Phoenix Suns 95, Philadelphia 76ers 89 — Learning to close


PHOENIX – A tired Philadelphia 76ers team found themselves behind 11 points early in the fourth quarter, but as has been the case lately, the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday came face-to-face with a potential close loss in the final minutes.

Whether it was that fatigue that took Phoenix over the top in a 95-89 win against the Sixers in U.S. Airways Center or the Suns figuring out how to close a game without miscues, well, coach Alvin Gentry will take the win that ended a six-game losing skid.

Luis Scola recorded his third 20-point game in a row with 21 points and added nine assists, including a dime to P.J. Tucker with a minute to go that helped to hold off the 76ers.

“It’s only one win but we desperately needed it,” Scola said. “We need to find a way to make this longer and don’t go back to the same mistakes.

“We’ve proven we can stay in games,” he added. “We haven’t proven we can close those games and win those games consistently.”

And the Suns survived as unimpressive of a triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) as could be from Philly point guard Jrue Holiday to come away with a victory.

“He ends up with a triple-double,” Gentry said, “but I think we did a good job, for the most part, against Jrue Holiday. He torched us up there the first time we played. I thought we did a good job of just controlling him and making him shoot contested shots.”

Holiday also had six turnovers and shot 6-of-16 from the floor. Much credit could go to Goran Dragic, who arguably outplayed Holiday with 20 points, six assists and three blocks. As a whole, the Suns’ defense looked solid throughout and at the least contested most of the Sixers’ shots.

For the second game in a row, Phoenix went with Tucker in place of Shannon Brown, and Gentry didn’t say how permanent of a change it’d be.

Leading 31-24 after the first quarter, the Sixers went at the Suns with the power forward mismatch. Thaddeus Young scored 10 points in the first period by using his quickness against Scola, but Phoenix got excellent production out of Marcin Gortat, who scored nine early points and grabbed six rebounds.

Gortat was a major key in the game, and though he finished with 11 points, he also had 14 boards. With all the drama this season, it was a good sign then that Gentry went out of his way to applaud the center. He even said the team could – yes – give the Polish Machine more opportunities.

“I think the guy that’s doing really well right now is Marcin,” Gentry said. “I think he’s doing a really good job rebounding the basketball, I think he’s doing a good job finishing around the basket. I mean, obviously we’d like to see if we can get him a few more shots.”

In the first half especially, the atmosphere was awkward. A large Kansas State contingent that returned a purple hue to Planet Orange begged for former Wildcat Michael Beasley (and even booed former Kansas Jayhawk Markieff Morris).

KSU fans got their wish when Beasley entered at the beginning of the second quarter after receiving a DNP-Coaches Decision a game prior. But his presence came with a stagnant offense, and Phoenix was outscored 17-6 in the first seven minutes of the second quarter.

Neither he nor Sebastian Telfair, who was struggling with a sore knee, played in the second half.

The Dragic-Holiday matchup was something to keep an eye on, and it didn’t disappoint. Dragic held his own against the player that Gentry said was “flying under the radar,” even frustrating the point guard into forced shots during the second half especially.

“I thought (Holiday) came back and he was really trying to force some things,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said. “He was trying to force some passes. I just said, ‘Let’s just read what’s there.’ “

Scoring just two points in the first half, Scola sparked the Suns in the third quarter, scoring 14 points – mostly 17-footers – as Phoenix built a 75-66 lead going into the fourth.

“I feel like I’m in a better rhythm, I play with more confidence, I know my teammates better,” Scola said. “It took me a little time. I’m happy with the way things are going on now. We just need to keep going.”

The Suns led by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter, but Philadelphia made a push, bringing its deficit down to two points at 87-85 with two minutes to play. And much unlike they’d done often during the six-game losing streak, the Suns closed the game as the tired Sixers faultered. Dragic drew a shooting foul on Lavoy Allen on a pump-fake, and Tucker took a nice pass from Scola to bounce in a 14-footer with just more than a minute to play as the Suns finally held off an opponent.

“We played well tonight,” Dragic said. “The ball was circling around, everybody was engaged. We played good defense. Almost every shot was contested.

“The key was just to try to be solid and have no turnovers.”

That, the Suns did. They recorded 24 total assists leading to 39 made field goals, shot a decent 46 percent and won the turnover battle 13-17.

And 1

Alvin Gentry got a nice game out of Shannon Brown in his second game off the bench in a row, even running a few set plays for him that helped to keep the second-half lead intact. After trailing 49-48 at the half, the Suns never relinquished their lead, and much of it had to do with Brown’s 12 points on 50 percent shooting.

“That’s what we anticipated with him, playing off the bench,” Gentry said of Brown. “We can kind of zero in on him, we can call plays for him to make shots.”

  • Harry

    Last optimist here. Save the movie reviews for another season. This is a playoff team. Glad Gentry finally figured out the best players. Stay with this starting unit.

    Dragic absolutely outplayed Holiday. Not even close. Let him lead. Thankfully Telfair couldn’t play second half. Play the starters and a limited rotation. That will make the playoffs. Fire Gentry in offseason and get a real coach. Get a new FO. The future will look bright.

  • bill.thomas

    @Harry: “Get a real coach” ???

    You mean one who gets immature players to take good shots and pass on bad one, helps them one-on-one with their shot kineaseology day-to-day, and forces them to play defense?

  • cdubbbb

    I don’t know if this is a playoff team, its hard to judge that sort of thing, especially when we are not seeing consistency night in and night out. They are only a “playoff team” if they make the playoffs. Ill tell you this much, if they cant find consistency and focus on both ends of the floor, they will definitely not make the playoffs. Winning 1 game out of every 5 is not good enough. Losing at home is not good enough.

    I do hold hope with this roster, We have a decent starting unit hat has the ability to put points on the board and some decent athleticism on the perimeter, plus a grizzled veteran like Scola to keep us cool, calm, and collected. I really think moving Tucker into the starting 5 was the right call as well. He seems to be getting better and better every game.

    Then on the bench we have a bunch of firecrackers. Streaky, in your face, tough, and not afraid to shoot. Bassy and Brown is gonna be a good combo IMO. Both are pretty good defenders as well. Morris and Oneal is an awesome frontcourt coming of the bench. They compliment eachother perfectly! If we could only get Beasley going smh.

    Its only a matter of time before Beasley runs out of opportunity, especially with Wes Johnson playing well just about every time he gets to touch the ball.

    I liked the Beasley deal. I have seen enough out of him in the NBA to realize that the talent is there, major talent I might add, but something has got to start clicking for this kid. If he cant put together a string of solid games within the next month, he better get used to his role…. on the bench. Next man up is the motto, and Wes Johnson looks thirsty.

  • azbballfan

    Good win for the Suns

    They took advantage of a tired Philly team

    the fact that Dragic played the whole second half……means coaching staff has no confidence in Marshall.

    Is this team a playoff team?

    There have been teams in the past that have turned it around in mid season and made the playoffs.

    I dont think the Suns defend, rebound, or get to the line consistently enough to make that happen though.

    really, the Suns look like one major injury away from another losing season while the front office scrambles to add veteran talent at the trade deadline.

    This isnt the 1993-1994 Denver Nuggets team

    only one team, the 1998-1999 NY Knicks have made the playoffs as an 8th seed and made the finals

    The Suns look just good enough to accasionally fool you into thinking hey if this list of things happens were are a playoff team

    Even if by some miracle the Suns get there

    who could we beat? you dont get a trophy for winning one series

    Nash may have been a huge part of this team, but clearly stoudemire was equally as important

    we havent made the playoffs since he left for NY

    I dont think the Suns would have fared so well in the paint had Bynum been playing either

    but hey a win is a win, just gives the front office one more day to go “no we dont need to make changes! the players we dumped on Gentry are just not playing that well! thats his fault!”

    I would need to see real consistency before i am convinced this is a playoff team

  • Anonymous

    Someone once told me the problem with phoenix is that their starting line-up is consisted of bench players, and their bench players are consisted of D-Leaguers.

    This teams not going anywhere.

  • SHAZAM

    i liked the dirty harry movies..is eastwood a better actor than deniro?

  • Luka

    @Harry

    The Suns are a trainwreck. The only way this situation turns around is if Sarver…

    A. Sells the team.
    B. Finally realises that after years of losing you need to spend money for a good product. (Donald Sterling)
    C. Declares bankruptcy.

  • john

    Luka is right. That is the ONLY possible way the ship will ever be righted.

    SMH.

    As far as playoffs are concerned, maybe next year. To get into the playoffs, you’re only going to be able to lose 35-ish games. That means the Suns would have to go 35-14 from here on out. While it’s not a statistical *impossibility* at this point, that’s not going to happen in anyone’s wildest dreams.

  • Voqar

    Beasely isn’t getting any better unless he changes his mentality, so I’d say he’s screwed.

    Beasely should never be initiating the offense. If he doesn’t give the ball to the PG he should be benched.

    If he would just play in the natural flow, pass, take good shots instead of spontaneously jacking up the worst shots anybody in the league takes, he might do ok.

    When the Suns pass, cut, move, etc, they create wide open shots for each other and things go so much better. Beasely is incapable of realizing the ball will find him if he hustles and participates in this concept.

    He doesn’t let the game come to him, he forces it, and he ends up taking the worst shots, with the worst form, and with the most horrifically bad results imagineable.

    It’s like he’s trying to lay the worst bricks in league history and is overachieving with it.

    Nice game for Gortat on both ends – if he played like that consistently we’d be a better team.

    Nice to see Scola playing the way he’s capable of playing finally, and hopefully that continues. It helps keep Beasely on the bench where he can’t do any damage.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Troy

    Coaches have no confidence in the players they hand picked to be here….
    Players have no confidence in the coaches as they never know if they’ll play, be benched, play the whole game….it’s completely and utterly irritating to watch the suns my favorite team. A new line up every night, Dragic plays the whole second half smh…What does that say to a rookie who was drafted in the first round, already sent to the Dleague??

  • Michael

    @ Troy:

    It says to him: Train hard and harder to get a JS, train hard and harder to be reliable defensively.

    Gentry obviously doesn´t want to tank right now, so Marshall seems to be that bad that he´s not able to give him significant minutes.
    I´d like to see him playing more as well, but I do believe he´s just playing too bad right now. And I´m not sure he has the right mentality yet. He seems a little lazy.

  • bill.thomas

    Thank God we won the game with the players playing the minutes they did. It seems to me Gentry did a very nice job of using his personnel. Glad to see Dragic close a game playing the whole second half. When we have a chance to win a game we need to go with our trusted and reliable players.

  • Ty-Sun

    I think I may have Beasley figured out.

    He’s had “issues” with drugs before and now says he has put all that behind him. I think that maybe the reason he played so well at KSU was because he was high as a kite during all those games and just can’t play as well when he’s straight.

    Maybe he just needs a prescription for medical marijuana. If he can’t do his “work” well enough to keep his job without it, I’d say that might qualify him for it. ;)

  • john

    Beasley to the Nuggets. Perfect fit.

  • azbballfan

    LOL interesting point Ty-Sun

    I think the Suns are tied for the worst road record with the Wizards right now

    Atleast the Wizards have an excuse in that their best player hasnt seen the court all season so far

    All i want for the Suns in a Gortat deal is some young talent.

    We could use a athletic, slashing 3 that can defend and finish

    Wether that comes in the form of a trade or draft pick it dont really matter

    if Beasley and the coaching staff cant work it out, we will need a long term solution at the 3

    Also, the Suns need to get rid of this log jam at the 4

    Morris, Scola, Beasley, and Gortat all play the same position (although i think Gortat and beasley play out of position, Beas being a PF and Gortat also really being a PF but of course Jermaine Oneal is too banged up to play 35 minutes a game and start)

    I would love for the Suns to make deadline or soon dealers that ship out Gortat, Beasley, Telfair, and Morris

    and give us a young, true center, a hard nosed athletic 4 than finish, and a the kind of guy at the 3 i mentioned above

    lol what about gortat, beasley and Telfair for Meyers Leonard, Nic Batum and JJ Hickson

  • Keith

    We’d arguably get the best 3 players in that trade and trade the 3 worst, so don’t think that’s even close to happening. Batum especially would take a lot more than that.

  • cdubbb

    Meyers leonard is not better then Gortat, niether is hickson.

  • azbballfan

    I dont think Portland would make that trad either, but teams have done stranger things in the past

    it doesnt really matter if Gortat is better, what matters is wer are getting players back, with potential, that dont have the leverage to demand big raises for atleast a while

    the way it is right now, telfair is taking away minutes from marshall, Gortat will leave us for nothing as soon as possible and of course alot of people think the Beasley signing was a mistake.

    Its probably not gonan happen but hey that would be good if it did for the Suns anyway

  • Polish_fan

    yep Gortst will leave if he will be 4th offensive option….

  • Tony

    @Harry

    this Suns team is a playoff team???? Haha! Thx for the laugh. They win one game at home against a mediocre team playing on a btb and that’s enough to convince you the Suns are going to make the playoffs? Wow! Sarver must love fans like you. What’s next…, are you going to claim that if the Suns beat the Jazz and go on a two game win streak, that they’re good enough to make the NBA Finals?

  • Luka

    @John

    That’s hilarious dude. Beasley in Denver would be a great fit. He can visit those “coffee lounges” anytime.

  • Luka

    BTW speaking of movie reviews… Just saw the latest Bond movie “Skyfall” did not care for it. I miss the old school gadgets, and explosions. This new Bond is boring.

  • azbballfan

    A Portland-Pheonix trade of

    Gortat, Telfair, Brown and Johnson

    for Hickson, Leonard, and Mathews works in the trade machine.

    Portland gets cap relief and a starting center

    Suns fix a glaring hole at the 2

    get a starting quality PF, and a center in Leonard with tons of potential

  • Luka

    @Azbballfan

    It would make more sense for a team like Boston to acquire Gortat. The Celts desperately need a veteran C.

    Suns Send: Gortat, Morris, Telfair
    Celtics Send: Lee, Bradley, Sullinger, Melo

    http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=aclur96