Phoenix Suns 82, Memphis Grizzlies 80 — Streak busted


PHOENIX — Things can change quickly in the NBA.

Like the opening Goran Dragic thought he saw on the right side of the lane in the waning moments of Wednesday’s contest against the Memphis Grizzlies.

But as Dragic raced towards the basket for a potential game-winning shot opportunity, he was cut off by 7-foot-1 center Marc Gasol. The scene was a familiar one; after all Dragic got stuck on the team’s final play in regulation eight days earlier in Memphis. On that night, he dumped the ball to Jermaine O’Neal inside for a fadeaway jump shot. The shot missed the mark, and Phoenix eventually dropped the game in the extra session.

Wednesday night, Dragic didn’t panic. He didn’t force a pass or try to do too much. Instead, the Suns’ guard calmly pump faked Gasol and went underneath the Spanish center’s outstretched arm for a beautiful, game-winning layup with 0.5 seconds remaining.

“We really needed this win and it feels great,” Dragic said. “They are a great team with strong big guys like Marc [Gasol] and Zach [Randolph], but we did everything well that our coaches drew up for us before the game. It was a great win.”

It was even sweeter for Dragic, because in the team’s last home loss to the Dallas Mavericks, he had a chance to tie the game late with a layup.

“I missed last time,” said Dragic, who missed Sunday’s game against Orlando due to a severe flu. “So this time I told myself that I had to make it.”

Things can change quickly in the NBA.

Like a seven-game losing streak that went out the door at US Airways Center Wednesday night, as the Suns hung on to win ugly 82-80 over the Memphis Grizzlies.

A win is a win is a win, especially for a team that hasn’t done a lot of it lately. But by no means was Wednesday’s win over Memphis a classic showcase of basketball excellence by the Suns.

Alvin Gentry reinserted Luis Scola into the starting lineup, because the Suns coach thought he’d be a better defensive matchup against Zach Randolph than second-year forward Markieff Morris. On paper the move made sense. Randolph torched Morris on his way to 38 points and 22 rebounds in a win over the Suns last week.

The move, however, did not prove to be very beneficial for Phoenix.

Randolph had 10 points (all in the paint) over the first 6:02 of the contest and the Suns found themselves in a quick 19-11 hole. Phoenix cut the deficit to six after 12 minutes of play but poor offensive execution (shot 34.8 percent from the field) and a lack of intensity in the interior at the defensive end spelled trouble for Gentry’s squad.

Those troubles were exacerbated by the play of Michael Beasley off the bench. In his first two games coming off the pine, Beasley had a combined 24 points, but 18 of those came in the first half of Saturday’s loss against the Los Angeles Clippers. Since his torrid half at the Staples Center, it’s been the same old Michael Beasley: shoot, shoot and shoot some more until the hook comes.

And against the Grizzlies, there was no exception to the rule.

After subbing in for Scola midway through the first quarter, Beasley did everything in his power to get involved offensively. The problem was his involvement shut down any resemblance of offensive flow for the rest of his teammates. Beasley took 11 of his team’s first 33 shots and connected on just two of them. Gentry replaced him with Jared Dudley at the 7:39 mark of the second quarter, and that was all he would see of the floor Wednesday night.

“He’s trying hard,” Gentry said of Beasley. “You know what, we just have to keep working with him. That’s why we are here. We can’t just give up on a guy because he is struggling right now.”

It’s no surprise that Beasley’s shooting spree coincided with the Suns’ growing deficit. Memphis’ lead ballooned to 11 — its largest of the night — before the Suns showed any sense of energy in the second quarter.

That energy eventually came on a change in defensive tactics. Phoenix went to a 2-3 zone to limit Memphis’ bigs from getting easy catches in the paint and it worked. Over the final four minutes of the half, the Suns went on 12-6 run to cut the halftime deficit to three. With Beasley and Scola on the bench, Phoenix received notable contributions from Jermaine O’Neal (four points and four blocked shots), Dudley (four points), Shannon Brown (five points) and Morris (four points, two rebounds and a block).

In the third quarter, offense appeared to be optional. After Randolph scored the first four points of the second half, the two teams set the stage for a tight, scrappy last 12 minutes of basketball. Outside of production from Rudy Gay (six points and five rebounds) and Dragic (seven points and three assists), the Suns and Grizzlies were more than content to turn the game into a defensive slugfest. Memphis turned the ball over six times but shot 53.8 percent from the field. Phoenix turned the ball over just once in the quarter but shot 39.1 percent.

It’s fitting that on a date celebrating the repetition of the No. 12, the Suns would need 12 good minutes of basketball to snap their longest losing streak since February 2004. During the streak, Phoenix failed to finish games in the fourth quarter in five of its seven losses.

After the Grizzlies scored on four of their first seven possessions to start the final frame — capped off by a go-ahead Gasol jumper with 8:18 to play — the Suns turned into the defensive team Elston Turner had envisioned at the season’s start.

The Suns held Memphis scoreless on 10 of their next 13 offensive trips, and while Brown did his best to shoot Phoenix out of the contest (finished 5-of-19 for 15 points), Dudley and Morris made key plays at the right time to keep the Suns ahead. Morris scored seven points down the stretch and Dudley recorded five rebounds (three of which extended offensive possessions), and with 3:24 remaining the Suns were on the brink of not only snapping a seven-game losing streak but doing so against an elite Western Conference team.

Unfortunately the game’s conclusion wasn’t exactly the nail-biter the final score might have indicated. Neither team could make a bucket, as both the Suns and Grizzlies combined to go 0-for-8 over the next 2:36.

Enter Gay.

Just as he had done in the final moments of regulation eight days earlier, Gay (21 points and 11 rebounds) took and hit the biggest shot when the Grizzlies needed him most. With 48 seconds to go, the former No. 8 overall pick drained a turnaround 19-foot jump shot over P.J. Tucker. Tucker, who had missed the previous two games after suffering an MCL sprain against the Mavericks, would have the final laugh, however.

After Dudley’s 21-foot jump shot from straight away went in-and-out on Phoenix’s ensuing possession, Gay had a chance to break the hearts of the 13,093 fans in attendance.

Tucker would have none of it.

Phoenix’s second-year forward put every ounce of himself in front of Gay’s final attempt — without fouling him — and Memphis’ star forward could not connect from 15 feet.

Instead, it was Dragic (12 points and eight assists) who would play the hero Wednesday night, with a shot that for one night put to rest all of the talk about job security, toxic players and trade scenarios.

“For us to gut out a win against one of the best teams in the Western Conference if not the NBA, especially the way we lost to them in Memphis, to come back shows you a little bit about the character of this team,” Dudley said. “Now we are going to try and get this thing rolling. Obviously outside the top five teams in the conference, no one is playing that well. So, it’s a good start.”

Things can change quickly in the NBA, as the Suns found out with their first win in the month of December.

It wasn’t sexy basketball. It wasn’t high-quality basketball, either. But for one night, it was winning basketball. And after a losing streak that continually tested the resolve of a still-maturing team, that was enough.

“I thought we kind of gutted it out,” said Gentry. “We made a couple of plays down the stretch and that has been kind of the difference in four or five games that we’ve had. We just hadn’t been able to make the play. It’s been one possession or a rebound or something like that, that has cost us a loss.

“It was good to get the monkey off our back.”

And 1

  • It was a night of firsts for the Suns in 2012-13. Wednesday’s win over Memphis marked their first win of December, their first win over a team with a winning record and their first win when shooting less than 40 percent from the field. Since the 2006-07, Phoenix had won just three previous games shooting less than 40 percent.
  • Phoenix held the Grizzlies to just 34 second-half points, the fewest by any opponent this season. Arguably more remarkable was the defense of Markieff Morris in the fourth quarter. Morris played all 12 minutes and held Zach Randolph (18 points and 10 rebounds) scoreless.
  • Dudley had his hand in everything Wednesday night. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup, Dudley has now scored 15 points in two of his last three contests. But Dudley also contributed in other ways against Memphis. The fifth-year forward dished out five assists and grabbed a season-high nine rebounds.

  • DBreezy

    Charge!!!!

  • SHAZAM

    in this years finals the suns will beat hell out ah da heats

  • m.i.milliman

    Wish I could have seen this one. Can’t catch every game, just hope I don’t make a habit of only missing winners.

  • Gilberto

    Did anyone catch Tucker throwing water on Gay in the 4th? Surprised that nothing came of it either by the refs or Memphis. Good effort all round by the Suns and a great win over a playoff-caliber team.

  • Luka

    That was an impressive European style layup by Goran. He’s really the only guy on this roster that has the ability to create his own shot. Maybe the Suns have found their closer.

    If the Suns had another defensive wing, and a better threat at the 4 they’d be a playoff team.

  • Luka

    BREAKING NEWS… Lon Babby has announced the Suns have signed Tom Gugliotta.

  • m.i.milliman

    I’ve always thought Dragic was capable of creating his own shot, it’s the shots for others that he has trouble with. I still think getting a strait up pg to play along side him and to be the distributor should be and would be the Suns best move. Let Dragic be Dragic.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Beasley can create his own shot but right now all he is creating is a big pile of dog poop when he is on the floor.
    Congrats to Goran on the game-winning shot….couldn’t happen to a greater guy & should give him a shot of confidence.

  • bk

    Please try Beasley at PF.

  • Polish_fan

    Pick & Roll HALLELUJAH!

    But…. 1.6 sec till the end Gortat was standing there without anyone around…. It was ‘easy pass’ opportunity and easy points. Good that Dragic scored. If not, it would be his fault, I think.

    Thats another thing that divers Goran and Nash. That after PnR Nash ALWAYS thought how to pass that damn ball to Gortat, and Dragic only has in mind how to throw that ball, being blind at the same time on ANYONE else around.

  • Anonymous

    Is beasley in the d league yet.

  • Anonymous

    Went ahead and did some numbers by myself. He is 100/267 FG and 17/60 for 3s all this season.

  • SHAZAM

    toney did sarver fire steve?…where is he?

  • silver

    YESSSS!!!!!!! SUNS WINNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Dragic should have every last shot or at least have the ball in his hands before it.

  • bill.thomas

    Beasley to Bako

    Beasley to Bako

    Beasley to Bako !!!

  • bill.thomas

    @Polish-Fan: You guys’ gene pool went dead after Copernicus. Been a long time.

  • bill.thomas

    I am sure Tony will be here to do the Last Rites any minute.

  • bill.thomas

    I got lotsa restaurant recommendations for Beasley in Bako. And the Mexican chicks ain’t half bad down there.

  • bill.thomas

    @Hawki: “Beasley can create his own shot.” Yeah, with a shot glass.

  • KeZ

    It was O´neal throwin the water at Gay! Hilarious…

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    Dont know if anyone noticed it but as Dragic made the final shot and headed to the bench, the whole team was celebrating, except for… GORTAT.

    He walks to the bench clearly frustrated because Dragic didnt give him the ball for a clear shot and, instead, opted for the circus shot that went in.

    I wont judge here, but its getting more and more evident that these guys dont love each other and have their own agenda.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Big Goran !

  • suns for life

    Gortat is a selfish bitch

  • Serek

    @Artur – I only saw the highlights, and just after the shot he hugged Goran, so what’s the deal? If he was unhappy, maybe it was because he didn’t get to stay on the court for the last 0,5 secs.

    Obviously they all have their own agenda – Goran made a spin shot with Gasol in his face even though Gortat was standing right there in front of him for the easy dunk. I wonder what everybody would be saying now if Goran missed and they beat us in OT again.

  • Tim in BC

    Yea Dragon!!! Give him the ball in the fourth for the shots that win the game!

  • john

    @suns for life – Why don’t you tell us how you really feel?

    Great win for the Suns. What a bipolar team. That’s twice that they outplayed a very good Memphis team. Maybe they just match up well with them, but I’m inclined the believe that the talent on this Suns team is real. They just need to put it together and KEEP it together.

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    I don’t know, but there are more and more trolls on this board lately and their insults really get annoying…

  • Andres

    Lets trade Gortat, move JO to the starting lineup and get a cheap back up center. Gortat will regret turning down the contract extension that was offered to him this yr as his market value will continue to go down if he continues to have no shows.

  • JR

    @bill.thomas : don’t judge whole country because of few people, cause same thing i could say about america, their is plenty of nice and friendly people, but once in awhile you coming across some rly dumb fucks and it would be unfair to others if i said that everyone in us are assholes just because you are one

  • Polish_fan

    Yes – lets trade Gortat to BOSTON! I don`t mind! :)

    I think that Gortat was celebrating, but there was still a little bit of time till the end. At the end he huged with Goran, right?

    @suns for life – That was very … deep. Really ….. Someone should moderate that posts.

  • Serek

    @Polish_fan: every team I’ve seen mentioned as potential trade destination for Gortat is a winning team (I’ve seen Boston, Miami, OKC, Chicago , even Dallas). So why not. The problem is, they don’t have great assests.
    On the other hand, there is nobody that would help this team outright. The best chance is that this team gets off with the current roster.

  • Ty-Sun

    I’d be shocked if a Boston trade happened. The same with Miami or Chicago. Dallas is a weak maybe but the Suns would have to be desperate to trade with them. OKC could however trade some young players with a lot of future potential that they don’t need now although that trade would also involve taking Perkins back as part of the trade which I don’t like. But that potential trade also depends on how much OKC wants to try to win it all THIS season.

  • Polish_fan

    Im not a big fa of Miami….. but pnr wth Rondo would be awesome!!!! in iami he would touchthe ball 3 times a game ;)

  • Geminid670

    Y’know, we as Suns fans have no apologies to make in wanting our current roster to live up to it’s historical legacy. But, at least we have a team to root for; Seattle was so lucky.

  • PennyAnd1

    @Polish Fan

    Gortat’s really not a Pn’R player sorry if that hurts. But Garnett’s a much better Pn’R player than Gortat. I think I read it somewhere in the articles that Boston would only want Gortat for D and not for offense. We all know Gortat don’t like to play D, so good luck if he does get traded.

  • Pudzian

    Dragic was selfish in last action

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