PHOENIX — After falling behind, making a comeback and then pushing for a last-minute rally with a unit of scrubs, the Phoenix Suns fell 102-96 to the Los Angeles Clippers and dropped to to 3-1 in the preseason Tuesday.
The return of former Suns coach Alvin Gentry was a weird one.
Leading the Suns, Goran Dragic scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor and mostly played off the ball. His set three-pointers looked especially clean as he hit all four attempts from beyond the arc.
Bledsoe recorded seven assists and was quiet shooting the ball. He had four steals and multiple deflections but at times looked unsure in his decision-making on offense. On one play, Bledsoe pushed a break with Clippers ahead of him but didn’t stop at the foul stripe and got stuck holding the ball under the cup with DeAndre Jordan all over him – Bledsoe threw it at Marcin Gortat’s legs for a turnover.
It was just one sign of how far Bledsoe still has to go to become a true NBA point, and that’s forgetting his overall feel of when to push and when to set up the offense.
So, were any of Dave Dulberg’s pregame questions answered?
Does Jeff Hornacek let Eric Bledsoe start on the man he backed up for three seasons, Chris Paul?
Bledsoe saw time against Paul, and Goran Dragic also had a few possessions against the Clippers point guard. Neither did a very good job. Paul’s protege ripped him with four minutes left in the first quarter for a fastbreak layup – that was after Paul had hit five of his first seven shots and already scored 13.
Before the game, Hornacek said the Suns will perhaps run with the mishmash of lineups for one more game, against Sacramento, before settling in with rotation players.
The Suns started Miles Plumlee and James Nunnally alongside Marcin Gortat, Dragic and Bledsoe. In the second half, Phoenix started Dragic, Bledsoe, Tucker, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat.
How do Suns fans handle the return of Jared Dudley?
You would’ve thought the theme of Tuesday night’s preseason game was 2010 night. Jared Dudley got his fair share of cheers as a starter for the Clippers, Lou Amundson came off the bench to the deep shouts of his first name, and Alvin Gentry began patrolling the sidelines – after halftime, Gentry actually took over head coaching duties for Los Angeles because Rivers was reportedly feeling ill.
Was it a statement? The way Gentry and his staff left the Suns, you might wonder. Dan Majerle was even sitting with Jerry Colangelo watching the game. And that’s not mentioning the other relationships between Rivers, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and Phoenix assistant Mike Longabardi.
It was just a weird night of preseason reunions.
The Suns pushed back from a 63-47 halftime deficit and held the Clippers to three points in the first seven minutes of the second half. The Suns got within three points with a regular starting unit, but the Clippers — led by Chris Paul’s 24 points and nine assists — bumped the lead to 10 points entering the fourth.
Phoenix’s bench rallied with an 11-0 run to come within one point with just more than a minute left, but the Clippers held on.
Does Channing Frye get some run against Blake Griffin?
Blake Griffin was an unofficial scratch from the game, but Frye did bait Ryan Hollins into an offensive foul on his first defensive possession. Hollins, if you remember, was the participant in last year’s late-season scuffle that also involved Dragic and Michael Beasley.
Speaking of which, Frye had another strong outing with 11 points in the first half. He did have trouble when the Clippers went ultra-small. Guarding Dudley at power forward seemed out of Frye’s wheelhouse.
Dudley finished with 12 points in his first return to U.S. Airways Center as a Clipper.