Detroit Pistons 117, Phoenix Suns 77 -- Back-to-back broken

Jermaine O'Neal and the Suns were embarrassed by Andre Drummond and the Pistons in the second half. (J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Jermaine O’Neal and the Suns were embarrassed by Andre Drummond and the Pistons in the second half. (J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

There is no other way to put it. The Suns played their worst game of the season tonight in Detroit. They were absolutely crushed by the Pistons, 117-77.

Phoenix is now 0-4 on the year in the second game of back-to-backs. The Suns looked exhausted and disinterested from the start of this one, and they let this game get completely out of hand.

The Suns certainly have their fair share of excuses to make. Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley both picked up two fouls in the first quarter. The referees whistled the Suns for four technical fouls in the third quarter. The Pistons shot 52 percent from the field and 75 percent from beyond the arc. These are all valid points, but none of them justify the outcome of this game.

There are three reasons the Suns got blown out. First, Phoenix had no ball movement whatsoever. The team isolated and attacked one-on-one all game long. Second, the Pistons are uniquely-suited to exploit the Suns’ biggest defensive weaknesses. And third, Phoenix completely quit down the stretch.

The Suns recorded a season-low 11 assists in this game. They struggled mightily on offense because of a complete lack of ball movement. The Nash-led Suns initiated their offense from the top of the key, allowing the ball to stay in Steve’s hands for most of the possession. This year’s team forces the ball to one side or the other almost immediately, taking the ball out of Dragic’s hands. This approach relies on off-the-ball movement to generate open shots.

That strategy is fine so long as the player with the ball on the wing or the high block can hit the open man. Tonight, the offense completely stagnated after the first pass time and time again. Dragic hit Gortat in the post or Beasley on the wing, and the ball would stay in their hands for 6-8 seconds before they even faced up and made themselves a threat. It doesn’t matter how adept the other four players on the court are at setting screens or moving to open areas if the man with the ball cannot or will not pass to them.

So the Suns settled for one-on-one play time and time again. Unsurprisingly, that led to 19 turnovers (including nine in the first quarter) and 34 percent shooting from the field. The Suns aren’t talented enough to beat teams one-on-one. They have to move the ball and make defenses work. That’s exactly what Detroit did to them tonight.

The Pistons are a great inside-outside team. The frontline of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Jason Maxiell is one of the most formidable in the NBA. They may not have the offensive prowess of Memphis or Utah, but they more than held their own against the Suns, scoring 24 points and grabbing 23 rebounds between them.

Detroit didn’t have to rely on its bigs to score because its perimeter attack was so effective. Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey got to the rim at will all night long. They combined for 37 points and 18 free throw attempts. The Suns had no answer for Stuckey’s physicality or Knight’s quickness. The pick-and roll between Knight and Monroe was particularly nightmarish for Phoenix. Knight’s quickness consistently forced a hard show by Gortat or Scola, which allowed him to draw contact or hit a wide-open Monroe, who can score in a variety of ways.

Strong, aggressive big men and quick, attacking guards are both Kryptonite for the Suns. Detroit gave them a double dose in this game. The constant penetration got the Suns into lots of foul trouble. It also forced Phoenix’s frontcourt guys to leave their men to help out. That in turn led to lots of dunks and layups for Detroit’s bigs. The Suns are too slow to defend on the perimeter and not athletic enough to defend in the paint.

Typically, in a situation like the one Phoenix faced tonight, Coach Gentry might throw out a zone defense to keep Detroit out of the paint. But Detroit was on fire from downtown and a zone would only have made matters worse. Detroit hit 12 of its 16 attempts from downtown, including 5-of-7 in the fourth.

At times this season, Phoenix has overcome its lack of quickness on defense with great effort. That was not at all the case tonight. When the technical fouls started piling up, and it was clear another double-digit comeback was not in the cards, the Suns simply stopped trying. Coach Gentry made a five-man substitution with eight minutes left in the third, but that didn’t stem the tide. Detroit ripped off a 28-2 run early in the fourth, which turned a disappointing loss into a complete embarrassment. Every one of the regular rotation players looked like they just wanted out of the arena. The team quit, plain and simple.

Phoenix still has four games left on its six-game road trip, with a very winnable game in Toronto next up on the slate on Friday. The team’s focus moving forward must be to put this loss behind them. This could be the low point of this still-young season if the Suns can rebound and move on from it. If, however, the team carries this loss with them, this road trip and perhaps this season could get very ugly very fast.

And 1

  • Rookie Kendall Marshall scored his first NBA points with a 3-pointer in the third quarter.
  • Marcin Gortat’s rebounding numbers have fallen off lately because he’s giving up rebounding position. Marcin is venturing too close to the hoop, allowing rebounds to go over his head. He needs to keep his backside on his man, no matter how far he is from the hoop, and attack the ball when it comes off the rim.
  • Luke Zeller and Wesley Johnson both logged season highs in minutes played.

Tags: Detroit Pistons Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • cdubb

    Gortat and Dudley are going from my two favorite players on the team to the two I want to b***h slap and trade away very quickly. If I ever argued with anybody about Gortat being an above average defender, I’m sorry, I was wrong. Cottage defense is awful. He gets beat up man to man and he isn’t smart enough, quick enough, or long enough to be any good at help defense. There are so many defensive breakdowns that have a direct connection with Gortat its unbelievable! I wish there was a website that kept track of that kind of stuff! Gortat is playing freakin HORRIBLE on both ends of the court! And if Dudley isn’t knocking down his wide open shots he is useless. I’m in favor of giving some of Dudley minutes to Johnson… he can’t do any worse. And as far as Gortat… I would honestly trade him. Don’t ask me to who for what cause I’m no GM, but I would really be shopping him hard if I was. Find a temporary replacement to finish this season and go HARD after Al Jefferson this summer. A Jefferson Kieff/Scola combo would be deadly especially with Dragic and Marshall at point.

    Speaking of Marshall he didn’t look half bad out there tonight. Sure it was garbage time but he carries himself well. His court vision is amazing. Like Steve Nash/Magic Johnson amazing. He is obviously raw in many other aspects but he has a chance to be something very very special if he dedicates himself to the game entirely. Players, even all star caliber point gaurds, with his court vision are rare. I honestly think as young as he is and as good as he sees the floor already, the sky is the limit for him.

  • shazam

    in this years finals the heat will beat the suns 4-3

  • anonymous

    Lol this team is garbage. Get rid of the coach and then trade the starting 4/5 save dragic. To shazam who keeps dreaming about the miami series in the finals… phx would get swept by the wizards 4-0.

  • Michael Schwartz

    Ha Shazam, loving those Finals comments!

  • Luka

    Gortat will be moved by the deadline. There’s a good chance they’ll package Dudley, Marshall, and some of the draft picks in a deal. If the Suns could get Vucevic, and Afflalo for Gortat, we’d be in good shape.

    I also believe Gentry is going to be fired by February, if not sooner.

  • Gilberto

    God, I hope Gortat is traded soon before his stock gets any lower. He never worked on his post-up in the off-season and his footwork is awful. He travels EVERY game. He doesn’t read the defense and makes poor decisions. I think Gentry is going to make through the season but the Suns organization will “go a different way” in the off-season.

  • bill.thomas

    It sounds like defense at the 2 guard spot was a big problem and PG defense a bit of a problem as well. Maybe we should have inserted Tucker at the 2G spot earlier and longer for defense. Did this not occur to someone at the time? Its not as if Shannon was setting the place on fire with his shooting. But for that matter, why can’t Shannon defend an athletic 2?

  • Alvin Gentry

    I thought we sucked. We did a bad job. It was a horrendous game. We did a bad, bad job tonight. And it’s real bad for our owner, and our fans. We didn’t make shots, we didn’t compete, and we did a bad job. I’m disgusted.

  • bill.thomas

    @Gortat Trade: Don’t include Marshall in the deal, we don’t know enough yet on
    him and he may have some other great promise. Throw in some other bone instead.

  • Voqar

    That was dreadful to watch. It’s not Gentry’s fault if nobody on the team can make an open shot or process a thought. Damn. He did what he could do, which was sub everyone.

    Beasely returned to form. If he would just stick to layups he’d miss a lot less shots…and he’d still be missing plenty since so many of his layups are brutal. I cringe every time he shoots an outside shot. With some shooters, like nash, you expect every shot to go in. With Beas, you expect every shot to miss.

    Beasely is rubbing off on Gortat. Hammertime figures if beasely, brown, and other isolationists can hog the ball, forget what the word pass means, and manuevre for utterly shit shots that he can too.

    It’s kind of turning into a competition to see who can dribble the most without passing while leading up to a cringe-worthy shot that makes the rim cry.

  • Scott

    It’s important to have higher b-ball IQ guys, as you’ll generally get better ball movement. In the last few years, the Suns have picked up a lot of low to average IQ guys.

    A possibly interesting combo we’ve not seen yet would be Marshall playing PG along with Dragic at SG.

    And I’d like to see Garrett get out of street clothes so he could possibly play minutes at SG. He has potential, but we’ve not seen much, so it’s hard to evaluate him.

    I suspect that Dragic, Marshall, and Garrett are the best guards on the team, going forward.

  • Melon Man

    RoLo now has a higher PER than Gortat.

    It’s time to move on from Gortat. I appreciated his comment about loving playing with JO but JO isn’t rubbing off on him so it seems to be a waste. I want to like Gortat, but he makes it hard. I don’t think the guy is an idiot but I see so many things in every game where he just blows my mind with his actions/inactions.

    Trade Gortat!

  • bill.thomas

    Better haircut too.

  • bill.thomas

    How many more missed lay-ups/law-ins from Gortat?

    It seems he misses 2-3 per night.

  • bill.thomas

    Gentry needs to tell each of these idiots, if you can’t put a makeable
    shot up after no more than three dribbles, you must pass the ball. Period.

  • bill.thomas

    3 (THREE) dribbles. Can these idiots count !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Andres

    I watched the game last night and the recap is right on. Last night’s game was disgusting! Also I agree with the fact that Gortat and Dudley are being no shows on a regular basis. It seems that both of them were indeed Steve Nash creations. Gortat will regret declining a multi-year extension because if the continues to play like this then I dont think he will get a big contract like he expects when this one is up.
    I also agree that is not Gentry’s fault that the players cant hit shots even when they are wide open, especially Dudley.
    Also WJ should take advantage of the minutes that are given to him to try to make plays, drive to the basket, etc and not just shoot long range shots cause he is horrible at it.
    I just wish the team is able to bounce back from this one and win tomorrow at Toronto and also at least put a decent game (loss) versus the Knicks on Sunday. The FO NEEDS to make a good mid season trade. At this point I’d would keep Dragic and Marshall for sure but I dont mind trading anyone else at this point.

  • john

    @Alvin Gentry – Hilarious. I can’t read those comments without putting it in his voice.

    I disagree with the idea that it wasn’t Gentry’s fault. OBVIOUSLY, a 40-point loss is at least partially the fault of the players, and I acknowledge that. However, the coach is not completely absolved from any blame simply because his players didn’t show up to play. Gentry let it get out of hand by waiting too long to make changes at the end of the end of the second and the beginning of the third (the beginning of the third especially). I could tell from the first two possessions in the third quarter that unit just wasn’t ready to go, and I was only listening on the radio. Why does Gentry seem to have such a hard time seeing those things?

    It most likely wouldn’t have made a difference if Gentry had adjusted the lineups in a timely manner, I admit. Nobody showed up to play. But again, that’s most of what a coach is responsible for, and he failed, in my opinion. Gentry keeps on blaming the players, but he’s never really willing to point the finger at himself, from what I can tell.

    Change is in the air.

    • Michael Schwartz

      Well, Gentry subbed out four starters four minutes into the third. Not sure how much quicker you would want him to make a move there.

  • john

    After not scoring a point in the first two minutes and giving up the Maxiell dunk. Even if he had waited one more possession and made the swaps at the Brown technical, I wouldn’t have complained.

    Waiting through four minutes of complete chaos is something Popovich would NEVER do. I don’t know if any good coach would sit through that the way Gentry did.

    1. Markieff Morris miss
    2. Goran Dragic misses layup
    3. Marcin Gortat misses tip shot
    4. Beasley bad pass
    5. Marcin Gortat misses layup
    6. Goran Dragic bad pass

    Gentry waited through six fruitless possession before he even called a timout (and then didn’t make any changes).

    7. Goran Dragic makes layup
    8. Marcin Gortat gets blocked on a layup
    9. Dragic tech
    10. Beasley turnover

    Ten futile possessions without much defense being played at the same time.

    The last half of the second quarter was equally bad. The score in this one was 33-37 at one point. From there, Gentry let it get to 38-52 before he called a timeout, making only two substitutions during that time (almost 5 minutes). In my mind, that’s on Gentry as much as it’s on the players.

    • Michael Schwartz

      Fair enough, John. The flip side would be you need to let you players play through a rough stretch (like Phil Jackson often will do), you can’t just pull starters at the first sign of duress. I would put blame on Gentry more for allowing his team to quit at the end.

  • Scott

    I think this game was just a carry-over from the Cavs game, where the Suns played down to the level of the Cavs and still won handily.

    They didn’t ramp back up to play the Pistons, who despite their record probably have more talent on their team than the Suns do.

  • john

    I was thinking of Phil when I made that Popovich comment, so it’s interesting that you brought him up. I have always found it odd that Phil was willing to let his teams suffer because almost no championship coaches I can think of outside of Jackson would allow a massacre and never get out of his chair. Obviously, Phil has been successful, so if Gentry’s intention is to be like Phil Jackson, I’d say that’s a good goal. Alvin just needs to be sure his players respond to him the way Phil Jackson’s players responded to him after they got blown out (which didn’t happen a whole lot for Phil). Perhaps Phil was willing to let his teams get destroyed and just watch because he knew he had Jordan/Kobe, who would completely humiliate their teammates and let them know how much they stunk. If Jordan/Kobe were willing to do the dirty work, maybe Phil felt like he didn’t need to.

    Either way, I’d like to reiterate that I’m not putting it all on Gentry. That would be foolish. The players gave up, and there’s only so much that Gentry can do about that. I’m just saying that in order for Gentry to be completely blameless in my eyes, he would have needed to handle the end of the second and the beginning of the third differently than he did. If Gentry made what I would consider the “right” moves and his players had still faltered and given up, I wouldn’t be pointing my finger at him at all.

  • Scott

    @Melon -

    It’s true … Robin Lopez now has a higher PER than Gortat.

    Maybe the Suns should have shopped Gortat last summer and kept Lopez.

  • Geminid670

    Oh, where would the Suns be if they would have retained the rights to Rajon Rondo? We need our players to bring that kind of fire and zeal every night. I’ll trade a few I.Q. points that everybody ponders about for some more honest passion.

  • shazam

    @ scott..i think weve seen enough to know that the suns playing down to anybody isnt realistic….if you were in a bucket of shit and someone slung snot at you…would you duck?

  • TucsonSunsFan

    “First, Phoenix had no ball movement whatsoever.”
    I really hope this is the last game where we see this. I think it goes back to the Suns not being interested/tired/what have you because against Cleveland the ball movement was there and looked good. If you want to see where consistent lack of ball movement gets you, look at our division rival…I mean doormat, the Kings, especially their bench players. It reminds me of middle school recess basketball: whoever has the ball and can dribble takes it up the court as far as they can, throws it towards the rim and everyone else tries to get it. Pretty sad…let’s hope Gentry gets the players passing in practice

  • Greg

    I was two rows behind the Suns bench…amongst all of the maybe 3,000 people in attendance ( shows there were 10,300+ at the game…that is a lie, never seen a professional sporting event so empty)

    One of the lowest moments I have had as a Suns fan….to be tied at the end of 1, and then get outscored by 40 in the last 3 quarters….awful. even if the Heat handed out this beating I would still be disgusted.

    No energy, no hustle, no competitiveness, no care. Gortat’s body language resembles that of a pouting 10 year old.

    Whoever thinks Wesley Johnson should play over Dudley…give me a break. Johnson’s basketball IQ is negative….

    Shannon Brown is a black hole on offense.

    Beasley needs t0 mature quickly. He doesn’t present himself like a professional basketball player.

    The Sun’s warm up shoot around looked like the 8th graders getting ready to play the 7th graders. No focus, no care, no seriousness, no structure.

    I could tell from the start it was going to be a rough game.

    I could go on for days with my non-structured rant, but I don’t want to be negative tonight when I watch them play the raptors.

    I am curious how the team responds….Do they respond like professionals, or come out flat again?

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