Brooklyn Nets 102, Phoenix Suns 100 -- Close doesn't cut it



PHOENIX – Finally finding their fire and aided by fresh legs, the Suns set themselves up for a thriller in U.S. Airways Center on Sunday. Right with the Brooklyn Nets until the final buzzer, the bounces didn’t go their way, and they found themselves on the bad side of a 102-100 final score.

Unlike the last two games, the bad bounces were of no fault of the Phoenix players.

Goran Dragic nearly put in his second career triple-double and was a point off his career high in scoring. He scored 31 points, dished 12 assists and grabbed nine rebounds, doing everything he could down the stretch to put the Suns ahead.

Down 100-97 on an inbounds play, the Nets broke up the plan to find Wes Johnson for a three-pointer, and in the paint Dragic hit a hook shot to bring Phoenix within a point with six seconds left. Brooklyn made their two foul shots, and Dragic hustled up the court with Jared Dudley in his sights.

But ahead three points, the Nets fouled him. Dragic went to the line with a plan of missing the second shot in hopes of an offensive board, and he executed the play as Hamed Haddadi tipped the offensive board to himself.

He missed the putback, and Brooklyn escaped.

So the Nets left Phoenix players holding their heads high but with the 48th loss on the year.

“We didn’t win the game,” interim coach Lindsey Hunter said, “but there were situations in the game that will help us grow.”

How the Suns came back from a double-digit deficit was one of those situations.

Brook Lopez dropped in six quick points in the first 2:30 of the game, forcing Hunter to swap Luis Scola out for Haddadi, and Phoenix responded and began forcing the issue, getting 10 fastbreak points in the opening stanza.

Andray Blatche did more damage to Scola to begin the second quarter, and Brooklyn scored on the first four shots they got off cleanly. Brooklyn led 55-43 at halftime and bumped the lead to as many as 16 in the third. It wasn’t so much the bench unit struggling this time around; Hunter said he put too much on rookie guard Kendall Marshall’s plate.

“That had a lot to do with it,” the coach said. “I’ve got to do a better job in that aspect of not having Kendall out there with a bunch of guys that he has to totally lead. I have to keep a support system on the court for him.”

But it wouldn’t come back to bite Hunter completely.

Johnson caught fire in the third, scoring 17 of his 21 in the period. After taking some flak from the coaching staff, the usually quiet and smiley swingman showed his intense side. With only one point to his name in the first half, Johnson made his first three with 10 minutes to play in the period and then in the final two minutes of the quarter hit four threes, the last of which came on an isolation play on the left wing that gave the Suns a 76-75 lead – it’s first of the second half – going into the fourth quarter.

“We were on him on the bench,” Hunter said. “You know, he passed up two shots, he was being timid, and I told him, ‘If you pass up another shot I’m pulling you out and you’ll never play the rest of the game.’

“The assistant coaches were on him, and he came to life,” Hunter added. “If that’s what we have to do, then that’ll be the threat we’ll hold over his head every night.”

So with Johnson’s explosion putting the Suns back in the hunt, Phoenix took it down to the wire.

Here’s how it went down:

Leading 100-97, the Nets blew up a play that included a double-screen atop the key to free Goran Dragic for a post touch. But action back on the side of the inbound pass saw Brooklyn switching all screens, including the red-hot Wes Johnson, and there was no pass out of the post for the Suns point guard.

“They started switching a lot and everybody was really just trying to look for the open guy,” Johnson said. “It really just messed up the flow.”

Dragic said he felt like the time was running out – it was – before any of the Suns could squeeze free, so he took the two-pointer. C.J. Watson hit two free throws, and with six seconds left, Dragic flew up the left side of the court and got his hip past Reggie Evans at halfcourt.

Now, if this were Steve Nash or Deron Williams for that matter, he might have pulled up for a three. Williams, mind you, hit a big transition three with five minutes left that gave Brooklyn a 90-87 lead.

But the Suns point said he was moving too fast. Plus, he had Jared Dudley running down the opposite wing ready to spot up for his patented transition three. Dragic penetrated to the foul stripe, but before he could whip a pass to Dudley, the Nets fouled him, forcing him into the one-make, one-miss situation at the line with three seconds left and a three-point deficit.

“Coach told me, ‘When you get the ball, try to penetrate, go fast,’” Dragic said. “I had a great look for JD but they foul me last second on my pass.”

He made his first foul shot, and perfectly missed the second. Haddadi got one of his long fingers on the ball, tipped it to himself but rushed the shot not knowing that he might have had more time.

“ I tried to push the guy, get the rebound,” Haddadi said. “And it come into my hands – I tip it up and it come into my hands. I thought the time’s finished … if I know the time, then I have a chance to find my rhythm, find my balance and make my shot.”

Markieff Morris shows flashes

Markieff Morris, perhaps one of the more disappointing Suns this season because of his inconsistency, showed up against the one of the NBA’s best pure rebounders in Reggie Evans. Morris grabbed 15 rebounds in the game, nine of which were offensive, and scored 10 points to go with two blocked shots.

At the same time, Morris went 5-of-18 from the floor and still showed that he both hung around the perimeter too much and lacked any confident moves in the paint. Lowlights of Morris included a badly-whiffed airball on a wide open three-point attempt and a drive and attempted bank of the glass that thudded too high as if Morris didn’t know where he was on the court.

“Even Markieff tonight – that’s how we need him to play every single night,” Hunter said. “We’re not going to let up. If he doesn’t do it (every night), we’re going to pull him out. Long as he does that, he’ll play 40 minutes.”

  • azbballfan

    Great effort from the Suns tonight

    especially Dragic, Haddadi and Johnson and Markieff Morris

    We didnt win, but we tried our best, and thats all you can really ask for

    Mavs and ;Rockets won again

    15 rebounds from Morris we need that or close ot that every game

    Marshall and Beasley both had poor games so that didnt help

    oh well

    only 11 games left, 6 on the road, 5 at home!

  • bill.thomas

    @Azbbalfan: I bet you got a lotta cellphones to trade, what you got ???????????

  • Lon Babby

    This is what Phoenix Suns basketball is all about. I could not be more pleased with the effort from our guys out there. I also thought the crowd was really engaged from the get go. Here in the front office we still remain steadfast in our approach, and feel we have a great nucleus of young talent moving forward.

  • bill.thomas

    @Lon Babby: I got a Pastrami and Rye with some unwelcome substances on it for U.

  • Scott

    I thought it was pretty funny that Carlesimo told the press that Joe Johnson didn’t play for them, and that’s why the game was close.

    As for Dragic … was that a Harry Potter lightning stroke on his cheek? heh

    This game showed a great effort by most of the Suns, and it was nice to see it. The intensity began to ratchet up in the latter part of the 3rd quarter when the Suns started solving the Nets and went to work.

    As for Markieff, he desperately needs to develop some go-to moves. I’d like to see him have a dependable 3 pt shot first, but if he gets a dependable midrange shot, I’ll take it. I’m not picky. He’s got to have something working on offense next year though, or – as I see it – he’s out.

  • Azbballfan

    I got one cell phone and its currently grafted to my ear

    it really sucks when i go to sleep but oh well

    can anyone believe that Beasley put in a 21 point 15 board 7 assists 3 blocks game this year?

    He is just so frustrating to watch as a fan

    Come on Dallas kick the Lakers out so we can get that extra back end lotto pick

    Hey Lon Babby

    the Suns may not be a good team but its kinda important they look like they care when they are getting paid gazillions of dollars

    If a team gives maximum efffort, i could care less what the record of the team is

  • mileHighfan

    “Now, if this were Steve Nash or Deron Williams for that matter, he might have pulled up for a three. Williams, mind you, hit a big transition three with five minutes left that gave Brooklyn a 90-87 lead”

    Thats what seperates leaders from avg players. If you have to depend on Dragic to lead this team to finish, they will always be mediocre.

    Does he still lack confidence in shooting? How much longer? sheesh!

  • Forever is2long

    At this stage of the team’s rehab, close is good enough. The team learns how to compete while hopefully they stock enough talent where they can learn how to win the close games in the not too distant future (provided we rid ourselves of the three blind mice).

    MileHigh if you think Dragic is only mediocre you need to watch more closely. He is not great but he definitely is above average. Isn’t he leading the league in assists since the allstar break? That is average? Can’t you at least give him a B for being very good?

    As for Wes Johnson, Hunter is right that he often is too timid offensively. He has the tools to be a dangerous scorer but not the mindset. He needs to develop the attitude of a cold blooded killer (not literally). His development coach should have him working all summer on his ballhandling in traffic and a low post game when there is a smaller defender on him. With his hops and jump shot, there is no reason he cannot average at least 15 points a night. However it starts upstairs.

    I am fine with the competitive loss. We strengthen our hold on the number 3 spot in the lottery that might allow us to get Noel. However as poorly as McLemore, Porter , Shabazz and others have looked in March Madness, Noel even with knee surgery, should be the number one selection. Whoever it was on this board who mentioned two guard Franklin from San Diego State as a possible Suns lottery pick, good call. This kid has a nice game and can defend. He gives you athleticism and a jump shot. I am going to follow him in pre-draft camps.

  • GeorgeSteenburgh

    I fail to see why Haddadi is not playing 35 minutes a game. When he is on the floor the Suns look good. He is an excellent defender. He is the only Sun who is setting picks. The Suns need to get their 4′s out of the 5 position as it is a disaster.
    Dragic Johnson Tucker Scolia and Haddadi is a really good line up.

  • mileHighfan

    Even the double doubles dont earn you a B when your team is still losing, hes on the floor with the most min, they still get outscored, his opponents are avg 50% FG%.

    I watch some games, enough to see that hes becoming a better finisher, sometimes…but the other team still finishes with wins.

    Nothing about that is encouraging. But I like Haddadi and Scola.

  • DBreezy

    Sammi,

    I don’t think Goran lacks for confidence anywhere other than being a vocal on-court leader type. People will tend to make that mostly about him not being from the US, but he’s not alone there in the pg department IMO. Guys like Curry and Holiday for example haven’t always been the most vocal either. Same for Lawson at times in DEN which surprised me a bit as he was pretty vocal at UNC. I think there are a lot of pg’s that wouldn’t have pulled up for that transition 3 with that much time on the clock and shooters on the floor and confidence has nothing to do with it. Goran’s a solid player and you’re right that any team having to depend on him night in and out to win will struggle. He’s the least of the Suns problems though.

  • Ty-Sun

    By the end of the season Haddadi may be playing 35 mins a game but right now he’s still relatively new to the team and he’s never played that much per game in the NBA before. At this point I think Hunter has been playing him right and giving him time to adjust to the Suns’ offense and his new teammates. I do think he’s been playing very well and deserves more minutes in the remaining games.

    11 games to go for the Suns this season and if they hold form then the should finish either 26- 56 or 25-57 and somewhere in the 3-6 slot in the draft. But even if they finish at the 6th spot, they still have a pretty good shot at getting one of the top three picks in the lottery. This may not be a really strong draft year but it’s not really a weak one. There doesn’t seem to be any strong potential Batman types in this draft but there are some potential Robins.

  • DBreezy

    Foreveris,

    This draft is harder and harder to get excited for especially if the Suns don’t get the LA pick. Depending on the Suns spot and the workouts, Scott may ultimately have a point about trading although with Lance and Lon on board I lean towards keeping it simple. I sure hope they don’t do the standard Suns lock in on one or two guys early on, seems like that could be extra painful this year. Looks like the early entrant decisions will be bigger than usual this year-they could turn this from a weak draft to a disaster. With the new cap rules, wouldn’t it be weird to see a bunch of teams take young foreigners in the first round who won’t be able to come over for years rather than take the cap hit?

  • Forever is2long

    DBreezy,

    I think on another board maybe yesterday I agreed with Scott to the point I would consider trading a top 5 spot to move down but no further than to get a top ten selection and another top 20 pick. However I would not move down only to secure two picks between 20 and 30.

    Maybe it is me who is blind but I do not see much difference in any of the top ten picks. This kid Franklin may be every bit as good as Oladipo and Payne may end up really escalating his draft position with another good March Madness game. Payne has been playing really well since January. I think Iowa likes Payne so much he would take him with the Suns lottery pick. I love his game but I do not think I would go that high on him.

    Yeah we could see some big movement by foreigners and winning teams who do not need the players now (OKC). With so many similarly flawed players I do not know how the Suns can become fixed on anybody this summer. Then again I have no idea how they were so set on Marshall when Lamb was taken before their pick. Just thinking of that makes me want to enroll in AA in advance because I feel a drinking problem approaching.

  • Ty-Sun

    I agree, DBreezy. Dragic can’t carry the team. Neither could Nash the last two years. Chris Paul couldn’t carry NO when they started their own down slide. Deron Williams couldn’t carry the Nets last year. 31 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds… that beats LeBron’s averages for the season. Dragic just doesn’t have a good enough supporting cast.

    Am I saying that Dragic is as good as or better than any of the other players I’ve named? No. Of course not. I’m just saying that he’s pretty damn good and could be a lot better with a better team around him.

  • Ty-Sun

    I was just reading a mock draft article that, if the Lakers do make the playoffs and Phoenix winds up with Miami’s draft pick instead of the Lakers, that Phoenix might take BJ Young out of Arkansas with the 30th pick. If it plays out that way, Young might not be a bad gamble at 30. He plays point but he’s a scoring PG. He’s a good ball handler but not a great distributor. He should be playing at the 2 but he’s only 6’3″ and, unfortunately for Arkansas, they had no one better to play at the 1 so Young got the job instead of being the team’s 2.

    If the Suns get the chance and draft Noel with their first pick, Young might not be a bad choice a 30. At best he could turn into another Eric Gordon. At worst he could turn into another Shannon Brown. I figure he’ll probably turn out to be somewhere in between and be at least a good backup/rotation player.

  • mileHighfan

    Gotcha BigDave,

    Was never a Dragic fan, but he has improved from what I see. I hav even witnessed a nifty pass or two. Cant overcompliment too much in 1 day, or Im not sammi anymore :)

    Yea Ty’s not vocal, I think he purposely defers leadership to the vet on the team. Dragic has no excuse!

    We got tix to 4/17 game, just wanna know what Im in for. I’ll ‘borrow’ some of ya’lls knowledge til then…

  • Michael Beasley

    I’m on dat good kush & alcohol. I got some down bitchez I can call.

  • john

    Goran is definitely an above-average PG. There are only a handful of PG’s in the association I would clearly pick over him (and a couple more when you count they guys I wouldn’t want due to injury concerns).

    Level 1 – The Franchise

    1. Rose
    2. Paul

    Level 2 – The Superstars

    3. Westbrook
    4. Rondo (when he wants to be)
    5. Tony Parker
    6. Kyrie Irving

    Level 3 – Stars (When They’re Healthy)

    7. Steph Curry
    8. Deron Williams

    I think Goran is in the mix for the claim to the top spot of the next pack of guys:

    Ty Lawson
    John Wall
    Kemba Walker
    Kyle Lowry
    Jrue Holiday
    Mike Conley
    George Hill
    Damian Lillard
    Brandon Jennings
    Etc

    There are around 10 guys who are ready to break out or fizzle out. I think Goran is a break out kind of guy, personally. I think he could easily reach my level 3 by next season (assuming his supporting cast improves).

  • DBreezy

    Sammi,

    Goran doesn’t have an excuse, he’s simply going to have to get better as a vocal leader. He is unlikely to be the on-court star that turns the Suns around, but he will likely be their most tenured one whenever that occurs. There’s no guarantee that just because some guy like a Wiggins or Parker is a superstar that they will automatically be the vocal leader of the team as well-especially with so many of these guys coming in after only one year of college/one year away from mama and papa. For example, it’s popular to pile onto Westbrook for example because of his shot selection(or meanness to Rocky in your world!), but a lot of people gloss over the fact that many Thunder claim that he is the vocal leader of that squad not KD. Also look at how long it took Kobe to turn into some form of an on-court leader and he had a much better background in that regard than most.

  • DBreezy

    Foreveris,

    You might want to head to AA now because I think it’s gonna get worse before it gets better around here. You’ll be getting a House of Payne one way or another.

  • Forever is2long

    DBreezy, I am on Google right now getting driving directions to the nearest AA. I will reserve my spot for the day after the NBA draft.

  • Azbballfan

    I have mentioned franklin a few times after seeing him in youtube highlight clips

    yeah i heard he is somewhere between second round and late 1st round pick fromt he mock drafts i have seen

    He played really really well those two games, which is something almost none of the top names in the draft can say

    McLemore in perticular looked awful in the last 2 games

    However, things can change and im not gonna say we shouldnt draft him if we got the chance

    Utah, Dallas and Houston won thier games and the Lakers lost theres

    Looks like the Lakers are gonna have to beat out Dallas and Utah to get the final playoff spot, both teams are now, i think 1 game behind the Lakers

    I think if the Suns can nab Jeff Withey in a trade or maybe with the Grizzlies pick thats supposed to be late 1st round

    Guy had 16 points 16 boards and 7 blocks which is why Ben McLemores team gets to play another game

    I have followed him more and more and i think he is vastly underrated who could really help this team

    and for a late first round pick? that would be a total steal

    Oladipo, Franklin, and Withey would be a dream of a draft for the suns in my opinion

    amyone have ideas for our 2nd rounder?

    Georgie Diengu? or however his name is spelled?

    he averages 10 points 10 boards and 2.3 blocks a game he would be also a good value pick

  • mileHighfan

    Dave,

    Rocky’s nemesis or not, I like Westbrook’s game. Would be nice for OKC to go to the finals.

    With Dragic, I am a lil judgemental, Im trying to be nice when I never really cared for him. You guys watch him closely, Im sure he is a good player, so you will defend him.

    Til then, I’ll be waiting for Marshall to improve. I’ll be waiting awhile, but hes about the only Sun I really like other than Haddadi and Scola.

  • Michael Beasley

    They call me B-Easy cuz I smoke dank fa sheezy.

  • Beave

    Goran Dragic is one of only maybe 3 Suns you can count on to play with everything they have on the team. The guy has a tremendous motor, and a desire to win. It’s obvious that other teams key on him as one of the only threats. If the draft gives the Suns some added firepower that spreads the floor on opposing teams defense, I think his numbers will be even better.