New Orleans Hornets 95, Phoenix Suns 92 – Third quarter meltdown


PHOENIX – For the third game in a row, the Phoenix Suns got smacked in the third quarter. And even against a lesser opponent this time, no fourth-quarter rally would make a difference on Sunday. Lindsey Hunter saw his team lose for the ninth time in a row and a franchise-record, seventh straight time at U.S. Airways Center, this time to the New Orleans Hornets.

Monty Williams’ team was led by rookie Anthony Davis’ 20 points, and Eric Gordon’s 17 points and six assists. That duo most importantly attacked the heart of the Suns’ interior after the Hornets patched up holes that allowed for Luis Scola to score 11 first-quarter points.

Third-quarter collapses
April 7: Outscored 35-19 vs. New Orleans

April 5: Outscored 32-14 vs. Golden State

April 3: Outscored 38-20 at Los Angeles Clippers

“When they started putting their heads down and just started driving to the rim, we didn’t respond at all the way you would expect us to,” Hunter said. “I don’t think we played desperate, I don’t think we had a blue-collar mentality. It showed in spurts.”

New Orleans took 25 of its 29 free throws in the second half as Phoenix’s 11-point first-half lead shriveled.

The Suns led only 43-39 at halftime if only because they scored 13 points off nine Hornets turnovers in the first half. Hunter’s team also held a hapless offense to 37 percent shooting in the first half. A first-quarter charge by Ryan Anderson and a second-quarter burst from Gordon kept New Orleans in contact.

It only got worse for the Suns.

New Orleans tied the game up early in the second half, and consecutive dunks by Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu gave the Hornets a 53-49 lead – their first of the game – nearly four minutes into the third quarter.

Backup point guard Brian Roberts scored twice by dipping past Kendall Marshall upon his entry, Robin Lopez took a dump-off for a dunk and New Orleans finished off the third quarter with a 6-0 run, taking a 74-62 lead into the final 12 minutes. Jared Dudley, who scored 15 off the bench but missed some in rhythm looks at four of his five three-point attempts, said there’s no easy answer for the Suns’ third-quarter woes.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” he said. “Energy is low. We don’t make shots. Adjustments (that) teams are making on us, we have to make on teams.”

Trailing 81-65 with nine minutes left in the game because of a 13-3 Hornets spurt that bridged the third and fourth quarters, the Suns did fight back. The small-ball unit of Kendall Marshall, Goran Dragic, Dudley, Markieff Morris and Scola went on its own run of 17-4 over the next seven minutes to climb within three points.

“Kendall is never going to be stagnant,” Dudley said of the backup guard, who had nine points and five assists. “Sometimes we get a little bit selfish where it’s one pass and shot, a lot of iso. With Kendall, especially in transition, he looks for the three-ball, he looks for guys for slips, bounce-passes.”

The Suns trailed 85-82 with two minutes left but once again couldn’t get over the hump.

“It was too late,” Hunter said. “You have to do it consistently for four quarters.”

Markieff Morris hangs with a stretch 4

Markieff Morris has shown more focus in forcing more attempts in the paint, thereby spending less effort floating around the perimeter. On Friday, he led the Suns with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He hit his two three-point attempts and worked inside-out.

Early on, he attacked rookie Anthony Davis in the post. Though he grabbed only five rebounds, Hunter said it was likely because he was glued to stretch 4 Ryan Anderson on the perimeter.

“The hard part for Markieff tonight was guarding Anderson. He pulled him so far from the rim,” Hunter said. “I think he did a good job on Anderson. He closed out on him. (Anderson) got a couple (shots) in transition but for the most part I thought he did a good job on him.”

Anderson, who came into the game averaging 24 points in two outings against Phoenix this season, shot 6-of-16 from the floor. He scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds – five were offensive – but only hit 2-of-8 three-pointers.

Meanwhile, fellow Suns forward Michael Beasley washed away two strong outings with a 1-of-11 shooting night.

P.J. Tucker earns Dan Majerle Hustle Award

Dan Majerle honored P.J. Tucker with the Dan Majerle Hustle Award before the Suns’ game against the Hornets. Majerle, who is in Atlanta scouting for Grand Canyon University at the Final Four, recorded a video to honor Tucker, who was a standout for Majerle’s Summer League team.

The video might’ve been more surprising than the award itself. After being snubbed in consideration to replace former coach Alvin Gentry, Majerle has at least maintained his relationship with the franchise regardless of his feelings about the front office.

How the balls bounced

The Suns got help from the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night. The Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors for only their 12th road victory of the year to get a half-game lead on the Los Angeles Lakers, who fell to the Clippers earlier in the day.

Cleveland, which entered Sunday a half-game behind Phoenix in terms of lottery position, beat the Orlando Magic.

And 1

Jared Dudley on his missed opportunities and how he wishes one of his shots would fall to help morale: “Losses pile up, it can get you mentally. When a team goes on a run, it’s like, ‘Here we go again.’ Myself … I wish I would’ve hit one of those shots where you can pull through and once you get one, you can build on that.”

  • john

    And regarding Burke, I know I can’t speak definitively because I’ve watch him play about 20 minutes of basketball (and the guy I’m going to compare him to I’ve watched about 35 minutes), but I don’t see anything world shaking about him. He has good skills, and he will clearly have a place at the next level for quite some time, but I don’t think he’s significantly better than a guy like Jahii Carson, and I don’t think Jahii Carson has much of a future in the NBA outside of warming benches. Burke is probably the best PG in the draft, but last year Marshall was probably the “best” PG in the draft as well. Best PG in the draft can be pretty far down the list of overall players, and I think that’s the case this year. If the Suns get top 5 and take Burke, I’d be disappointed.

  • john

    Oh noes, better watch out. The lawyer with his second-grade insults is in town.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    Sorry if I carelessly mixed terms. I was intending to talk about just the 4th year, as you were.

    I don’t know what the value of that contract would be. If it is on the order of $4m per Morris, then clearly that’s too high.

    I do believe, however, that if either Morris twin is shooting well it would be immediately noticeable in scrimmages. Markieff in particular is just awful, and I have no confidence in any of his shots, period.

  • Scott

    BTW, I don’t know if anyone else here caught it, but Frye’s latest tweet says he believes he’s all healed up and will be playing next season.

  • john

    Thanks for bringing that to our attention, Scott. I don’t personally read into it the way you do, though. Here’s the tweet, for those who are too last to scroll to it right now or for future reference when it’s no longer easily accessible:

    “I got 5mins to spare questions folks! Also just know I am getting better and I should be able to play next year baring any setbacks!”

    I don’t take that to mean, “I’m all healed up.” I take it to mean, “The healing process is progressing as expected, and assuming it continues to do so, I will be fine to play next season.”

    Either way, I think we’re both expecting the same result (which is what I’ve been expecting all along, given my limited knowledge of viral diseases), and that is that Channing will be on an NBA court in the 2013-14 season.

  • Forever is2long

    Scott, Good stats on Burke. If I was to draw a comparison with someone in the NBA, it would be Kemba Walker with the Bobcats.

    DBreezy, I agree 100% the Suns should not extend the Morris twins. Regarding Reggie Jackson, my point in making reference to him is OKC drafted him in the 1st round knowing they already had two young point guards. Presti primarily drafts based on upside which I think is a winning formula. He took Westbrook when he had very little experience playing the point in college. He seems to appreciate the intangibles in a player and is getting better at it each year.

  • john

    Btw, comment 55 should read … “for those who are too *lazy* to scroll to it…”

    My keyboard is awful, and auto-correct only exacerbates the problem.

  • DBreezy

    @Scott,

    Looking at the cbafaq, here’s what I think the numbers would be for each Morris.

    Kieff: 4th year salary $2,491,032.8, qualifying offer to keep his rfa rights: $3,445,098.3

    Marcus: 4th year salary $2,452,684.1, qualifying offer to keep rfa rights: $3,411,683.50

    Now those numbers are base numbers for 2011-2012 rookies. The cba says that an actual contract can be a minimum of 80% of the scale numbers or as much as 120%. If you recall, the 80% deal is what was the beef was a few years back between the Grizzlies and their pick Xavier Henry which caused what amounted to a mini holdout.

    I believe I read something at that time that most rookie deals are typically for the full 120% figure. That would bump Kieff up to about 3M for his fourth year and his qualifier to 4.1M. Marcus would go to just slightly less than those figures.

    I agree that Kieff is a terrible shooter. There’s no room for a guard, let alone a big that shoots below 40%. As egregious as that is, what’s worse is that he hasn’t been able to translate his best skills from college to the league consistently. His rebounding and defense have not translated. Marcus is probably the better shooter although that’s not saying much. Also, it’s hard not to notice that Marcus played only 17 games as a rookie, shot poorly, and spent most of his time in the D league. Or that the Rox not only gave up on him in his 2nd season, they also gave up on one of the young players ahead of him in Patterson in favor of fellow KU big T.Rob and fellow 2011 draftmate Donatas. Or that in two seasons he’s found his way into two different coach’s doghouses. Even if you ignore the possible transactional benefits of not picking up their options, neither of the twins have done anything to merit those options being picked up.

  • DBreezy

    Foreveris,

    Presti is excellent and yes will take whomever he feels is the best available regardless of what he already he has on his roster. Blanks has had more than one opportunity to answer that question here, and his answer has been the same. He prefers positional need, probably isn’t changing, so cross any pg’s off your potential draft list. It won’t surprise me if they don’t even workout any, possibly only viewing them in one of those group workouts.

    Presti is also excellent at ignoring all of the manic up and down opinions on players that come once the scouts are pushed to the sides and the opinions come mostly from GM’s, owners, and sports writers who only start watching the NCAA in March.

  • Scott

    @john -

    I was trying to convey that whatever feedback Frye is getting from his doctors, it is causing him to BELIEVE he’ll be back, which would mean that he’s healed up; i.e., not only is his condition stable and not worsening, he’s on track to be cleared for training.

    So it sounds like Step A is about complete, and his heart seems to be in good shape. Now he has to successfully complete Step B, to see if it will hold up under a summer full of athletic conditioning.

    I’m sure we’ll get a couple of articles spelling all this out when Frye is officially cleared by his doctors to resume workouts.

  • DBreezy

    Regarding Frye, my sense is that if healthy he will be on next season’s roster for obvious reasons, but that the current front office has no plans to use him, see Pietrus, Michael.

    Blanks made some very pointed comments about the play at the PF position ahead of drafting Markieff who they originally touted as a potential starter before the lockout occurred. Going into this last summer the organization was again promoting the idea that Kieff could be the starter. They worked with him all summer and got excited about his SL performance although he still shot like shit. Then they went out and got Scola off amnesty and added O’neal before anybody knew anything about Frye’s condition. They also spoke often of Beasley playing the 3 and 4.

    Now I have no idea what Gentry would have done, but it seems pretty clear to me that the hope of his superiors was that the PF position be manned some combo of Scola, Kieff, and Beasley, Gortat and O’Neal at the 5 with Frye taking Hakim Warrick’s old position. This is terrible to say but in honor of Lon’s affinity for cliches, I don’t think absence has made the heart grow fonder here. Channing’s been pretty much out of sight and out of mind for the team . With Hunter and Blanks talking so much about culture change here, it’s hard to imagine a shooting big man being what they’re envisioning unless Lindsey has mistaken him for Sheed.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    I think the long and the short of it is that the twins will either shoot themselves into a contract or out of it. If they’re not reliable shooters they don’t have enough else to offer to keep them in the league. They both need to get a lot closer to 15 PER.

    FWIW, it works in the trade machine to send them both to Sacramento in exchange for Fredette. They seem to get along with Cousins, so maybe that’s an option.

  • john

    @DBreezy – While I would tend to agree with your assessment of the FO’s feelings toward Frye, in the end I don’t think anyone could possibly justify playing the likes of Markieff Morris over Channing Frye (assuming Frye comes back and plays like he has shown he can play). Frye is a competent NBA PF/C who has shown consistent improvement in shooting from range and defending the post, and he has shown mild improvement in scoring from the post as well. Frye is an average NBA player by all measures with one skill bordering on elite (3-pt shooting). Markieff Morris is none of those things.

    I don’t care how stubborn you are, there is no way anyone could play Morris over Frye, in my opinion. If they plan on making Morris the team’s premier 4, then they are getting rid of Frye.

  • Scott

    BTW, if the Suns miss out on the lottery pick from the Lakers, DX has the Suns taking Alan Crabbe. Crabbe is the player featured in today’s new scouting video from former VotSer Mike Schmitz.

    Crabbe is a 6′ 6″ SG with good length and the ability to hit deep, deep 3s and spot up 2s. He shoots about 54% on unguarded catch-and-shoot opportunities. But that’s about it.

    As I see it, the main obstacle with Crabbe is that he could be a bit of a headcase. If he can get past that, he needs to work on his help defense, his man defense, his handling, his passing, his shot creation, strength, athleticism, killer instinct / mental toughness, and so on. It’s not impossible for him to improve, but this is why despite shooting fairly well and having good size, he’s at the bottom of the first round.

    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Allen-Crabbe-6477/

  • Scott

    Regarding Frye … my impression last summer was that they were thinking of using him as backup C, and the presumed gimpy O’Neal was C #3.

    When Frye went out with the enlarged heart, the Suns moved O’Neal to #2 C and picked up Zeller to be #3.

  • Forever is2long

    Here is what was said about T. Burke before the final four (Draft.net),
    “It’s Trey Burke’s world and everyone else is just living in it right now, at least the college basketball world. Burke won the AP player of the year award on Thursday and continues to prove that he’s not only the best player in college basketball this season, but a tremendous pro prospect as well.

    He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder and has that clutch gene that few possess. ”

    They said if he led his team to a championship, he could be a top 5 pick. While I suspect the Suns will not have any interest in him due to present point guards, he could cause a team in front of the Suns (Orlando) to take him, dropping someone to the Suns. As I would not take Oladipo with the number 3 pick, I would invite all offers to trade down if it will net the Suns a lottery pick and another 1st round pick. Now maybe it allows McLemore to fall to the Suns who I guess the Suns would have to strongly consider. While I am not in love with his game as he did not show during March Madness, I guess his body of work during the year could warrant him being selected at #3.

  • john

    I think the players’ tourney performances are wildly overrated, in most instances. A great tourney and a championship run can translate to great NBA success (Carmelo Anthony), mild NBA success (Emeka Okafor), or nothing significant (tons of guys to consider, but one guy that comes to mind for me is Brandon Rush, and yes, I know he wasn’t top 5 or anything).

    There are plenty of guys who have become NBA superstars who didn’t have great tourney runs. Barkley, Durant (I’m thinking he only made it to the second round, but I could be wrong about that), Harden, and on and on and on. Tourney performance counts for something, but when it counts for too much you end up picking Derrick Williams at #2 because he had a few good games.

    I would bank on ceiling first, body of work second, tourney performance third.

  • Scott

    Isn’t this the takeaway from the Louisville – Michigan game?

    Glenn Robinson III: 38 min, 3-4 shooting, 6-8 FT, 12 pts
    Tim Hardaway Jr: 35 min, 5-13 shooting, 2-4 FT, 12 pts
    Trey Burke: 26 min, 7-11 shooting, 7-9 FT, 24 pts

    … but …

    Spike Albrecht: 28 min, 6-9 shooting, 4-5 3 pt, 17 pts

    In other words, the draft stars were nearly completely outplayed by a scrub nobody was talking about …?

    And from the winning side …

    Gorgui Dieng: 37 min, 4-6 shooting, 8 reb, 6 assists, 4 PF, 3 blocks, 2 TO, 8 pts

  • DBreezy

    @Scott,

    If it’s on their shooting, I think we know the answer with the twins!

    @John,

    I agree which is why I said I didn’t know if Gentry would have done it. Hunter might going forward. It wouldn’t be hard to say that they’re going to ease Frye in during camp and the early season, giving Scola, Kieff, Beasley, or possibly someone drafted/picked up this summer more than ample time to claim that role. Frye’s kind of like Lopez was to me at the end. You can make all the arguments you want about his game, but the powers that be have pretty made up their mind on how it’s going to be.

    @Foreveris,

    While I’m not really sold on anybody outside of a healthy Noel, I was think the other day that McLemore is kind of like the ‘guarantee fairy’ that Tommy Boy was talking about. He’s got a great stroke,an athletic body that absolutely looks the part of a prototypical NBA 2 guard, and seems like a good kid. He’s someone you could parade in front of your bosses and the media as a great pick and not get too much heat when it doesn’t pan out over things that are fairly obvious already. Smilin’ Wes knows all about that.

    I’m not sold on anyone yet as they all have issues, but when I look at BMac, Shabazz, and even Goodwin the thing that jumps out to me are that two of those three are ‘killers.’ That want the ball in their hands and they want that big shot. I’m sure we’ll have lots of debates on all of the skill stuff and potential future development with these guys and more, but to me you really can’t teach that attack instinct. It’s like a big without a motor, it’s just never going to happen with those guys. After all the grief Harrison Barnes took for not getting to the rim enough and not MAKING enough big shots, you would think BMac would get more for disappearing completely.

  • Forever is2long

    DBreezy I am presently not sold on anyone for a top 5 pick except maybe Burke (definitely has killer instinct) who I think has star potential. Noel, no due to health issues (my mind can be changed if Suns staff gives reassurance) and others because of talent or grossly inconsistent play. In 30 days I may be of the opinion Dieng is worthy of a top 5 pick. I know the salary scale on rookie contracts is not that big of a deal but the Suns cannot get a Greg Oden in this draft.

    Burke performed well during the season in a tough conference and even better in March Madness when the pressure was on and the competition intensified.

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