Phoenix Suns 111, New Orleans Hornets 108 OT -- Freaky Friday

Markieff Morris continued his strong play of late with a career-high 23 points in the Suns' overtime victory over New Orleans. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Markieff Morris continued his strong play of late with a career-high 23 points in the Suns’ overtime victory over New Orleans. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — No one in the Suns’ locker room is quite sure what it is, but there’s something about Friday night games at US Airways Center this season. For the third consecutive Friday home contest, Alvin Gentry’s squad dug itself an early double-digit hole, yet somehow found a way to come from behind in thrilling fashion to snag an unlikely victory.

It wasn’t quite the 26-point comeback against the Cleveland Cavaliers that Phoenix managed to muster up two weeks ago, but if that was 1A on the comeback scale, Friday night’s 19-point rally in a 111-108 overtime win over the New Orleans Hornets was certainly 1B.

At the start of the third quarter, the Hornets went on a 21-8 run to push their lead to a comfortable 74-55 margin. The Suns looked lethargic, uninspired and rather content to go 1-1 following their recent lineup shakeup.

They’ve fooled us once, even twice this season with the type of victories that can easily raise one’s blood pressure. But a third time?

After giving up 14 points and seven assists to New Orleans guard Greivis Vasquez in the first half, Goran Dragic took matters into his own hands to spark another third quarter revival. The Slovenian connected on three 3-pointers in a span of 90 seconds, and Phoenix rattled off 22-7 run of its own to close out the third quarter — a span that ended with a rare P.J. Tucker three-pointer at the buzzer.

Trailing 81-77 entering the final frame, Gentry left his new-look reserve unit — Sebastian Telfair, Jared Dudley, Tucker,  Jermaine O’Neal and Luis Scola — on the floor to begin the fourth. All they did was reward his faith with a 12-0 spurt over the first four minutes of play.

Dudley (nine points) canned a pair of shots from downtown, Scola finally found a groove offensively (eight of his 10 points came in the fourth quarter) and Jermaine O’Neal turned the clock back on his NBA career for a fourth consecutive game as he recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Suns were in the driver’s seat. The comeback looked to be complete. But a Monty Williams-coached team never plays less than 48 minutes. Friday was no exception.

After trading baskets down the stretch,  Dudley connected on his final three of the quarter with 97 seconds to go to put Phoenix up 103-95. But in a game that featured some pretty impressive runs, the Hornets had one more in them to quiet the Valley crowd.

Capped off by a Vasquez (season-high 25 points and 14 assists) three-point shot with 17 seconds to go, the Hornets stung late, closing the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to force overtime.

In the extra session, the Suns did something they hadn’t done all evening — play defense on the perimeter.

Phoenix held New Orleans scoreless over its first seven possessions and key plays by Markieff Morris (big three with under a minute to play) and Tucker (crucial offensive rebound with under five seconds remaining) gave the Suns their second-largest home comeback win of the season.

Tucker’s heady play to chase down a loose ball off a foul shot in the final seconds capped off arguably his finest night as a pro. In a season-high 34 minutes, the second-year forward poured in a career-high 15 points and seven rebounds. His two three-point makes were double the amount he came into the contest with for his entire career.

“I can’t say enough about P.J. Tucker, he epitomizes what we want our entire team to be, really,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “That is a hard, grind-it worker that never quits on any play. That rebound was tremendous at the end. I can’t say enough about him.”

Tucker admits he’s loving every minute of his time in Phoenix, but even during his proudest hour as a professional, the former Texas star knows his team can’t keep expecting its Friday night magic to carry over for an entire season.

“Trust me, this is not how we draw it up,” Tucker said. “That’s definitely not what I want. It comes out OK and it is just about the getting the win. I thought it was one of the biggest wins for us.”

The win also marked an important step for the team’s former No. 13 overall pick, Morris. Starting just his second game this season, he too recorded a career high in points with 23 — none bigger of course than his three-ball from the top of the arc to extend the Suns’ overtime lead to five with 49 seconds to go.

“It felt good,” Morris said. “I got hit for like seven or eight, so it was nice to get one late in the game like that.”

Morris had a point.

In defeat, Ryan Anderson had a night for the ages from behind the three-point arc. The first-year Hornet scored a career-high 34 points, while also tying his career high for three-point makes (eight).  Seven of his eight conversions from distance came in the second half or overtime as he single-handedly kept Monty Williams and Co. in the game.

“I can honesty say I’ve never seen anyone shoot it like that,” Gentry said of Anderson’s performance. “That was Larry Bird-like if you ask me, and I don’t know if Larry Bird even shot threes like that. Talk about shooting under duress. He had one good look and the other ones, we were right there.”

The Suns weren’t right there on the scoreboard, though, for the first 60 percent of the contest, as Gentry’s starting five struggled to contain New Orleans inside the arc — 42 paint points — and failed to replicate the complete performance (71 points) the unit put on in Wednesday’s rout of the Blazers.

Michael Beasley played a season-low 16 minutes and didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter or overtime. The fourth-year pro couldn’t find any touch on his jump shot — two points on 1-of-6 shooting — and repeatedly got torched at the defensive end by Al-Farouq Aminu (16 points on 6-of-7 shooting).

Following his 22-point performance against Portland, Marcin Gortat couldn’t string together good looks at the offensive end against New Orleans. Going up against former teammate Robin Lopez, the Polish Hammer failed to convert on several short shot opportunities and finished with just six points and five rebounds.

In their absence, Scola and O’Neal picked up the slack. Now relegated to bench duty — Scola obviously more recently than O’Neal — the two veterans did their respective jobs, nothing more and nothing less.

While his teammates delighted in the almost-majestic nature of the their latest double-digit comeback win, Scola, being the professional that he is, kept things in perspective.

“I don’t think it’s a great win, because it’s the same problems we’ve been showing the whole season,” said Scola. “I wouldn’t count this as a great win, it’s just a win. A good win would be those that we take care of from the beginning like the Portland game.

The Suns embark on a season-long six-game road trip beginning Sunday in Philadelphia. They do so, however, with a positive taste in their mouths on the heels of what Tucker referred to as “a two-game win streak.” It hasn’t been perfect, even with the pouncing of Portland, but runs like they had Friday give the Suns confidence they can build on after the disappointing start.

“It was really important to get these two games,” Dragic said. “We were 4-7 and knew we had to win these two homes games. We did a great job, but now it’s behind us. Now we go on the road and have games against some teams we feel we can win against, too.”

And 1

  • Robin Lopez made his return to the Valley on Friday night. The former first-round pick out of Stanford received high praise from his former coach before the game and a bevvy of boos from fans during pregame introductions. In a season-high 41 minutes, Lopez looked very much like the underachieving player he was during his four years with the Suns. He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and four blocks but Lopez’s offensive game was not very fluid for a starting center.
  • The Suns played in a franchise-high nine overtime games during the 2010-11 season. Last season, however, Phoenix didn’t play any overtime games. Friday night’s victory is the team’s first in a 53-minute contest since April 11, 2011, against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
  • Just how far has Jermaine O’Neal turned back the clock? Until Friday night’s 13-point outing, O’Neal hadn’t had four straight double-digit scoring efforts since March 2010, when he went six straight games scoring 10 or more for the Miami Heat.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Couldn’t see the game unfortunately, but I was wondering what happened with Gortat. This article makes it seem like he just couldn’t find his shooting touch, but he only got six boards too.

    Could someone shed some more info for me? Did he not play very much? Did he just use a lot of effort keeping RoLo on check? Did they just not feed him the ball?

  • melon man

    Trade gortat!

  • Mac

    There was a point in the end of the 3rd where Goran dished to Shannon who dunked it for an and 1. Then Goran shot 1 free throw. Can anyone explain this to me?

  • DBreezy

    I just got back from attending this game with the fam. It was basically two teams that aren’t very good showing us why at various points in front of a crowd fit for a mausoleum. The guy they got to replace Ceballos must go! The pa announcer and music are much louder than the crowd.

    What you don’t get to see on TV is Alvin Gentry standing there for minutes on end on the sideline, arms crossed and skulking like a hawk surveying a field of mice. We were about 14 rows up, and it was still kind of unnerving!

    Thank goodness, Davis and/or Gordon weren’t around as it would have been ugly. Even from the warmups, you can really see the confidence that Kieff has as a starter, but once you see Davis’ size/length in person it’s hard to imagine Kieff putting up those numbers vs. him. I don’t suppose he could do worse than 3 boards. Beasley drives with the sole intention of dishing. Even on a nice post up, where he got fouled he spent a bunch of time telling Kieff that he should have been in better position for a dime.

    I think the article was kind to Scola. He is a pro, and made his open shots, but he looks really lost out there with that 2nd unit. Same for Duds, outside of those two big shots. O’Neal looked good, but Marcin did not. What is mildly frustrating on tv, is much more so in person when you can really see how easily he could dunk certain shots vs the soft flippers he puts up. It was also funny on a few plays, where I don’t believe the playcall was a Gortat S/R but Marcin just ran down the court and directly into Goran. Goran looked surprised as well as the guys off the ball.

    If you’re Gentry, you’ve still gotta be shaking your head. Even after a revamp, your whole starting lineup was a big minus tonight, while some of the people you benched weren’t. If the goal remains winning at all costs, I think this is going to be a very frustrating season. They’ll scrap and play hard, often winning games they may not deserve to, but it’s hard to see them doing even as well as the last two seasons let alone better.

    I have no problem with rebuilding, but I guess for me right now it’s hard to see this going anywhere. We’re going to be celebrating comebacks, big nights from Shannon, throwback nights from Jermaine, and the pure fun of PJ Tucker giving us his all. Yet, summer will come and we still won’t know what Beasley is exactly, who Wes or Kendall are, what to do with Marcin, Kieff vs Scola vs Frye, etc. Can’t really fault Alvin and the players for that, someone above them is going to have to make some decisions in the coming months imo.

  • DBreezy


    On that play Goran was fouled after he dished it off to Shannon for the finish. Not the most common of plays, but you do see it from time to time. Usually it’s something like a couple of bigs scrapping underneath when a J goes up and the ref waits until after the shot to call a foul, giving out one FT.

    @Fan in CHI Town,

    The simple answer to your question is that Robin Lopez is not Meyers Leonard. The easy, practice level post stuff he got on Wednesday wasn’t there tonight and when he did catch it inside he tended to finish softly rather than flush it. It was pretty much like that from the jump. The best was how mad O’Neal looked when he got pulled for Marcin the last time!

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Thanks, DBreezy.

    If Gortat wants to get paid as his conversation with the Polish media suggests, he’s got to make up for bad offensive nights with hustle plays and rebounds. You cannot under any circumstances let your backup outplay you.

  • Scott

    @Mac -

    Dragic drove and dished to Brown. Anderson was trying to take a charge on Dragic, but he was to Dragic’s side, and as Dragic passed him Anderson leaned a shoulder in and got busted for the foul. Since the foul and bucket were simultaneous, the Suns got the 2 pts plus a FT for Dragic.

  • Scott

    I’m generally in favor of moving all the old starters, minus Dragic, to the 2nd unit, and starting all of the 2nd unit, minus Telfair.

    I don’t see how Gentry can keep Beasley in the starting lineup when he must have more faith in Tucker.

  • Luka

    I still maintain Beasley or Scola get moved by the trade deadline, along with some draft picks, for a legit wing.

  • shazam

    the suns will beat the heat in the finals 4-1

  • bill.thomas

    Beasley plus chocolate cake =chocolate cake !!!!

  • bill.thomas

    Lon Babby, time to get your PI law practice started up. Sayonnara !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill.thomas

    Blanks, take an IQ test then get a JOB at Seven Eleven !!!!

  • bill.thomas

    Robin Lopez’ mother thought he was a sweet boy, so she named him “Robin”. LOL

  • bk

    The team needs a scorer and Beasley fails to do that so far. It seems that the coach should put the offensive on Morris more if he is showing that he is more consistent in scoring 20+.

  • A-ROCK

    Gortat and beasly will not go to the 2nd unit to start because they are to valuable to sit at the beginning of games because they always have that chance of making an impact. Even though O’neil did out play him and does look better along with tucker, you will still need to respect Beasly and Gortat’s potential game. I agree with working with what we have as Gentry does and if the two are not performing then they can keep the bench warm.

  • john

    I completely disagree with dbreezy about the feel in the arena last night. When the Suns finally started playing some decent ball, that place lit up just like it would at any point on the SSOL era. US Airways has always been a relatively lame NBA venue. Phoenix fans suck. They’re bandwagoners. Just look at all the haters on every single one of these threads. Last night was as good a night as any I’ve ever seen for game 13 of a season.

    FWIW, I’ve never cared one bit about an MC for a basketball game, but ceballos is better than the new guy. But again, if you’re going to a game for an MC, I’m not sure why you’re actually going to the game.

    Gortat needs to get mean. He needs to have it in his head that he is going to destroy anyone who opposes him in either side of the floor on every single possession. I can’t stand how much of a girl he looks like on his off nights. If I was 7′ tall, I would be trying to posterize someone every time I touched the ball. Sheesh, he is soft and moody.

    Gorson/Davis or not, I don’t know if the result of the game would be any different. Both teams went on tears where they seemed unstoppable, and both looked so awful on D at times that I wasn’t sure either team wanted to win. Even if you want to imagine that the presence of either Gordon or Davis would have eliminated the valleys for NOH, I don’t know if you can reasonably argue their peaks would have been there or been any higher. No one in the NBA could have done what Ryan Anderson did last night any better.

    A lot of you seem to need to just enjoy things for what they are. You might find you’ll be a better, happier person for it. That’s just me, though.

  • Mike L

    John, you’re pretty much describing the same things dbreezy is but the difference is he’s saying he doesn’t think a team like this PLAYING like this will give us any answers. I think you both have a point.

    John, I think you’re right we can jut enjoy it. But I don’t think being satisfied with this kind of win is going to help the team figure anything out longterm.

    Dbreezy, I’ll be very frustrated too if we don’t answer those questions or figure out who those players are. I don’t think we can be unsatisfied with them trying these things out, though, because this is a throw away year. I know you are saying the same thing, but it is only game 13 so I don’t expect we’d see much of a longterm answer at this point.

    Two things I don’t like though: we should be seeing more of WJ and I don’t think it makes sense to have Gentry piss away his lame duck year playing around with lineups. If I were AG I’d hope that I’m hearing more behind closed doors that tells me what future I have if any in PHX.

    Other than the above I think they have no choice but to start Beas and Gortat to see whether either have a future in PHX. I just wish we would see more of this attitude with WJ.

  • Mac

    Thanks for the clarification on that foul guys.

    And I fully agree, the new MC is atrocious. What happened to Ced?

  • john

    Ced was angry that he wasn’t being promoted through the ranks of the organization, and management was unwilling/unable to promote him or give him a raise (if money was an issue. From what I remember, the primary concern from ceballos’ end was that he wanted to coach or move up the broadcasting ranks).

  • Greg

    @Mike L

    We don’t need to see more “WJ”. He is awful.

  • DBreezy


    FWIW, I had a good time last night I was just calling it like I saw it. For me personally that doesn’t stop me from having a good time or being happy, but I know it does for some. I used to go to Clippers games in early 90′s on their mini game-pack plans when I lived in LA and the atmosphere was much the same as it was last night at USAC.

    I had my mother, grandparents and cousins with me last night and we’ve all been going to Suns games since the late 80′s and that was the deadest I’ve ever seen it personally. Yes things did perk up when they got back into it, and also when we got some company in the lower bowl from people who either arrived after halftime or moved down from up top. However, I’ve never been at Suns game with boo-birds and we had a few last night. We’ll be back again. Btw, point taken on the MC, I don’t really care either, but he’s so obnoxious how can you miss him?

    Looks like we saw the same thing with Gortat last night. There are those who claim that he has small hands and can’t turn it over as easily as others. If that’s the case, fine, but it doesn’t preclude you from going up strong. Barkley had small hands too, rarely ever dunking with one hand, but he was never accused of not going up strong. Just dunk two handed or lay it over the rim Marcin instead of flipping it. It’s just weird to see a guy who 8-9 inches taller than me shoot a jump hook from a spot where I’d try to lay it in(not saying I’m going against NBA players just pointing out where he is on the floor at times)

    You kind of made my point about Gordon and Davis for me. Usually when you watch an NBA game, there’s a player or two who clearly standout as being better than the rest on the floor. They’re not necessarily on the winning squad, I thought Lilliard looked like the best player on the floor Wednesday, but you can see it. As you pointed out there was a lot of bad play and mediocrity from both sides last night. Even with Anderson’s big night I wasn’t in awe, because he really stinks at freeing himself which was huge on the last play of the game. In a ‘mudder’ of a game like that a guy like Gordon can get hot at the end and put it away which has already happened to the Suns before vs. NO in a similar type game.

    As for Davis, I just think he would have made a big difference for them on D. Once Smith went down early with that eye injury, they were really small outside of R.Lo. I don’t think it’s a huge leap of faith to say that Kieff would have had a tougher time shooting 75% from the floor vs Davis. I don’t know how close you were sitting to him, but he is one seriously long (and thin) dude. Does PJ get that big board with Davis out there? Idk, I’m basically just saying that in a game that was very ugly for both sides, a little more help for either probably makes a big difference.

    Btw, I’m pretty sure Kevin Durant is not only insulted that you chose to play Doodle Jump instead of watching him, but by your comment about no one in the NBA being able to do what Anderson did last night!

  • Greg

    Why would we need to have a “see whether he has a future” attitude with Johnson? We declined his option…That is already the sign that they don’t see him as a part of their future…Unless he agrees to resign for peanuts. Guys who sign for peanuts aren’t valuable parts of the future.

  • john

    Haha, fair enough. KD, maybe Dirk, and maybe freak mode Kobe could have made those threes that Anderson made last night, but I was in awe, nonetheless. A couple of those that he hit with Scola/Kieff in his face were incredible.

  • DBreezy

    @Mike L,

    I didn’t think we’d have any definitive answers at this point either and that’s fine. I say a lot, but at the same time there’s no player on the squad who’s future I feel is a clear cut decision at this time.

    I’m just saying that AG is coaching to win period. Considering his position, I have no problem with that. Also, while this may not be popular with some, on a certain level I don’t have a problem with from a marketing standpoint as it certainly results in a much more palatable product on a nightly basis for the average fan.

    I’m comfortable with rebuilding and the fact that it’s likely to take several seasons no matter what path they ultimately use to get there However to me at the end of the season you have to have some solid answers on what you do and don’t have on your roster. Otherwise you’re the Kings and every summer you’re still trying to decide where Tyreke fits, if DeMarcus is a 4 or a 5, if this is finally Thompson’s year, can any of your 10million combo-guards actually play the point, etc.

    The on-court reasons the Kings are where they are are very different than the Suns, but the off court ones have similarities. Put a win-now veteran coach like Westphal out there and you’re going to get DeMarcus Cousins sitting for Chuck Hayes or Evans sitting for Freddy Garcia on any given night. Adelman left Houston because he felt he was not a fit with where they were going in their rebuild.

    I don’t think last night was a fluke in the sense that it will often take very different combos night in and out for them to be competitive. But we already knew that Dudley can play the 3, we still don’t know if Beas or Wes can. If Jermaine O’Neal even comes close to splitting time with Marcin at the 5 in a post-Nash world what does that mean? If Kieff and Scola flip flop all year what does that mean for them and Frye next summer-especailly in a draft that appears to be forward heavy?

    On what level do they acknowledge that Bassy is in the last year of his deal and Marshall is twiddling his thumbs? Similar concerns about guys like Brown, O’Neal, and Tucker who may not be here next season either. Those aren’t questions that are going to be answered in game 13 as you said, I just get the feeling that they’ll never really be answered unless the team falls off the map, because Babby/Blanks/Sarver will just sit on their hands. These questions aren’t Alvin’s problem unless they make it his problem-he’s doing the same job he was hired for in 2009.

  • DBreezy


    I know I was screaming not to let him touch the rock on a bunch of those. Looked like f his feet were set, you’re in trouble even if you put a hand up. Even that twisty one he hit late, his feet were pretty well set.

  • Scott

    I think Telfair will be up for trade at midseason if Marshall gets his legs under him by that time.

    I think Scola will be traded at the start of the summer, esp if the Suns draft a PF.

    Johnson will fall off the roster if he can’t establish himself, and I doubt Beasley can be traded anywhere without it being the sort of trade where you give things so they’ll take him. IMO, Beasley always should have been coming off the bench, and his salary should have been significantly lower.

  • bk

    Tucker and Neal are minimum salary players, lower than Marshall. It would be an embarrassing if you play them heavy minutes or even start them.

  • DBreezy


    I think Telfair could get traded if a solid deal comes up or Blanks/Babby just want to see Marshall play. I doubt he does enough otherwise to move Gentry to play him outside of injuries.

    Ultimately I think you’re spot on Scola, if for no other reason than I don’t think he really wants to spend his remaining pro years with a rebuild-similar to Antawn Jamison and Rashard Lewis this season. The fact that he’s basically been benched because Gortat wants more post-ups and S/R’s can’t really help in that regard. That said, we’ve yet to see what Kieff or even Beasley we’re going to see the rest of the season which could weigh on it-especially if there is significant front office turnover. Goran, Lopez and Clark could all tell guys like Kieff and Kendall what can happen if you’re inconsistent and the front office that drafted you goes bye-bye.

    Johnson will probably be done quietly because of Tucker. Gentry clearly seems to believe that he’s a 3 or you’d think he’d at least give him a shot at the 2 with how bad Dudley has played.

    Beasley’s likely to be a tough one. There seems to be little chance that he develops into what they envisioned. However he’s not as bad as he’s shown statistically so far. Iow, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if at some point he gets in a bit of a groove and returns to his career averages of about 15ppg on 45% shooting and a PER around 15 or so be it from the bench or the starting unit.

    My guess is that would only confuse things from an organizational standpoint and that he’ll be right here with yet another new coach next season if Blanks is still around. If not, Beas probably becomes one of many players possibly going bye-bye next summer under a new GM. I think only Goran would be safe in that scenario.

  • Scott

    @bk -

    I understand about the embarrassment of letting low salary guys start over higher salary guys, but I’m a pragmatic fellow, and everyone can see what’s going on anyway.

    With any luck, starting those who won that position by merit would motivate the other guys to play better. Scola, for instance, might work harder on his 3. Gortat might go a little harder in the paint.

    If the Suns aren’t headed into the playoffs, it’s even possible they showcase O’Neal (and possibly Tucker) for a trade to a contending team.

  • Voqar

    A win is a win. NO made some pretty amazing shots to make it a game. Ryan Anderson will probably go scoreless in his next game. Something about playing the suns always make some mediocre or struggling player look like a hall of famer.

    Glad to see Gentry is going with people who are producing and benching people who are not. Screw salaries and egos. I’d rather see wins.

    Gortat can whine like a bitch all he wants but when you can’t even score on Rolo you should definitely be silent. If he’s gonna be intimated by a barely 2nd string center with a perpetual bad hair day and miss layups or get blocked, he just needs to shut his pie hole. Or man up – that’d be novel. Throw it down with 2 hands and break the defender’s face or something.

    O’Neal missed that one dunk attempt but he was sending a message – I’m breaking the backboard or anybody who attempts to stop this dunk. Gortat needs to pay attention and learn.

    If Beasely wants to stay on the court he really should be practicing layups – and those should be the only shots he takes. Maybe 1 jumper a game for giggles. All he should be doing is driving to the hoop – he has that talent – IF only he could actually finish his VC-escque out of control drives. Amazing drives that have amazingly bad non finishes aren’t really all that amazing.

    His outside shooting makes you wanna cringe so it’d be best if he just stopped doing that so much. I’m sure anytime he makes an outside shot Gentry does a sigh of relief (vs the more common internal groan).

  • Tim in BC

    I have not seen any Suns games because they are not showing many on our sports stations due to Hollywood Steve switching to the dreaded Lakers. I only know what I read here and see on the highlights but I am impressed with Dragon (as I thought I would be) not as impressed as I thought I would be with Scola (always liked his play with Rockets) and not too happy with Gortat but not surprised because he counted so much on Nash for his good play last season. I thought Dudley would be doing better although early in season and Brown seems to have some good games although not consistent. We get to see Suns this Friday on TV as playing Raptors. I still count Suns as my favourite team even though originally it was because of Hollywood Steve with his now Hollywood haircut. Go Suns!!!

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