PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns are learning how to go for their opponents’ throats. Call it one of many lessons to learn as Lindsey Hunter attempts to teach a team without much room for error, even when it’s playing well.
“That’s a learned process,” the interim head coach said. “That’s a learned behavior. Creating habits … when you get a team down, instinctively you try to put them away.”
A fast-paced, sometimes sloppy affair against a Dallas Mavericks squad gave the Suns an opportunity to chop down a team coming off a tough back-to-back. Instead, it was Phoenix that left US Airways Center with a 109-99 loss on Friday night after once holding a 10-point lead with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.
By the end of the third, the Suns had let the Mavs back into it.
Halfway through the fourth, they had let Dallas run away with it.
The Mavs sliced and diced the Suns defense in the fourth quarter as Phoenix entered with a 75-74 lead. Aside from a final turnover with 12 seconds left and a cushy lead, the Mavericks scored on their final six possessions, and former Suns forward Shawn Marion scored eight of the Mavericks’ 11 points in the final three minutes, most of which came in typical Matrix fashion – offensive rebounds and tips.
“We just couldn’t get stops,” Michael Beasley said. “The whole game. We kind of held them off, as bad as we were playing tonight, we held them off. You leave them in a game with a shooter like O.J. Mayo, especially Jae Crowder hitting shots, they’re going to run away with it.”
Mayo led the Mavericks with 20 points and Darren Collison had 19, but it was the Dallas bench that made a difference. Vince Carter scored 17, Jae Crowder’s jump shot haunted Phoenix as he scored 13 points and Brandan Wright’s length helped him shoot 5-of-7 from the floor for 11 points.
Shannon Brown was about the only positive on the Phoenix bench, scoring 20. Michael Beasley struggled mightily with his shot, going 2-for-13 for just four points and leading the team with three turnovers.
“We need everybody,” said point guard Goran Dragic, who flirted with a triple-double in scoring 19 points along with nine assists and eight rebounds. “It’s not only the starting five. Shannon was the only guy from the bench who played really well.”
An aggressive Brown entered the game in the second quarter with Kendall Marshall, who played backup point guard instead of Sebastian Telfair for the second time this year.
Marshall showed what could be expected. He had two assists and two turnovers in 10 minutes. Though his offensive deficiencies showed in one play – a drive with the shot-clock winding down that was blocked by fellow former Tar Heel Wright – Marshall also displayed his adept creativity that sometimes leads to trouble.
Brown, streaky as usual, was hot and Marshall’s role in that was especially impressive. The rookie made it a point to find Brown, tossing a risky but accurate crosscourt pass to Brown for an in-rhythm jumper.
The shot gave Phoenix a 40-33 lead nine minutes before the half, but Dallas had tied the game at 54 by halftime.
Phoenix held the Mavs scoreless for more than four minutes in the heart of the third quarter and capitalized with an 11-0 run for a 10-point lead. But Dallas fought back with a 13-2 run to regain the lead and trailed just 75-74 heading to the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Mavericks, who had been fumbling and bumbling at times during the game, finally had had enough.
The Suns looked poised to make a run a couple of times to avoid losing after a blown double-digit lead. But in the end, a troubling sequence – one of those stamps that bad teams keep in their pockets – put the Suns away for good. Dudley got an offensive foul called for a leg-kickout on a three-point attempt, then Dragic received a kick ball penalty and slammed the ball on the floor in frustration, drawing a technical.
So much for the Suns going at a team when it’s most vulnerable. And in the end, it were those same Suns who had been broken.
“We can’t play like that, especially against a team that’s coming off a back-to-back,” Beasley said. “You have to jump on them. That’s how you win.”
Michael Beasley goes cold
Michael Beasley fell back to Earth in a hard way on Friday. Hunter said he wasn’t worried, saying that Beasley was just “a step off.” The looks were good, Hunter said, and the shots didn’t fall.
It’s clear the Suns have pounded into Beasley’s head that shot selection is more important than shot making as far as the forward’s mindset should be concerned.
“I shot the ball great,” Beasley said, quite seriously. “Got shots I wanted, the ball just didn’t fall. That’s it.
“I was still aggressive, still doing what I had to do on the rebounding side, defensive side.”
And in Beasley’s defense, the majority of his jumpers weren’t too out of rhythm, and they mostly missed in the same fashion. They were consistently off, spinning out of the cup with the same touch each time.
Beasley lost the plus-minus game with a minus-16 on the night. Brown, who went 7-of-11 from the floor, had a minus-13 in much time spent on the court with Beasley. Take those statistics for what they’re worth.
Dragic on his late technical foul following a kicked ball call on the point guard after an attempted steal: “We were close, we just couldn’t execute our offense. I would like to apologize to my teammates. I shouldn’t do that. When you try to win games and it’s not going well, then the bad side … is coming out.”