PHOENIX — Late-game execution makes a winning team in the NBA, but the Phoenix Suns would rather avoid that theory altogether.
The painful ending in the Suns’ 100-98 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday was another reminder that blowing leads midgame will put a team in bad positions come crunch time. With more than five seconds left on the game clock and the game tied at 98 in overtime, a Goran Dragic steal gave Phoenix the ball with about 30 seconds left in the game.
Coach Jeff Hornacek elected not to call a timeout because he had previously told his guards to attack center Brook Lopez, who despite his offensive explosion in the second half, had sprained his ankle earlier on.
“He wasn’t moving very well,” Hornacek said. “When we look back, probably should have told our guards should have come off the pick-and-roll and just shoot it. He wasn’t going to challenge it. In the heat of it, the guards are going, ‘Can I get by him and get to the basket?’”
Attack Lopez they did. Goran Dragic calmed the offense with 30 seconds left and off a pick-and-roll got a decent-enough shot from Frye as Lopez failed to recover from a hedge. The attempt didn’t fall.
“(Frye) said the ball was so wet he couldn’t grab the ball and shoot it,” Dragic said.
But after a series of tips off the miss between Tucker, Marcus Morris and the Nets’ Kevin Garnett, the ball popped out to Joe Johnson, who took it the length of the floor in five seconds and put a floater just above the fingertips of a retreating Frye just as the clock ran dry.
“It happened so fast, again,” Tucker said afterward. “I don’t know how … Marcus is in front of me, KG is behind me, so I’m like, I’ll let Marcus get it so I moved and let him get it, and it popped out. I’m like, ‘Ah, should have just grabbed it and it would’ve been overtime or a jumpball or something,’ it wouldn’t have been a fastbreak. It happened so fast, those situations, you try to make the best situations, it just didn’t work out.”
Hornacek said there isn’t any way to prevent such a play.
“Tonight was one of those fluke things,” he said. “Two guys thought they had it. You have to be pretty sure you’re going to get it. It’s one of those things where our big guys are thinking if they get the rebound they will call timeout.”
Like the Suns had the play prior, the Nets didn’t call time with an open court in front of Johnson. Game over.
Frye coming on?
Channing Frye has received a bit of flak with Markieff Morris winning the Western Conference Player of the Week award, but on Friday the forward didn’t disappoint. He scored 13 points and hit 4-of-8 shots and 2-of-4 threes. After getting benched for Morris in the second half, Frye replaced his replacement and led a surge that helped get Phoenix back into the game following a major lull.
“Even him not making still spreads the floor for our guards,” Hornacek said. “They still have to be alert where he’s at. It’s good to see him make a couple – he should have made the last one, but – it gives us a lot of things.”
Morris is quickly coming back down to earth. After three stellar games, he has gone 4-for-17 in the last two outings and grabbed 10 rebounds in 47 minutes.
And no matter what shape he’s in, Frye has proven to be the better defensive player, simply because of his smarts and to no insult of Morris’ effort.