Memphis Grizzlies 92, Phoenix Suns 81 -- Offensive offense


PHOENIX — When the Phoenix Suns opened their season, it’s doubtful they expected many nights in which P.J. Tucker would lead them in scoring.

Yet in their latest example of offensive ineptitude, Tucker was about the only Sun to shoot well, as the Memphis Grizzlies’ mighty defense smothered the rest of the Suns on their way to a 92-81 victory, Phoenix’s eighth loss in nine games.

“We really could never get anything going really,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “We got bogged down offensively and struggled to make shots. Had some tough turnovers and never really got any kind of rhythm. We were partly responsible for that, but they did a great job defensively also.”

It ended up being a career scoring night for Tucker with his 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting, but he could hardly take any pride in that with Jermaine O’Neal being the only other Sun to make more than half his shots while Luis Scola shot 3-for-12, Shannon Brown 3-for-9 and Markieff Morris 2-for-8.

Phoenix’s usual engine Goran Dragic struggled along with the rest of his teammates with just two points before pouring in seven in the final four minutes once Memphis had already taken an insurmountable advantage. Jared Dudley didn’t even play in the fourth quarter after Tony Allen helped limit him to just 1-for-3 shooting in the first three periods.

The Suns brought their cold shooting over from the last three quarters of Friday’s tilt as they have now averaged 18.6 points per quarter on 37.5 percent shooting these past seven quarters after going for 24.6 a quarter on 47.6 percent marksmanship their previous 21. They also scored a porous 90.1 points per 100 possessions overall for this game.

The Suns have now been held to 81 points or fewer in consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 17-19, 2005, and yes, those games came during Phoenix’s six-game losing streak sans Nash that propelled him to his first of two MVPs.

The starters and reserves were equally ineffective with the starters shooting 40.8 percent and the reserves 36.7 percent, and this came with the inefficient Michael Beasley receiving a DNP-CD.

“It was just a night where they did a good job defensively and we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Gentry said. “They do a great job of playing on ball, and then they really play tight defense. You’ve got to be strong with the ball and you’ve got to set good screens. They just really got us out of anything that we were trying to do.”

Added Tucker, “We struggled offensively. We’ve got to find a way to put the ball in the basket. We’ve just got to find a way to get it done.”

Even with the West’s most efficient defense locking them up all game, the Suns still trailed by just six 31 seconds into the fourth quarter when they forced Memphis turnovers on a ridiculous five consecutive possessions.

Yet it was fitting for a game like this that the Suns could not shave a single point off the Grizzlies’ lead in this time, and Memphis soon exploded on a 15-5 run to put the game out of reach.

“That’s when we thought it [would happen],” Tucker said. “I was on the bench there, and I thought, ‘Here we go, we’re going to make a run,’ and we couldn’t get it in the basket. We couldn’t score. We were right there as always, we just couldn’t finish it off.”

The game did see Wes Johnson’s inaugural journey into the Suns’ rotation in place of Beasley. To some degree this could be seen as a move of Gentry grasping at straws and being willing to try anything, but in the place the Suns are at, why not?

Johnson drilled a couple three-pointers, blocked Rudy Gay in transition and overall looked like a guy who could play a role on this basketball team.

“I thought he did a good job,” Gentry said. “He made a couple of shots for us. You know it is the first time that he has played, guys. So we just figured that we should give him an opportunity to see what he can do. I thought he was pretty good defensively. I thought he did a good job on Rudy when he was in there and he made a couple of shots for us. So we will use him and see if he can help us out.”

Johnson had no idea Gentry would call his number tonight, but he said he’s continued to prepare for this opportunity every day at practice. He felt he got some of his early season jitters out tonight and that he can build on a performance like this.

However, it isn’t easy for a guy two and a half years removed from being the No. 4 overall pick to ride the pine all season on a struggling team.

“You just really can’t think about it too much,” Johnson said. “It is frustrating a little bit, but you can’t really let that bother you. Just come out there and be prepared. You’ve got to be a professional about it. Whenever you do get your number called, go out there and play.”

The Suns have now lost eight of nine after a brief four-game winning streak that followed a seven-game losing streak for an overall 5-15 mark since a 7-8 start.

This franchise has fought mediocrity in three of the past four seasons, but an organization that will soon become the fourth fastest to win 2,000 games (I think it’s soon) isn’t used to years like this at the bottom of the league’s standings.

Gentry’s message to the team is that first they must stay together. He understands the easiest thing to do is to point fingers and fragment, but along with Dudley he vows not to let that happens. Furthermore, Gentry said the players must believe in themselves, which can’t be easy after such a rough stretch.

“We have to believe that we can get this turned around and we’ve got to believe we can make a positive out of this,” Gentry said. “We’re not just going to play out the season or anything like that. We’re going to continue to work at it.

“We have to try different people, do different things. We’re in a bad situation, we’re in a bad spot right now, but the thing about this league is that the only one that can dig us out is ourselves.

“We have to do it within our team, and we have to be committed to each other, and we have to be committed to getting it turned around.”

It’s noble for the Suns’ coach to continue to preach such optimism, but with a brutal upcoming schedule it won’t be easy for Gentry to keep this team from fragmenting and tumbling further down the standings.

And 1

The Grizzlies outscored the Suns 19-1 on fast-break points. Seven Seconds or Less seems like a long, long time ago.

Tags: P.j Tucker Wesley Johnson

  • Michael

    Dirk has a no-trade clause.
    Dallas is done anyway, they will be in this hole we’ve been in (just missing the playoffs, bad lottery picks, aging stars).
    I see a realistic chance the Lalas could really miss the postseason. What a sweet draft pick would that be, even if it turns out to become only a low lottery pick…

  • Luka

    The Suns have a pretty good chance to get this situation turned around.

    Treloar and Blanks just need to do their damn jobs right for once. The scouting on this team has been piss poor. This roster can’t handle anymore draft busts.

    As far as LA goes… Kobe is a ball hog, and Nash hasn’t been able to really get control of the offense. I do think Dwight and Pau are legitimately battling injury. Outside of that they have a horrific bench, and no shooters. I think the Lakers will deal Gasol for several players by the deadline and try to add more depth to their roster.

  • azbballfan

    Yeah i think the Lakers dont have any picks for like the next four drafts

    The Lakers are a money making machine

    so its not like they couldnt have added quality depth to their bench

    I think everyone in the Lakers organization just assumed the team was going to 65-17 or something and would just cruise to the playoffs

    Yeah i think Dallas is going to be in a rebuilding process soon as well

    in fact, how many formerly elite teams are NOT struggling this season?

    i hear Golden State is doing well even without Adrew Bogut

  • Michael

    Trading Bogut for Gortat 1 on 1 makes no sense. Gortat is better and has the much smarter contract.
    If we could squeeze out sth from GSW, this deal could be a win/win. 2014 unprotected 1st rounder from GSW plus Barnes or Thompson, but I doubt Golden State would accept anything like that, as they have a great team chemistry with their two young guns at the 2 and 3. And they have a smart owner and intelligent FO (you can see how important that is).

  • john

    @Michael – “And they have a smart owner…”

    Last year, that same man was booed off the court by his own fans at a ceremony offering Chris Mullins, if I remember correctly. He was being called every name in the book by his community. Amazing how losing brings out the boo birds and winning shuts them up, and somehow, even when the same people are involved in both situations, the hypocrisy (and lunacy) of the maniacal, bloodthirsty bandwagoners rarely gets pointed out.

    Consider this to be pointing them out.

    In a couple of years when the Suns begin to win again, I’ll be pointing the same thing out to all the Suns fans who are blaming the owner for the woes of this team.

    I’m not trying to knock you or anything, I just think it’s funny how quickly the perception of an individual can change once they start winning. See: Donald Sterling, Jerry Reinsdorf, Mark Cuban, etc etc etc.

  • Tony

    @John,

    are you seriously comparing the job the Warriors new ownership has done with the Suns ownership????

    Firstly, Sarver has never been regarded as a good owner and in fact, the general consensus of the national sports pundits has consistently been that Sarver is a meddling and cheap baffoon. His reputation as such is well deserved.

    Secondly, the reason why the Warriors fans’ booed Joe Lacob, the Warriors owner, was because he traded away fan favorite Monte Ellis, which coincidentially, was the appropriate thing to do. The fans did not boe him because he was cheap or because he decimated a highly talented roster to save money. Thus, his situation in no way compares to Robert Sarver’s, whom in addition to doing the latter two, has also been a meddlesome owner.

    Now is it possible that Sarver turns this franchise around? Of course it is, but how likely is that to happen? In my opinion, the Suns franchise is doomed so long as Sarver is the principal owner of the organization. Either it’s because he’s cheap or because he doesn’t have the financial resources to turn things around; regardless, he’s been a disaster since taking over and our best hope of seeing this franchise return to relevancy is only going to come via new ownership.

  • john

    I made no comparison to the jobs of either front office.

    I made the observation that bandwagon fans are fickle, volatile idiots.

    Win and I love you. Lose and I want to see heads roll.

    You fall very much into that camp.

  • john

    Also, I keep hearing that Gentry is one of the lowest paid coaches in the NBA. Where are you getting your numbers?

    As far as I know, coaches’ salary numbers are a little hard to come by. He’s making somewhere around $2M, which would be bottom half in the NBA, but I’m really struggling to see why it would be justifiable to pay him more… what has he done? Also, it’s worth noting that Terry Porter is being paid more than Alvin Gentry to NOT coach (another brilliant Kerr move, *rolls eyes*). The Suns are actually paying out somewhere in the neighborhood of $5M to head coaching this season. That would be near the top of the league. I have looked at zero numbers on this, but I would bet that less than a handful of coaches make more than $5M. Rivers, D’Antoni, and maybe Popovich and Adelman…

    Scott Skiles was making something like $4.5M before he got sacked. Does that prove that the Bucks are such a great organization because they’re willing to pay for “top tier” coaching?

    Sorry I’m all over the place with this, but I am just truly baffled at what you think is so wrong with paying Gentry *just* ~$2M, putting him in the bottom half of coaches. What’s the alternative that you’re proposing that is so much better? Do you even have an alternative? Or do you just like to whine?

  • Michael

    In my opinion not only “bandwagon fans” (whatever definition about that might be suitable for you) are allowed to criticise Mr. Sarver and the FO for the developement the whole Suns team has made for the last couple of seasons.
    As you have pointed fingers to the Warriors situation from last season, where Mr. Lacob made a huge change by trading their franchise player and fan favourite, you have to see the results of that move.
    He got the franchise from a losing one to a very entertaining and successful, pretty much the reputation the Suns had for years. Isn´t it ok to applaude for that?

    And Mr. Sarver took over the Suns when the franchise was entertaining and successful, traded the franchise player and one of the fan favourites and the organisation is on a steady decline. Isn´t it ok to blast him for that?

    I have no clue what your point is in berating anyone who dares to blame the responsibles for this horrible developement.

  • john

    “…you have to see the results of that move.”

    Right, which is why I pointed out that it was so stupid of Warriors fans to react with such vitriol when Ellis was traded and the Warriors were in the midst of a terrible season (and a terrible few years). Fans reacted irrationally with vitriol, hatred, and a complete lack of class and decency. That “irrationally” qualifier is unnecessary, actually. It goes without saying that it’s irrational to act like a barbarian.

    Sarver had a run of 7 years or so that was rivaled in Suns history by only the Barkley Suns. Whether or not you want to give most of the credit to Jerry for making that team happen, I don’t care. I’m not going to get into that. The point is that until 2008, there is hardly even a WHISPER of a negative comment related to Sarver among fans or media members. Seriously, google it, you won’t find anything before the Johnson trade. The whispers grow after the Johnson trade and escalate to their highest point at around 2010, to the point that Sarver gains such a reputation that he is blamed by some for holding up the lockout when most reputable people who were actually in the rooms have said that Sarver was one of the biggest reasons basketball actually happened last season…

    The whining of fans isn’t noble. It’s the ear-piercing screaming and stomping of two-year-olds who had their shiny new toy plucked from their hands.

    Blaming is easy. I think that’s my biggest issue. It’s EASY to point fingers. And there is no retribution. Being an armchair bully carries absolutely no threat of retribution. Presenting solutions is a much more challenging and worthwhile endeavor.

    And lastly, NONE of the people who sit in their chairs and throw insults at the coaching staff, FO, or ownership would ever want those things said to themselves. I think, most of all, I’d just like people to maintain SOME level of decency when they’re “criticizing.”

    Btw, Michael, I’m not directly accusing you of contributing to some of the awful things that have been thrown out there about the Suns FO in hyperbole (in what twisted minds believe to be “good fun”). You just happened to bring up the talking point.

    I have no problem with cricism. It’s a good and necessary aspect of development and progress. Most of what I read regarding the Suns FO does not fit that bill, however. It’s purely infantile, nonsensical, tasteless insults with no merit whatsoever. I DO have a problem with that.

  • Michael

    I do not insult Sarver, I just think he as the owner is clearly the one being responsible for the massive decline of our Suns.
    He competes with/against other owners, and he has fallen off heavily the last seasons.
    You can see decisions that were so obviously bad that you cannot ignore that.
    I think we both can agree that criticism has to have a certain quality/ level, but you HAVE to criticise for these decisions that turned or franchise at the bottom of the league.

  • Michael

    Well, and I would be very pleased and would certainly praise him if he doesn’t go for Gay or at best gets us Gay plus tons of future drafts in exchange for some Beasleys, Browns, … Well, simple as that, a trade where the whole league clearly states: “Well done, PHX!”

  • Tony

    @John,

    From Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro, “Gentry still ranks among the lowest paid coaches for the coming season at $1.95 million…,” cited to Arizona Republic in regards to his salary for the 2011-2012 season. Now, although that was last year’s salary, I think you would be hard-pressed to claim that he received a significant increase this season.

    Anyhow, my only point about Gentry’s salary was that to some degree it indicates the degree of influence , or lack thereof, he has with Sarver. In other words, if Gentry had as much influence on the team’s roster as Scott contends, I highly doubt he would fall into the bottom-tier category of coaches salary, especially since the Suns still rank 10th in terms of NBA market value. In short, my belief in whether Gentry’s salary is proportional to his ability and success as Suns head coach was not the issue.

    Regardless, it’s useless debating with someone drinking Sarver’s koolaide. I suppose ignorane is bliss for you.

  • Tony

    “The point is that until 2008, there is hardly even a WHISPER of a negative comment related to Sarver among fans or media members. Seriously, google it, you won’t find anything before the Johnson trade.”

    Right John, because Sarver was the Suns owner for so many years prior to the JJ trade, right????? Sarver was only in his second year as the Suns owner when he traded JJ and when his infamou reputation for being a lousy owner began. So, are you seriously suggesting that because fans didn’t criticize Sarver for his first year as team owner, in which he inherited an immensely talented roster left to him by Jerry and Bryan Colangelo, that therefore, Suns fans have been fickle?

    Secondly, please verify your source(s) that claimed Sarver was instrumental in ending the lockout. The only source I have ever seen to suggest that Sarver wanted the lockout to end was Sarver himself. It was repeately reported from ESPN and other national pundits that Sarver and the Cavs owner Dan Gilbert were the primary ones preventing a deal. From ESPN, “Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert and Phoenix’s Robert Sarver expressed their dissatisfaction…The sources said that the Knicks’ James Dolan and the Lakers’ Jerry Buss were visibly annoyed by the hardline demands of Gilbert and Sarver.” From ProBasketballTalk.com, “Once again, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver was the most vocal proponent of the owner’s case, and he befuddled players by insisting that his wife had asked him to bring back the middle level exception in a designer bag.”

    So John, either your terrible at research which is why you were unable to formulate any rational basis for your opinions or you prefer to remain disinterested of facts.

  • john

    @Michael

    I think the Suns had a “Well done, PHX” deal with the Gortat trade… HOWEVER, I don’t really count that in their favor because they were dumb enough to get Hedo in the first place. So, like you, I’m waiting for that trade to happen as well.

    The thing I criticize Sarver most heavily for is that I believe the owner is integrally involved in the acquisition of GMs (and in the case of the Suns, the two-headed dragon that is a PBO + GM). In that arena, I think he has failed miserably. And that’s really where I believe the influence of an owner ends for the most part (or should, at least).

    I don’t think it was Sarver himself who said, “Heck no, I’m not giving JJ another $5M!” A lot of other things like Amar’e leaving, Nash leaving… I’m not so sure those were bad things for the Suns, and I’m also not so sure Sarver was the one pushing those two occurrences along in the first place.

    Regardless, there are ZERO teams in the NBA that are impervious to decline. No one is good forever. No one. The Lakers have bad years. The Celtics have bad years. The Heat have bad years… everyone does. That doesn’t necessarily mean the brass made the wrong moves along the way. Sometimes it just means that players get old. Everyone knew Amar’e and Nash couldn’t last forever. So, in all honesty, what was the plan to prevent the Suns from entering into an eventual decline once that happened? Could it really have been avoided?

    Those are the types of thinks I think blind critics don’t take the time to consider. What were the alternatives? In the case of the Suns, I think fair criticism would inevitably lead to the conclusion that different choices could have been made (Give JJ his $50M, keep Marion, don’t hire Porter, keep Amar’e, keep Nash), but ultimately every one of those decisions was defensible… in fact, some of them were LAUDED at the time they happened by fans and media alike.

    Anyway, that was a lot of words to simply say I appreciate the fair criticism and civility you’re displaying. It’s severely lacking in the sports world.

    @Tony

    The amount of money you make might not determine your “influence” within an organization. Have you ever considered alternatives? Do you really think that just because Gentry’s salary was reported to be $2.15M he has less influence over team decisions than Scott Skiles did over in Milwaukee just because Skiles made twice as much? Does Thibodeau making $2M last year (not sure about this year) mean he didn’t have much control over the direction of the franchise?

    Maybe, just maybe, Gentry isn’t getting paid very much because he’s still coming off a deal where he got promoted from being an assistant coach to the head coach… Should an assistant coach immediately be bumped into the ranks of the highest paid among the league?

    Listen, I think the Gentry hire was a bad move in the first place. I never wanted Gentry as the coach of the Suns. I thought he was a D’Antoni clone all along, and I’m all about defense and the mantra that defense wins championships. Gentry isn’t that kind of a guy.

    There’s some Sarver criticism for you (assuming he was heavily involved in that process, which I believe he was). Gentry should never have been the head coach of the Phoenix, Suns, in my opinion. I believe that move was made with the primary intention of resurrecting the SSOL era, and I never believed that brand of basketball was good enough to win in the first place.

    Anyway, main point, consider this: Coaches’ salaries are based on what they have accomplished, not their influence on the team.

  • john

    Ugh, I’ll briefly entertain the source question:

    The ESPN reference you’re citing was actually originally a Yahoo reference. Wojnarowski (or however you spell his name). He is similar to Bill Simmons as far as his use of hyperbole, and his hatred of Sarver has been well documented over the years. I don’t take one word Woj says about Sarver seriously because the man has never had anything good to say. Anyone who has only negative things to say about an individual or organization simply can’t be trusted. For instance, if you have a friend that you know is a die-hard Apple fan who will buy ANYTHING Apple no matter the cost, no matter what negatives there are, no matter if it’s a completely abysmal product that no one in their right mind would believe to be worth having… would you ask them for their opinion on whether or not you should purchase the latest Apple gadget? If you would, you’d be crazy, because you would know their answer before they gave it.

    Woj is the same way with Sarver (as is Simmons, by the way). They latched onto train that began steamrolling through Sarver’s reputation around 2008 and never looked back. Honest, trustworthy sources will show both sides of the coin. Bill Simmons and Woj are not the kind of people I trust for honest analysis. I read their stuff for laughs and entertainment. Also, a little-known guy on ESPN reported that Gilbert and Sarver banded together to halt a deal that Dolan and Buss were pushing, forgive me if you were referring to that, but I can also tell you for sure that guy wasn’t in the room, and even if he was, that guy was from ESPN Los Angeles. Whose side do you think he’s going to take on an issue where Buss is involved? Yeah.

    That said, here’s a source that claims Sarver was instrumental in getting the deal done (other links to outside sources are in the article):

    http://valleyofthesuns.com/2011/12/13/robert-sarver-tells-side/

    Believe what you want, but Robert Sarver and David Stern were in those negotiation rooms, and I haven’t heard ONE quote from anyone who was in those rooms that Sarver was truly a hardliner. If you’re going to call them liars, then try out Ken Berger and Marc Stein.

    You can believe what you want, but if you’re going to maintain any shred of personal credibility, you must admit that there are conflicting sources, and it’s impossible to know what’s true unless you were in those negotiation rooms yourself.

  • Tony

    @John,

    hahahaha!! So your “source” is in fact what Robert Sarver said! How pathetic! What’s next, are you going to use an article in which Dan Gilbert asserts that he too wasn’t one of the owners pushing for a lockout? This isn’t Fox News, you need to present some independent source(s) to establish any credibility. Let’s take your logic a step futher-a criminal defendant should be found not guilty merely beause he took the witness stand and proclaimed his innocence! LMAO.

    I presented two different independent sources, yet you resort to an article in which Sarver claimed he was innocent and in which David Stern, who represents the owners and not the players, to back up your claims. You do realize that David Stern actually works FOR the owners right? So don’t you think there’s a possible conflict of interest there?

    I didn’t know you had a personal relationship with Bill Simmons and Wojnarowski…I mean you must know them personally to claim they have a “hatred” of Robert Sarver. Of course, I highly doubt you do in fact know either of them and what you regard as hate, is simple reporting the facts. Oh and in addition, their sources who learned of Sarver’s behavior during the CBA negotiations were actually NBA players and NBA representatives inside the meeting room.

  • Tony

    Thanks for the laughs though John, it’s always fun debating a pro-Sarver supporter! It never ceases to amaze me what kinds of information they will resort to in an effort to back their fancyful claims. With that said, trying to prove that Sarver was one of the owners most committed to restoring the NBA season during the lockout by using his own statements defending himself really takes the cake!

  • john

    I presented you with four sources. Stein, Berger, Stern, and Sarver.

    Your obsession with hating Sarver is quite sad. I hope this type of maniacal obsession doesn’t become a habit or problem for you when you grow up. I’d like to believe you’re not as insane as you act on the Internet, and I’d also like to believe not all teenagers want to watch the world burn. Here’s to hoping.