Washington Wizards 88, Phoenix Suns 79 -- Asking for effort


PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns held the Washington Wizards to 15 points in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth. Closing games like that are recipes for wins but not on Wednesday night in U.S. Airways Center.

Washington trailed by seven toward the end of the first quarter but held the Suns without a field goal for the next nine minutes while going on a 23-2 run. They built an 18-point lead at one point, and that’s all the Suns needed to fall 88-79.

Effort was the issue, and the Phoenix bench unit can take the majority of fault for the loss. Interim head coach Lindsey Hunter was upset enough with some of the young players that he sat them the entire second half.

“I wasn’t happy with none of our young guys,” he said. “And it wasn’t about mistakes they made. It was about effort, it was about fight — having a sense of urgency. Unacceptable.

“That’s part of the reason they sat and watched the second half.”

During the Suns’ game-changing drought, they struggled pushing Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker off the block. Hamed Haddadi got in foul trouble, and Washington’s second unit opened the second quarter on a 17-2 run as the Suns failed to hit a field goal until Wes Johnson hit a long two-pointer with 4:24 left in the first half.

The total run spanned nine minutes and was 23-2. The bench unit took the brunt of the abuse, as Seraphin bullied his way inside for 12 first-half points in addition to backup wing Trevor Ariza scoring 14 first-half points off the bench. The duo shot a combined 11-of-14 from the floor and only scored six more points once Hunter benched the group of Kendall Marshall, Michael Beasley and the Morris twins.

The Wiz shot 60.5 percent from the floor by the end of the first half while the Suns could only find the bottom of the net on 41 percent of their shots. Phoenix ended the night shooting a lowly 33.7 percent. But to Hunter it all went back to the sleepiness of his young players.

After all, Johnson played 38 minutes through a stomach illness, Hunter said, and led Phoenix with 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting.

“It felt good,” said Johnson. “Teammates were looking for me. I was really trying to stay aggressive out there.”

Point guard Goran Dragic played nearly 42 minutes – and the entire second half – to score 18 and dish out 11 assists. He was joined, mostly, by Luis Scola, an ill Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker in a second half that saw the Suns outscore the Wizards 34-29.

“The second half though, we got back into the game,” Hunter said. “They scored 15 in the third, 14 in the fourth – you couldn’t play better defense than that. You give up 34 in the second quarter and you’re fighting an uphill battle.

“I’m just proud of the guys who played in the second half,” he added. “Those guys gutted it out. That’s what we’re going to stand for.”

Washington started off the second half with more of the same. Martell Webster hit a three off the bat, and like Ariza had three thress on the night — this after pouring in seven triples during the meeting with Phoenix last week. But the Suns struggled mostly against Wall, who dictated the game with his timely shots off the dribble and his speed coming off pick-and-rolls.

Once, a screen and jump pass by Wall on the right side of the floor led to Webster drifting to the left corner for a wide open three, first for a make. But the Suns fell for the same trick yet again just two plays later and the Wizards swingman had another open look that rimmed out.

“I think he really tried to string us out,” said Hunter, who mostly attacked Wall with Tucker. “When a guy has that much speed, he can really get places on the floor that you don’t see every guard do. He dribbled all the way to the corner on a pick-and-roll once.”

The Suns’ shortened rotation made a push, but it wasn’t enough.

Wizards rookie Bradley Beal earned a technical foul after a goaltend. He came down awkwardly on a Shannon Brown fastbreak layup contest, and Dragic’s free throw pulled Phoenix within six with just less than 10 minutes to play. The Suns got within three points with 8:30 left in the game, but never crawled over the hump as Wall overlooked his five turnovers to make the key plays down the stretch.

“I don’t know what happened,” Dragic said. “They really scored in the low post and John Wall was creating for others, he was penetrating.”

So it’s back to practice for Phoenix, which didn’t handle the success of the big win against the Lakers on Monday well at all. Hunter said the youngsters can earn their playing time back on a day-to-day basis. He alluded to Marcus Morris’ benching a game prior as a similar reason to his six quick minutes played on Wednesday.

As with everyone else, he’ll be evaluated at practice on Thursday.

“I’m not sure what it is,” Hunter said of the difference from his players game-by-game. “We’ll provide everything they need. It’s up for them to figure out, you know, what they need to do, whether it’s extra work or whatever.”

Jermaine O’Neal injures his calf

Starting center Jermaine O’Neal strained his calf in the final seconds of the Suns’ loss. He was icing it in the locker room after the game.

  • bill.thomas

    I figured as much. Only 2 or 3 players making a quality effort on both ends. Dragic will be burnt out before he’s 30.

    One or two players going on the court with the intent only to shoot the ball and nothing else. I didn’t see the game, just the Box Score, but just about all of this can be deduced from that.

    A clear inability or lack of effort to defend the power forward position, to defend in the paint
    much at all, and as usual to defend the 3.

    An inability of anyone but Dragic to dish out assists.

    A reluctance to play Brown until nearly all was lost.

    Dragic assisted on close to two-thirds all assisted baskets scored.

    He must have assisted on around half of all baskets scored while he was on the floor, assisted or not. Maybe even more?

    I can see why Hunter has the impression very few of these players care. I get the impression that when Johnson is scoring well, Beasley believes he’d better jack up as many shots as he can as quick as he can so he won’t look like a weak scorer in comparison. Could be wrong, but that’s the impression I get.

    There are other possible comments, but these are the most salient ones.

  • Scott

    IMO, Hunter should have played Garrett at least some minutes at SG. I can’t figure out why he doesn’t.

  • Azbballfan

    Hey Bill 8D

    great loss by the Suns tonight

    every other team we chasing for that lotto pick won, so this was actually, long term a good game

    none of the players who dont look like they care are likely coming back next year anyway

    I would love to see more Hadaddi, and with JO possibly injured, and Gortat out, that may happen

    atleast this wasnt as bad a some other games this year

    we lost and made it look respectable compared to some 30 and40 point bludgeonings.

    Besides we beat the Lakers by 23 there was bound to be a letdown anyway

    I just hope the Suns can turn Gortat, and their pick from the Grizzlies and Heat (unless the Lakers collapse)

    into another lotto pick

    i would love Victor Oladipo and one of the good bigmen in the draft

    if we keep losing we will have a shot to get a real quality, possibly franchise player if the gods are smiling

    i still think we need to cut and stretch Beasley though

    he has good offense everyone once in awhile but his defense is so poor that it doesnt even matter

    who cares if you just hit a 3 and your man gets a wide open 3 and makes it?

  • GeorgeSteenburgh

    Jerry West where are you ??????

  • mileHighfan

    “I wasn’t happy with none of our young guys,”

    Sooo…coach was really ecstatic with ‘em?

    The inconsistency could be due to players not necessarily buying into the coach yet. The milk is not in the carton yet, the cows are still milking in the barn.

  • Forever is2long

    The bottom line is Wizards are more talented.It was good to see the Suns at least compete after the 2nd quarter. I know the Suns suck so all I ask is play defense , if the shots fall we win, if they don’t at least we are not giving up 120 points a night. Maybe in two years with good drafts, we might talk playoffs.

  • Ty-Sun

    Although it certainly wasn’t the FO’s “plan” (if they actually have one), I think this season is actually probably good for Dragic. He’s been putting up good numbers and I think it’s increased his confidence in his own game.

    And even though I also don’t think it was part of any “plan” for this season, we’re seeing which players have the heart and desire to play hard even on a loosing team. No matter what else Hunter might be doing wrong, I think he’s right in sitting players who he thinks aren’t giving their best effort.

    While I don’t really think that Hunter is the coach of the future for the Suns, I wouldn’t really be against him coaching next season too especially if the Suns can get a strong rookie prospect in this year’s draft. Hunter probably wouldn’t be afraid to play him and live with his rookie mistakes as long as he played hard to win. And that’s something no Suns coach has done with a rookie in a long time.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    It’s just speculation, but I wouldn’t assume that Hunter would play a rookie. Remember when Hunter first took over after Gentry and he played basically the same players Gentry did … causing Marshall’s dad to have a fit?

    If the Suns were winning playing veterans, I bet that’s exactly who Hunter would play.

  • Ty-Sun

    @Scott – Why the hell would ANY coach, including Hunter, suddenly change the starting lineup after taking over in mid-season? Anyone would have started the same five when he initially took over the team and then maybe made changes after he started to settle in.

    Why would I assume that Hunter might be more open to playing a rookie? Well, he’s already done that is why I assume that. I don’t have the numbers but Hunter started playing Marshall more than Telfair not long after Hunter took over. Perhaps he was ordered to do it, perhaps it was his idea. I don’t know for sure but he DID it.

    And my previous post specifically was about a “strong rookie prospect”, not a 2nd round rookie draft pick.

    Yes, if the Suns were winning playing veterans then that would be who ANY coach would keep on the court… DUH!!! That’s a no brainer. If you’re winning you keep the players who are winning you games on the court no matter whether they are vets or rookies. That’s so obvious that I wonder why you even brought it up. It’s like pointing to the sky and saying that it’s blue like it’s some sort of revelation.

    But the Suns AREN’T winning so Hunter keeps experimenting. Sometimes the vets come through for him, sometimes (rarely) it’s the younger players. But he doesn’t seem to be locked into counting on anyone except Dragic right now. And I like that.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    I noticed you reframed my point to suit your argument. Maybe you just misread it?

    I never said Marshall should start, or that any other rookie should start.

    But to take the points that you present, I would point out that Gentry wasn’t immune to changing his starting lineup, and the Suns weren’t winning with those lineups anyway, so why “the hell” wouldn’t a new coach send in his own lineup? What matters for most coaches is that they win; though in this case, Gentry probably wasn’t sacked because he wasn’t winning. The Suns were widely predicted to finish near the bottom of the league, and that prediction has proven accurate.

    As for the rest of it … I’m not sure what you’re arguing, so I’ll just agree with you.

  • Azbballfan

    I am all for Jamaal Franklin from the San Diego State Aztecs

    We have a pick we got from Toronto in the 2nd round so that replaces the pick we traded for marcus morris

    anybody thats a 6 foot 5 and 215 who leads their team in points rebounds, assists and steals and has that kind of athletic ability should not be passed up

    Franklin, Johnson,and Oladipo would make a great trio for a perimeter defense

    this draft needs to be all about defense and getting a 2 guard

    i would be dissapointed if Oladipo and Franjlin were not picked by the Suns if availible

    Given that the free agent market for the summer is likely going to be subpar, if i am the Suns i am focusing on draft day to trade players away that i couldnt get done on the deadline

    if babby and blanks are still around by draft day, i hope they learned something the last two drafts and we come out with some studs

  • Scott

    @Azbballfan -

    Jamaal Franklin is projected to go at 21 in the first round on Draft Express. (Of course ranking of players will change greatly, most likely, as we get closer to draft day.)

    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jamaal-Franklin-17500/

  • Azbballfan

    Hey Scott

    the Suns should have the grizzlies pick this year which should be in that range

    thats a big jump in franklins stock

    last time i saw, he was middle 2nd round

    He can play the 2 and 3, i hope he is there when we pick

  • bill.thomas

    This crew is completely frickin worthless !

    Someone needs to straighten this up right now by firing about 7 people and bringing in D-League players.

    Whatever the consequence.

  • Tony

    @Ty-Sun,

    Regarding Dragic, I disagree entirely. He’s really only having an overall mediocre season with a recent uptick in his individual game.

    Dragic was basically given the keys to run this team and while he’s not exactly surrounded by much talent, this year’s roster overall is close in terms of talent as last season’s. Yet, the team is battling the Hornets for last place in the western conference. Because everything the Suns do offensively runs through Dragic, he has to take much of the blame for the team’s record. Moreover, it is not as if he’s dominating the competition. He’s averaging 14.1ppg but only shooting 43.5% overall, 30.5% from 3, and just 73.8FT%. Moreover, he has an unnerving tendency to play really well in 1st quarters, followed by a declining level of play throughout the rest of the quarters. While I attribute this mostly to fatigue, it is kind of surprising that at his age and with tasked as the future of this team, that he would struggle with fatigue.

    In sum, while Dragic’s play has improved post-All Star break, taking the entire season into consideration along with where the Suns are in the standings, I’m sure even Dragic would say that he has to better next season.

  • Scott

    @Azbballfan -

    I don’t think the Suns will get the Minnesota pick this year. It’s lottery protected (to #13), and the Wolves look to be in the lottery again (they’re #9 right now, I believe).

    If I counted correctly, the Wolves only have 5 more games this season against bottom-feeder teams (2 of those are against the Suns). They have 11 against playoff / bubble teams. So they probably won’t be gaining ground in the standings.

    Minnesota gets 2 picks this year: their own (protected through #13) and one from Memphis, which will be late first round (thus avoiding lottery protection). In the present scenario, the Suns don’t get either of them.

    IF Minnesota starts winning games and rises in the standings to where they pick outside their protection (>13), THEN – instead of the Minnesota pick – the Suns get the Memphis pick, because it is the lesser of the two picks. This would be relatively unlucky, as Memphis has something like the #27 pick right now.

    Of course, getting a #27 pick is better than a poke in the eye, especially if there is a good player to take. Right now, Draft Express has Gorgui Dieng at #27, which could be a worthwhile pick.

    So the likely scenario is the Suns won’t get any picks from the Wolves this year. Maybe next year the Wolves WILL sniff the playoffs, so the Suns will get their pick, positioned at late lottery or mid-first round, in 2014. Some think that the 2014 draft will be stronger than this one, so a late lottery or mid-first round pick in that year might be a lot better than a late first round pick this year.

    Anyway, if the Suns don’t get the pick in 2014, the pick rolls over to 2015, where it is protected through #12, and then to 2016, where it is protected to #12. If the Suns still haven’t received the pick by then (or dealt it away), they’ll get 2 second round picks from Minnesota, which would be about the suckiest possible outcome.

    The fact that the Memphis pick won’t be in the lottery this year greatly simplifies the deal, because it ensures the Memphis pick will be dealt to either the Wolves or Suns in 2013, and almost certainly to the Wolves.

    Recap: If the Wolves stay toward the top end of the lottery (<14), which looks likely, they get their own pick, plus the Memphis pick. The Suns try again in 2014-2016 to get a higher pick from the Wolves.

    Here's the terms of the draft deal as presented on RealGM:

    2013 first round draft pick from Minnesota -

    Minnesota's own 2013 1st round pick to Phoenix (Top-13 Protected in the 2013 NBA Draft, top-13 protected in 2014, top-12 protected in 2015 and top-12 protected in the 2016 NBA Draft). However, if Minnesota is also entitled to receive Memphis' own 1st round pick (top 14 protected in the 2013 Draft, top 14 protected in 2014, top 14 protected in 2015, and top 14 protected in the 2016 Draft) via Houston in the year Minnesota's own first round pick falls out of it's protection, then Minnesota shall convey the less favorable of the two picks to Phoenix. If Minnesota does not convey to Phoenix a first round pick by 2016, then Minnesota shall convey to Phoenix Minnesota's own 2016 and 2017 second round picks.
    [Minnesota-New Orleans-Phoenix, 7/27/2012]

    http://basketball.realgm.com/nba/draft/future_drafts/detailed