The Golden State Warriors used one of the cleanest Las Vegas Summer League games and some of the cleanest shooting by rookie Ian Clark to give Suns coach Jeff Hornacek his first loss on Monday. The Dubs turned the ball over just 12 times and Clark poured in 33 points and seven threes against a broken Phoenix defense to win 91-77 in the inaugural summer league tournament championship game.
Phoenix remained close throughout, but a run put on by Cameron Jones and capped by more fireworks from Clark did in the Suns down the stretch. The Warriors outscored the Suns 26-16 in the fourth quarter.
Archie Goodwin scored 16 first-half points but only had two more in the second to lead the Suns with 18, and Marcus Morris scored 17 points to go with six boards. The bench didn’t do much after a big showing in the semifinals game against the Heat, and overall the Suns doomed themselves with poor defensive rotations against a red-hot Clark combined with untimely turnovers and missed opportunities.
The Suns allowed the Warriors to hit 11-of-26 three-pointers, and they only went 5-of-17 themselves.
But through seven games, the Suns overall accomplished in Vegas what they’d set out to do.
Hornacek’s new staff showed the ability to teach the basic philosophies of a system. While there were up-and-down performances individually, Kendall Marshall and the Morris twins received more molding with a coaching staff likely set on nitpicking the simple parts of basketball.
The fact that the group of young veterans led by 28-year-old P.J. Tucker could parlay the culture and philosophies built this summer into the regular season. Their commitment to playing all the games when they could have called it a tournament said a lot as well. A precedent of winning was set, as was a solid glimpse of what Hornacek will teach his full roster once it’s assembled.
What questions were answered?
What would Hornacek’s offense look like?
Jeff Hornacek said the Suns would run, but this isn’t Mike D’Antoni’s offense necessarily.
Of course, the roster in the summer league is of a different identity than the one in the regular season. It’s become clear that Hornacek will play to his team’s strengths. The summer league roster didn’t have a great deal of success stretching the floor because of the personnel, and giving the Morris twins touches for midrange shots and post opportunities was frequent.
The Suns push the ball quickly, but the basic actions once in the halfcourt are lightening quick. Often, a simple post screen would set up an immediate entry pass at the high or even low post areas. There was little reason for point guards or otherwise to pound the ball on the wing before initiating the offense.
Ball movement looked solid for Phoenix as well. Denied passes led to quick re-routes of the ball, and swinging a la the San Antonio Spurs made the opponent defenses work hard. Add in the running, and it’s likely Hornacek uses a pretty good bench this season.
What could the defense look like?
It’s hard to say how defensive matchups will be moving forward. The summer league is for tinkering, and with a roster that’s constantly putting out different lineups, who knows what Hornacek’s staff will do come the regular season?
P.J. Tucker was clearly a favorite to hang onto his job as the Suns’ best perimeter defender. He guarded Kent Bazemore for most of Monday and held the standout shooting guard to 8-of-18 shooting on the day.
Both Markieff and Marcus Morris showed signs that they’ve figured out how to play with intensity as well. Though both were foul-happy throughout, their aggressiveness in getting into opponents’ chests was something that was lacking at times last season. Their technical foul problems were also a good sign that, at the least, they were engaged.
Would Kendall Marshall show any marked improvements?
The worst news for the Suns was Marshall’s performance. Indeed, he showed leadership qualities needed of a point guard. As a true floor general, he ran things decently enough and took care of the ball, but the former 13th overall pick from the 2012 draft also failed to provide hope he’d added anything new to his game.
It was known he’ll throw wickedly accurate passes. While his shot has flaws across the board, he has confidence now to at least take the open shots and occasionally attack. His size and strength appear improved, and he finished over taller players through contact.
But after that, there’s a lot of worry. Diante Garrett, with all his own holes in his game, legitimately pushed Marshall. Garrett started in place of Marshall in the second half on Monday after Marshall’s starting lineup lacked the speed and urgency that Hornacek was looking for. And Marshall also became a huge liability.
Clark refused to allow Marshall to face the bucket as a ballhandler, essentially negating Marshall’s use in the offense. He ripped him once, and teammate Cameron Jones began the Warriors’ fourth-quarter burst by blatantly going at Marshall multiple times and also burying a standing three over Marshall in a typical hand-down-man-down type of situation.
Monday’s loss was the epitome of Marshall’s career thus far. For all the good — not great — there’s more bad.
The Suns’ training camp destination is still being discussed, but Paul Coro reports it could very well end up back in Flagstaff.
The last time Phoenix held training camp up north was in 2004, the offseason that led into the Seven Seconds or Less era. If Hornacek wants to run, the conditioning in Flagstaff is hard to top and a good way to test out the legs and lungs of his team.