The Phoenix Suns signed Michael Beasley hoping he would develop into their go-to scorer, the guy they throw the ball to over and over again down the stretch when they need important buckets.
For the first time all season, that hope came to fruition on Sunday evening in Philly as Beasley scored eight of Phoenix’s final 12 points. However, with the clock ticking down and a chance to tie down two, Beasley’s driving right-handed layup just rimmed out to give Philadelphia a 104-101 victory when Jared Dudley came up well short on a full-court heave.
“Yeah, a layup,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters of a play on which Thaddeus Young appeared to interfere by touching the net on the attempt. “We just have to get it in the basket. I don’t know how it came out really, but it’s exactly what we were trying to do. We put him in a position to make a play for us, and he felt like he could get to the basket. He did a great job of getting there, shot it like it was going in and for some reason, it just came out.”
Beasley led the Suns with 21 points, and surprisingly the 35.6 percent shooter knocked down 8-of-13 shots although he added just a single rebound and assist. Tonight marked just the second time all season Beas made more shots than he missed.
Beasley scored six consecutive Suns points driving to the cup to cut the Sixers’ lead down to 98-95 with 1:43 remaining. He then got fouled and calmly drilled a pair of fouls shots to make it a one-point lead with 40 seconds left.
Jrue Holiday answered with a bucket as he did time and again tonight in racking up a career-high 33 points on 13-for-21 shooting to go with 13 assists, and the Suns cut the lead back down to one when Dragic found Morris for an easy hoop with 20 seconds remaining. Holiday then split a pair to set up Beasley’s fateful drive.
This is the Beasley the Suns signed up for, not the guy who deserves to sit in crunch time in favor of P.J. Tucker. On a team devoid of stars, this is the Michael Beasley they need to show up more than a couple times a month.
Although the Suns trailed by double digits (briefly as they immediately countered with an 11-0 run after trailing by 10), this was a close game throughout in which head coach Alvin Gentry said the difference was the three-pointers the Sixers hit on Phoenix’s defensive breakdowns.
“I would say once again it’s a great effort game for us, but we’ve got to do a better job of executing,” Gentry said. “I thought we did a great job down the stretch, but you go back in the game and we have five or six plays where we don’t execute defensively and we give up three-point shots. It comes down to a one-possession game, so we’ve got to do better in that area right there.
“The effort is great. We continue to really compete and do a good job, but we have to be able to make the plays that win games for you. Tonight we had too many breakdowns, not at the crucial moments, but it creates crucial moments because we don’t do it then and before you know it we’ve given up three, four three-point shots, and that’s 12 points. We’ve just got to do a much better job in that department right there, but we played well.”
The Sixers knocked down 9-of-19 three-pointers, but aside from Holiday’s 33-point outburst the Suns did a decent job holding the rest of the Sixers in check. Evan Turner hit three triples to score 16 shots but needed 13 shots to get there.
The Suns won the battle of the interior, as they outrebounded the size-deficient Sixers 41-33 and got nice games from their big men.
Marcin Gortat took over in the third quarter, abusing Spencer Hawes and company for 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with three boards and a pair of assists yet for some reason Jermaine O’Neal played the entirety of the fourth quarter. JO did a nice job with six points and two boards in the period, but it seemed very strange not to go back to Gortat when he was rolling.
The bench unit overall did a better job than the starters, and Gentry was even late going back to Dragic, waiting until 3:09 remained to bring him back in. Overall I’m all in favor of the hot unit theory, especially with this new bench group gelling so nicely, but at some point you need to go back to your studs. This was on a night when the smaller Sixers proved incapable of defending Gortat in the third, so it was a real head scratcher.
Overall, tonight was a battle between two scrappy teams low on star power save for the developing stud Holiday, who really was the difference tonight along with those defensive breakdowns that led to back-breaking threes.
The Suns never quit and nearly rode their bench and the good Michael Beasley to an upset to start this six-game trip.
Phoenix can only hope that this was a turning point for Beasley rather than just another tease of how talented he can be once every six or seven games.
Markieff Morris played his first professional game in his hometown of Philadelphia and accrued eight points and 10 boards.
“It felt good to finally play at home, and it even felt better to start,” he said. “I got to see my family, spend the day with my family and stuff, so it felt good.”
The entire Suns team spent Saturday night enjoying a late Thanksgiving dinner at the Morris household, per Suns.com, that seemed to serve as a nice bonding opportunity. …
At this point the Suns surely wish they had drafted Holiday rather than Earl Clark in the 2009 NBA Draft. Holiday, who was a Phoenix consideration, went three picks later at No. 17 overall with Steve Nash and Goran Dragic under contract for three more years for the Suns by the end of that July. … Shannon Brown missed six of seven shots but dished seven assists. … The Suns drilled 19-of-20 free throws, with Gortat missing their only attempt.