Phoenix Suns 99, Los Angeles Lakers 76 -- Hollywood twist

PHOENIX — More than an hour before Monday night’s contest against the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter delivered a rather reflective pre-game media session in which he stressed the importance of having his team finish the season strong. He spoke of privilege over right, sprinting to the finish line and seizing the chance to compete.

It sounded nice and rather uplifting for coachspeak, but given the fact that the Suns entered the night losers of four straight by an average margin of 20 points per contest, Hunter’s optimistic take seemed a little off base.

Markieff Morris #11 of the Phoenix Suns blocks a shot against Jodie Meeks #20 of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 18, 2013 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Markieff Morris #11 of the Phoenix Suns blocks a shot against Jodie Meeks #20 of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 18, 2013 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

48 minutes of basketball later, the Suns backed up their head coach’s every syllable with an eye-opening 99-76 win over a Lakers team that came in to US Airways Center with 11 wins in its previous 14 games.

“We had a great team effort tonight,” Hunter said. “I think every guy on our bench, the bench, guys that didn’t play, everybody was very supportive. That is the type of team building we are trying to get here. That is the type of culture that we are trying to have…Every guy that played really really did a good job, an exceptional job.”

While the Suns rode a huge fourth-quarter spurt  much the same way they did when the two teams met in Phoenix back on January 30, it was how the purple and orange put themselves in position to win through the first three quarters that was downright impressive.

A little over six minutes into the contest, it became abundantly clear that Dwight Howard was going to have his way in the post. The seven-time All-Star drew two quick fouls on Jermaine O’Neal, had nine relatively easy points and held a firm grasp on the glass (five rebounds). Even without Kobe Bryant, who sat out his second straight game due to a severely sprained left ankle, the Lakers looked rather comfortable offensively relying on Howard and former Sun Steve Nash (10 first quarter points) at the offensive end.

But leave it to the man who wasn’t even on the roster the last time the divisional foes faced one another to change the complexion of the contest.

With O’Neal on the bench to start the second quarter and his team down four, Hunter opted to play backup center Hamed Haddadi extended minutes. While Haddadi gave up plenty of quickness and athleticism to Howard in the post, the 7-foot-2 center presented a different look — one that somehow gave the Lakers center plenty of problems.

Haddadi held Howard without a field goal in the second frame, and Mike D’Antoni’s lone post threat recorded only one point and two rebounds in the period.  But Haddadi wasn’t the only reserve who played a major part in the momentum-shifting second quarter. Jared Dudley and Kendall Marshall combined to score 16 off the pine, including 4-of-6 from three-point range.

While Phoenix only led by three heading into halftime, the game had certainly turned.

The Suns extended their lead to as many as 11 points in the third quarter thanks to a balanced offensive attack (five players scored four or more points)  and tremendous team defense. O’Neal went blow-for-blow with Howard in the paint, P.J. Tucker took Jodie Meeks out of the game and forced Steve Blake to hit tough shots and Goran Dragic had no problem sticking with his former teammate and mentor, Nash (one assist and no field goals).

After Blake and Antawn Jamison whittled the deficit down to five to end the third quarter with back-to-back three-point shots, the Suns  turned to another super sub down the stretch.

Entering the final quarter, Luis Scola had been limited to just eight minutes of action (no points and one rebound). But the Argentinian played like a man possessed at both ends of the court over the last 12 minutes of the contest. The first-year Sun frustrated Howard in the post by consistently fronting him. The tactic paid off as the former No. 1 overall pick couldn’t free himself to catch any entry passes and finished with no points and two personal fouls in the fourth quarter.

At the offensive end, Scola caught fire away from the basket. With Howard essentially baiting him to shoot, Scola hit five jumpers from 11-feet or further, including a three-point shot from the top of the key that all but put the game out of reach at 92-75 with 3:38 remaining.

By himself, Scola outscored (14-10) and outrebounded (8-7) the Lakers in the fourth quarter. The Suns finished the game on a 28-10 run and in the process notched their fourth straight home victory over Los Angeles.

“He was tremendous,” Hunter said of Scola. “I was kind of nervous having him on Dwight because I knew he had a size advantage. You can never measure a guy’s heart, and he showed it tonight. He let us coaches know that we really don’t know what we are doing.”

While Nash was more aggressive in his second return trip to the Valley — had a game-high 19 points — he left US Airways Center with a another defeat and a crooked number (6-of-17 from the field)  by his name on the stat sheet.

“It was a tough night shooting the ball obviously,” Nash said. “We had a lot of great looks; a lot of balls go in the basket and come back out. We just hit the wall; it was our ninth game in 14 days in seven cities and you could just kind of see the wheels fall off.”

Although the Suns’ old guard struggled to find his shot, their new guard continues to look more and more comfortable behind the three-point arc.  Kendall Marshall tied a career-high with 11 points and admitted he’s starting to get acclimated to his increased role.

“I’ve been putting in the work but it just means a lot to get the kind of encouragement I’ve gotten from my head coach,” Marshall said. “With us not really being in the playoff picture it’s all about getting ready for next season. As a young player, I’m just trying to improve from game to game.

“This one is nice and we can celebrate it until midnight but that’s the beauty of the NBA. In an 82-game season, you already have to focus on the next one, and we have a Washington team coming to town that just blew us out .”

And 1…

  • Following another impressive performance Monday night, Goran Dragic now leads the league with eight 10-assist games since the All-Star break.

  • The Lakers have been held to under 90 points only two times in their last 54 games. Both have come in their last to trips to Phoenix.  Los Angeles’ 76 points were the fewest the Suns have allowed an opponent all season.
  • With the win, Phoenix moved from the fourth-worst to the sixth-worst record in the NBA. And sadly, although the Suns were victorious in convincing fashion, their chances of earning second lottery pick did not increase. While the Lakers lost Monday night, they didn’t fall in the playoff standings due to a Knicks’ win in Utah.


Tags: Hamed Haddadi Los Angeles Lakers Phoenix Suns Recap Steve Nash

  • Hesam

    Actually Howard scored 4points/3Rebs against Haddadi while Hamed scored 4Points/4Rebs/1BLK.
    Howard made 2-5 FGs, Hamed 2-2 the 3 FGs that Howard missed were blocked or defended by Hamed.

  • foreveris2long

    That was really impressive. Haddadi continues to impress and deserves to be on the team next season. That was clearly the best I have seen from Marshall and Markief (hook shot was a thing of beauty). Dragic was a beast and that pass through the legs of Nash was absolutely priceless. My man Wes J pump faked at the free throw line and tried to dunk on Howard made me leave my seat. While he did not shoot a good % from the field (same as Nash), he showed he can create his own shot and his defense once again was impressive. As his game evolves, he reminds me of Klay Thompson but he is a better defender. This was another signature win for Hunter. Now he just needs to minimize those 20 and 30 point losses.

    I love J.O’Neal. Him and Tucker play with so much heart, the two of them with Dragic and Wes Johnson really comprise a nice defensive unit, especially when Hunter insist we guard the perimeter and if the opponents score inside, that is ok. I think that system held the Lakers to 35% shooting last night. Do not get spooked by one bad game in the paint, stay with your defensive scheme. Haddadi is growing on me. Now if we can teach him to keep his hands ready on offense we might be on to something.

    The Suns hatred for the Lakers really showed and that is great. Now if Utah would just stand up we could get an extra lottery pick. The collapse by Utah could get their coach fired (where is Nate McMillan).

    Today is going to be a good day.

  • hawki

    “With the win, Phoenix moved from the 4th worst to the 5th worst record in the NBA” writes Mr. Dulberg.

    That’s not the way I’m reading it Dave. I believe the Suns are now 6th worst.

    1- Charlotte .224
    2-Orlando .269
    3-New Orleans .324
    4-Cleveland .328
    5-Detroit .333
    6-Phoenix .338

  • john

    The Dragon has definitely gotten the best of Nash this year. Well done, Goran.

  • IowaPhxFan

    Looking like about the 6th pick range now for the draft….knowing the Suns luck we can probably count on about 8th….

    Right now I’d take Oladipo with the Suns pick…he should be available unless a top 5 team falls in love with him… he’s not a go-to guy you throw the ball to and let him score because his dribbling is only average but he does everything else well above average (defense, rebounding, speed, shooting)….
    He’s Dwayne Wade with half the scoring ability… but I think he tries harder and cares more about defense than Wade…

    Here are some interesting stats to compare the two…Below is this year’s stats for Oladipo compared to Wade’s last year at Marquette’s stats…. (Wade avg’d playing 4 more mins/gm than Oladipo so I took Wade’s stats to per/28 mins since Oladipo avgs 28 min/gm)

    Wade: 19 pts, 5.5 rebs, 4 asts, 2 stls, 1 blk, 50%fg, 32%3pt, 78%ft

    Oladipo: 14 pts, 6.5 rebs, 2 asts, 2 stls, 1 blk, 60%fg, 44%3pt, 75%ft

    We know Wade is much more a score first mentality, but look at the rebounds, steals, and blocks….almost identical. Great thing about these stats? They have the highest predictability for translating to the NBA.

    In 28 mins/gm in the NBA for Wade, he averages 4.5 rebs, 1.5 stls, .6 blks…..

    Sorry I get deep into stats sometimes :) All I know is Oladipo is a cross between Dwayne Wade-Avery Bradley-Shane Battier-Shawn Marion…… and any of those 4 are worthy of a top 5 pick.

    I’ll take Oladipo with our 1st pick. Then take Adreian Payne from Michigan State or Jeff Withey from Kansas with our 2nd pick depending on if we get Lakers or Heat pick.

    Oladipo & athletic big that can protect the rim would seriously improve our defense by over 5 ppg. Which would jump us 15 spots in total defense.

    Appreciate any thoughts! Sorry so long-winded.


  • john

    Let’s not forget, however, that Wade didn’t turn into the superstar that he is until he started taking HGH and his jaw took on some otherworldly form (btw, I wonder if he and LeBron used from the same bad batch).

    If the Suns’ training staff can get Oladipo on some ridiculous juices, we could be looking at Wade 2.0, new and improved. (I bring up the training staff because Simmons in his most recent article somewhat openly accused the Suns’ trainers of dishing out PED’s).

  • Forever is2long

    Iowa, Good stuff. I was just saying this weekend that Draft. Net finally has Payne projected to be drafted. I think they have him going 39. You and I have been calling it for a couple of months.

  • Forever is2long

    Hawk, Good catch my man.

  • Dave Dulberg

    Wow I’m really off…Cleveland 4th, Detroit 5th and Phoenix 6th. Just listen to Hawk!

  • Scott

    Oladipo is presently projected to go at #6 on Draft Express.

    What boxes does Oladipo check off as a draft prospect?

    X Relentless motor
    X Elite athlete
    X Intense defender; perimeter, on-ball and off
    X Averaging 2 steals a game
    X Only shooting 2 3s a game, but shooting them at 44%
    X Rebounds well for position (6 rpg)
    X Efficient scorer
    X Good work ethic

    Dings …

    - Poor creativity for himself and others
    - Poor ball-handling, almost always drives right
    - Scoring relies on athleticism and open straight paths
    - Turns the ball over, typically when creating for himself (28% of his isolation plays result in a TO)
    - His high percentage on shooting from 3, but low volume, is reminiscent of Markieff Morris’s college shooting; i.e., the temptation is to assume he’d still be accurate when taking more shots, but that may be misleading

    In general, he’s similar to Wes Johnson, but he’s 2 inches shorter (6′ 5″).

    Like Johnson, when Oladipo transitions to the NBA he’ll have to learn to create his own shot, dribble-drive to the basket, avoid turnovers, and shoot 3s in volume. He does not come with those abilities already developed. His height would project him to play at SG, where these shortcomings would be magnified.

    Schmitz already has a draft video out on him:

  • Scott

    Oops .. Oladipo is presently #7 on the Draft Express chart. Anthony Bennett is #6.

  • Scott

    As for Bennett, the current projected pick at #6 on Draft Express …

    Boxes checked:

    X Length; 7′ 1″ wingspan on a 6′ 7″ player, which helps with shot blocking, shot changing, and getting to loose balls
    X Athletic, explosive leaper; can dunk from outside the paint
    X Handles well, can drive with either hand
    X Advanced offensive game; shoots 3s, can drive from the perimeter, can shoot midrange jumpers, can score in the paint
    X Low turnovers
    X Rebounds reasonably well (8 rpg)

    Dings …

    - He’s a tweener forward; 6′ 7″ and 239 lbs.
    - Not committed to defense; loses focus, loses track of his guy, tends to defend at half-speed, lacks fundamentals
    - Settles for jumpers early in the shot clock
    - Prefers to score from the perimeter rather than close to the basket
    - Lacks post game
    - Limited ability to create for others (not looking to do it, really)
    - Needs to improve IQ

    The Suns already have a player similar to Bennett. His name is Michael Beasley.

    Schmitz also has a draft video on Anthony Bennett:

  • hawki

    I think Anthony Bennett has the most talent in this draft but also has the highest risk.

    Oladipo & Otto Porter are older & more experienced & are better players now, but who will be better 2-3 years from now ?

    Suns can’t afford the risk….if Otto Porter is gone than Oladipo should be the next choice.

    I’ll be keeping my eye on Payne from Mich. St. in the tourney but still like Kenny Kadji (Miami) & Dieng (Louisville) at the bottom of the 1st round.

  • Forever is2long

    Hawk and Scott good stuff on your concerns and or preferences. I can only add that I do not like Bennett’s defense. In a weak draft I suspect even at 5 or 6 whoever is available will have flaws. I am Potter 1st and Oladipo second assuming Noel is gone before we pick. I hope someone picking ahead of us falls in love with Bennett and Shabazz.

    Hawk I too am a Kadji fan and could certainly live with his acquisition but let me know what you think of Payne when you see him on the March Madness stage. Payne is definitely my 1st choice for a big.

  • Scott

    Otto Porter has moved up to #8 on the Draft Express board.

    Boxes checked:

    X Length; 6′ 8″ with a wingspan of 7′ 1″
    X Good midrange jump shot (51%)
    X Improved perimeter shooting (was 18%, now 42%, on low volume)
    X High IQ
    X Efficient scorer; can catch and shoot
    X Uses length and IQ to average 7 rpg, 2 apg, 2 steals, 1 block
    X Good work ethic
    X Good motor
    X Potential to get better

    Dings …

    - Lacks strength, elite athleticism, explosiveness
    - Too light for his height / position (200 lbs.)
    - Bad shooting mechanics; may have to overhaul his shooting stroke
    - Rudimentary ball-handling (would expect this to improve, considering the high IQ)
    - On defense, lack of strength and lateral quickness shows
    - Somewhat passive scorer; lacks creation skills
    - Still very raw

    In most regards, Porter sounds like a younger, taller, longer version of Dudley. Like Dudley, Porter should continue to expand his game after the draft, but – like Dudley – he may retain some of the hard to change qualities, like lack of lateral quickness and other athletic traits.

    Schmitz also has a video of Otto Porter:

  • bill.thomas

    God, there is a lot of window-shopping going on here. You guys must have an awful lot of time on your hands.

    I would love to see the vid of Goran nutmegging Nash. That would be priceless.

  • Scott

    BTW, don’t be surprised if OKC selects Rudy Gobert in the draft. Sam Presti has already been observed scouting him in person.

    Rudy Gobert is 7′ 1″ with a 7′ 9″ wingspan, but he weighs only 235 lbs. (which is slightly less than the 6″ shorter Anthony Bennett). His stats are not all that great, but some of that may be due to having selfish teammates, as noted by one scout. His rebounding totals are low (5 or fewer), and he’s getting less than 2 blocks a game.

    However, in a recent game he scored 14 points on 5 shots, and grabbed 14 rebounds. I imagine that with his height and length he changes a lot of shots.

  • VotS Critic

    How come there are no links to a boxscore in the article?

    As my main source for PHX Suns basketball it really sucks to have to look it up on another website when it should just be linked here.

    Please add a reference link in at the very least!

  • Thunder Dan S.

    Lakers lowest point total of the season and Nash going 6-17, hahaha. Way to go Dragon, but I think alot of PGs in the association can nutmeg Nash with his D!

  • Scott

    Saw on ESPN that Cuban is declaring that Dirk has 3 more years of elite play in him.

    Makes me wonder if Cuban is trying to put Dirk on the market.

  • Ty-Sun

    Dirk has a no trade clause in his contract. It’s more likely that Cuban is trying to encourage quality FAs to sign with Dallas than put Dirk on the market. Of course Dirk might have told Cuban that he would like a trade… but I doubt it.

    Dirk already has his championship ring and I doubt he would okay a trade unless it was to another team that he thought he was fairly certain to win another championship with.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    I agree that Cuban could be trying to draw free agents, and that’s probably the main point of the comment, but I also think he and Dirk would entertain suitable offers if it seems Dallas is going nowhere.

    I don’t think Dirk would ask for a trade at this point in his career, but he could allow himself to be moved to help the team rebuild, if he was asked to do so.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)


    Can we not compare victor to wes johnson please? they’re only similar in numbers on paper. far different in how they achieve those numbers.

    Oladipo is a monster going towards the hoop. He always goes towards the hoop. Wes is more of a catch-and-pop and / or dive/cut-catch-and-shoot/finish. The best thing about it, if Wes remains a Sun, is that the two fit well together.

    He’s been my pick since January. Dragon, O2 (OladipO), and Wes / PJ at the 1-3 has the potential to be good DEFENSIVELY and at the same time be scary on the break.

    After that, find the the most insane athletic freak of nature at the 4 or 5 available whenever the Suns pick again. Make sure he has upside, and don’t trade him.

  • Scott

    @Rich -

    Scouting says he has poor creativity, poor handling, always goes to his right, and only drives in when he has an open straight path to the basket.

    He’s not going to find many open paths to the basket in the NBA, except in transition. Which means he’s going to by stymied in the NBA till he figures out how to create his shot, handle better, and so on, which is a situation similar to that of Wes Johnson.

    The point being that if Oladipo has a high IQ to go along with his good work ethic, he’ll probably develop the qualities he needs in time. If he doesn’t have a high IQ, he may never develop those qualities, or it will be a very slow progression.

    If you don’t like the comparison with Johnson, perhaps you’d prefer a comparison with Tucker? :)

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