all the Polish food stores :)

  • Scott

    @JR -

    I agree with your assessment of Morris. I was just thinking this morning, “How did he uncork such a good game when he’s been nothing really special with the 2nd unit?”

    The answer, possibly, is it helps Morris to play with Dragic rather than Telfair, because Dragic is better at setting players up. Conversely, as you note, Scola may be a boon to the bench because he can create for himself.

    @Luka -

    I agree; I can’t see why Beasley is starting. He should be with the 2nd unit even more than Scola should. It’s Tucker who should start.

  • Andres

    Beasley played less more minutes therefore attempted less shots and the Suns won with no issues. I dont think this is a coincidence.
    People that were talking about firing Gentry should relax a bit and let the guy perform the adjustments as he did last night. Its too early in the season to put all the blame on the coach. Its not like he is coaching stars.

  • john


    The box score revealed something more than just “0 blocks” for Gortat. The Blazers scored just 24 points in the paint.

    Blocking jumpers is a lot more difficult than interior shots. Also, could it be possible that the Blazers weren’t driving because of Gortat’s presence? (Fyi, I don’t believe that. The Blazers just aren’t a team that likes to attack the rim).

    Also, the entire team had just three blocks (two from JO and one from Dragic). It’s not like Gortat forgot to show up to the block party. There just weren’t any block to be had.

  • Andres

    On another note it was good to see Marshall run the show for a couple of mins during garbage time. He got 3 assts, one which was a nice alley oop pass to WJ for a nice finish. Hopefully the Suns will be able to have wins like this in the next 5 games and therefore allow Marshall and WJ to get some garbage time

  • Greg

    Tucker should not start. The second unit right now, is a collection of gritty, experienced, hustling veterans for the most part. Why would you take part of that units spark (Tucker) and replace it with a lacking defensive player in beasley? Both units should be strong and consistent. Beasley has shown flashes of his ability to score and distribute. Tucker has done some nice things, but he isnt starting caliber. Let him continue to do his thing with the bench unit and let that group play feisty defense until the starters come back on the floor. Beasley started, but his 18 minutes shows that is clearly just a title. He likely wont log starters minutes. Its just a matter of keeping both units strong.

  • David

    The days of gentry saying Beasley should be taking 18-20 shots a game seem long ago haha

  • bk

    I think we should praise for Alvin Gentry for this smart move.

  • Ty-Sun

    Beasley will continue to start. If he has an “on” night he will get the majority of the SF mins. If he has an off night then Tucker will get the majority of the SF mins. Off or on, Beasley fits better with the starting unit than Tucker does, especially with the lineup changes. No one is going to really respect Tucker as a scoring threat but they have to respect Beasley as one until he proves he isn’t in any given game. Other teams already know that, even though Beasley is inconsistent, he can go off for 30 points on any given night so they can’t slack off guarding him until they get a cue as to what kind of night he’s going to have.

    On the 1st unit, Dragic, Brown, Beasley, Gortat and now even Morris have proven themselves as scoring threats who’s defenders can’t drop back to help defend someone else. On the 2nd unit, O’Neal reminded everyone last night that they can’t afford to ignore him and even though Scola had a sub-par night everyone knows that the can’t afford to ignore him either. Telfair can score and Tucker gets his as well as being an enormous defensive pest and rebounder. Dudley has been mostly a disappointment this season. It makes me wonder if he wasn’t the player who needs someone like Nash to thrive instead of Gortat as so many people have suggested.

  • Jeremiah


    I would consider starting Dudley at the 3 instead of Beasley. Dudley does a much better job defending 3s than Beas and he is still a guy that the opposing team has to account for on the offensive side of the court. Also Dudley is more dependent on the point guard than Beasley is. Most of Beasley’s point are unassisted and it is pretty much the complete opposite for Duds. The bench offense could pretty much just be throwing the ball into the post to JO, Scola and Beasley.

  • Scott

    Hasn’t Tucker already outscored Beasley in a few games? Certainly he’s more efficient.

    I don’t think the Suns benefit by having multiple volume scoring players on the floor at a time. Remember how bad the combo of Brown and Redd was last season? It was better to have one of them paired with a more efficient player, even if it was a defensive, non-scoring type player like Childress.

    I suspect it will prove better to have Brown and Tucker (or Dudley) than Brown and Beasley.

    Likewise, the Suns can allow for a volume scorer on the 2nd unit, now that they’ve moved Brown to the starters.

  • Voqar

    Nice game but they need to not let it go to their heads and the coaches should be pounding the idea of ball movement/passing into their heads nonstop.

    The fact that shannon brown passed more than isolating the clock down to critical and jacking up bad shots is not something you can expect to see often without a ton of reinforcement.

    Beasely went from playing seemingly 40 minutes a game to barely playing – IMO that helped – far fewer erratic drives, horrific shots, passes to fans, and other boneheaded moves. They need to keep him sitting unless he proves to be far more effective when he’s in.

    Big problem with this Suns team is you often don’t know what you’re gonna get.

    Will Gortat have 4 blocks and keep the paint clear or none and allow a layup line?

    Will Morris jack up horrible 3′s and long shots while committing turnovers and boneheaded fouls (ie, beasely impersonation) or have an amazingly good game (man, if he could consistenly play like he did in this game he’d be a stud but it just doesn’t happen).

    Will Brown jack up horrific shots after dribbling incessantly and thinking pass is a one way motion to himself or play team ball?

    Will the suns as a whole miss wide open shot after wide open shot and blow layups setup by beautiful dragic drive and kicks or will they make shots (a seemingly rare occurance).

    Will gentry watch players play like boneheaded morons for 30 minutes or sit them after a few dumb plays or sub? (The dude calling the game said somethng like the suns have so many good players that it’s hard to get them all minutes – um…sorta…if that was the problem we’d be competing with MIA for the title. We have so many decent players it’s hard to get them all minutes…let’s be real).

    Will we get EJ doing the commentary or that woman who’s utterly useless and who makes me wanna mute the game? I didn’t care for EJ that much when he first started doing games but he’s grown on me and he says some of the most hilarious stuff – both intentionally and unintentionally.

  • Scott

    @Voqar -

    EJ’s the best color analyst in the league. :)