Phoenix Suns 103, Denver Nuggets 99 – The Green-ch who stole a win


There’s no doubt at least a handful of Suns fans turned off the game at halftime. Phoenix had just turned in one of their worst halves of basketball this season. They were lifeless and flatfooted. They had allowed a season-high 62 first half points, and had trailed by 20 points just 18 minutes into the game. A blowout loss was definitely in the works for the Suns. But there was no quit in this team tonight. The Suns made a fool out of anyone who turned the channel as they dominated the Nuggets in the second half and pulled out 103-99 win on the road.

To say the Suns were cold in the first half is to undersell their futility a great deal. Phoenix couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the first 24 minutes. They went into halftime shooting under 38% from the field and trailing by 14 points. The starters looked exhausted and slow, contributing only 19 points. If not for the Morris twins and their 22 first half points, this game would have been over very early. Defensively, the Suns allowed Denver to get into the paint for layups on what seemed like every possession. Phoenix also refused to get back on D in transition. The Suns gave up 36 points in the paint and were outscored on the break 14-1 in the half.

The second half looked to be more of the same until someone lit the fuse on Gerald Green. Green caught serious fire in third quarter hitting four big threes to pull Suns to within 10 points. More importantly Green’s shooting and confidence gave the Suns some much needed belief and energy. That energy carried over to the defensive end as well where the Suns held Denver under 30% from the floor in the third period. It wasn’t a lineup adjustment or change of tactics that helped the Suns play better defense. It was purely and simply effort in the paint and on the boards to keep the Nuggets from getting easy looks. Scoring had come very easily for Denver in the first half, but with the Suns actually putting up a fight, the Nuggets struggled to get open shots.

The final frame was one of the best and most entertaining quarters the Suns have played this year. It started as the Morris show with the twins combining to score the first 16 points of the quarter for the Suns. Their streak was snapped when Ish Smith tied the game at 88 with eight minutes to play. That’s when Goran Dragic got involved. The Nuggets were still battling trying to save face on their home floor, but the Dragon smelled the blood in the water. He scored eight points down the stretch to give the Suns the lead and help them hold on for perhaps their most memorable win of the season. As Markieff Morris (25 points, 6 rebounds) stepped to the free throw line to seal the game with 5 seconds left, Eric Bledsoe, who didn’t play in the fourth until the final three minutes, walked down the court with his arm around Goran Dragic. They were both smiling and laughing. Numbers 1 and 2 were happy because their team had trusted each other, fought back from a terrible half of basketball, and achieved something special. Either that or Bled said something really funny about J.J. Hickson.

For more analysis, let’s answer our three preview questions.

Do the Suns contain Ty Lawson?

Yes, to the extent Ty Lawson can be contained, the Suns contained him. Phoenix held Denver’s speedy, crafty point guard to just 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting and seven assists, both well below his season averages. Lawson, who was recovering from the flu, looked indecisive and passive for long stretches of this game. The Suns’ perimeter defenders – Bledsoe, Dragic, and Smith – did a good job of staying in front of Lawson and making him shoot jump shots. Phoenix’s bigs also did a good job of hedging on pick and rolls to keep Lawson from having a free lane to the basket.

Can Gerald Green break out of his shooting slump?

What shooting slump? Green is still smoldering even now, long after the final buzzer. He finished the night 6-of-12 from downtown (all his attempts were from beyond the arc.) He also added eight rebounds which just goes to show how engaged he was in the game. There are three levels to Gerald Green. The first is when he’s ice cold and no help to the Suns on either end. The second is when he’s feeling it like he was tonight. On this level, Green brings energy on defense too, skying in for rebounds and altering shots in the paint. The third level, which Green hasn’t gone to in a while, is when he’s doing everything in level two as well as getting to the rim both in transition and the half court. We saw plenty of level three Gerald earlier in the year when he was in the starting lineup. After his stellar performance tonight, we may well see it again tomorrow night against Dallas. Green is the sort of player who feeds on the belief of his teammates and coaches. His performance tonight is a testament to their trust in him in spite of his recent slump.

Who wins the rebounding battle?

The Suns lost the battle but won the war. Denver outrebounded Phoenix 53-44 for the game, but much of that deficit was built in the first half. Late in the third quarter and into the fourth, Coach Hornacek went small in hopes of finding the energy to spark a run and cut the deficit. He played Ish Smith alongside Bledsoe to close the third and then next to Dragic in the fourth. This gave the Suns consistent backcourt speed and helped them raise the pace of the game. Phoenix also went small and speedier in the frontcourt keeping Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye on the bench for the entire fourth in favor of the Morris twins. The strategy was successful in that it helped the Suns comeback and play at a pace that gave them the advantage. The only downside was that the small lineup allowed J.J. Hickson to grab 10 boards (three offensive) and drop 9 points, all in the paint. The Suns have shown many times this year however, that losing the battle of the boards is acceptable so long as they can dictate the pace.

Overall this win belongs to the Suns’ bench. The Morris twins, Gerald Green, Ish Smith, and Archie Goodwin outscored the starters 64-39, and led a truly incredible comeback that Suns fans and players won’t soon forget.

Tags: Denver Nuggets Gerald Green Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • http://none Go Phx

    What the Ish.

  • SHAZAM

    great article ryan..best re-cap I’ve read

  • Dave:f32

    They might have fooled fans but they didnt make a fool of anyone but themselves in the first half. Its logical for anyone to draw from a conclusion the lackluster effort the Suns displayed early, and getting down by so much early in the first half, while playing on a road game of a first of back-to-back games no less, that it just wasnt gonna end well for them tonight. This was a very entertaining second half game. What a way for this uoung Suns squad to redeem themselves of an uninspiring 1st half effort. Go Suns!
    Once we get a healthy Alex Len, this team should be sitting pretty with an elite PF to take pressure off the outside shooters, and provide points from the post or kick to the 3pt shooters. This team relies too much on the outside shot!

  • Dave:f32

    Yes, Alex Zen is a center but the Suns need a low post scoring PF… What about trading for Amare Stoudemire?! He still has dome game left in him! Hes a great low post threat and knows how to get the ball to the perimeter shooters or score at will inside!!

  • Dave:f32

    Sad to see when Channing Fryes 3pt shot not falling and he clangs a long 2pter… Sometimes he looks like hes gonna beast inside only to do a good impersonation of a Power Forward, emphasis on Power, only to be disappointed because it was only for one play, then he goes all Clark Kent for the rest of the game.

  • vtsunrise

    This team is special.

  • vtsunrise

    It’s unbelievable that they have 1 nationally televised game for the rest of the regular season. February 28. I can only hold my breath for so long. Watching on LP Broadband on a corner of my computer screen when I am still awake is like being fed table scraps, just enough to keep me alive.

    Until the next scraps of this scrappy team are aired.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Un-Fn-Believable

    Suns were un-watchable for a couple of years
    Now…ya can’t take yer eyes off of them

  • Voqar

    The first half was brutal but the Suns couldn’t continue to play so poorly and Denver wasn’t likely to stay red hot all game long. Great game.

    “Once we get a healthy Alex Len, this team should be sitting pretty with an elite PF”

    Are we making a trade I haven’t heard about, because surely you aren’t talking about Len himself.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    This team is doing great!
    This is the demonstration that making the reconstructions need to be patient and wait for the young players …. Look what they’re doing Morris this year! They have grown exponentially … ! Where are now all those who last year criticized them???
    It has built a good team with grafts bladsoe, green, Plumlee!
    They expected the young: Morris;
    It is aimed at other young promising GoodWin and Len!
    There have been big returns: Frye and Dragic!
    The merits of these is undeniable successes are largely also of those who built the team and who the coaches!

    P.S.: the return of Amare … oh my god! No please!

  • VK1

    With the 17th pick in the 2014 Draft the Phx Suns take Dario Saric from Croatia…ESPN commentator “This guy has been good in Europe the past few years and the Suns will probably leave him there for a few more yrs.” http://www.nbadraft.net/2014mock_draft

    Back to last night, what a great 2nd half. Fun game to watch!

    Since “tanking” is out the window, I guess I’m all in and hoping for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs :) Suns7…what are your thoughts? These guys refuse to lose:)

  • Al

    It seems that the Nuggets truly have a problem with teams playing small ball. This was a great comeback for Phoenix. I tuned in the 2nd quarter when they were down by 21 and was going to not watch. Then I realized that Phoenix is playing the Nuggets not the Spurs; so, they still had a chance to come back if they cut the deficit to 14 or 10 by the half…Which they did…

  • pece

    VK1
    Leave Šari? and check Hezonja:
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Mario-Hezonja-6392/

  • BUTLER

    Ish Smith is as good or better than Bledsoe.

    This win was different and speaks of a dangerous element in these SUNS: An unyielding commitment to winning no matter the physical and emotional obstacles.

    No one wants to play from 20+ points behind in Denver, of all places. The air just isn’t fat enough to fuel the expenditure of energy required to surmount such a lead. Unless you have Ish Smith on your bench.

    I was thinking during the spurs game that Hornacek ought to replace Bledsoe with Smith in the 4th quarter. Bledsoe was obviously gassed by the end of the 3rd and proved ineffectual for the rest of the game.

    Bledsoe doesn’t have the legs to play 4 quarters, and likely won’t until he gets a season of starts under his belt. Hornacek would do well to start relieving Bledsoe with Smith every game from here on out, maybe for 10 minutes a game. Not only would it bring the team more energy but it would save Bledsoe’s legs somewhat for the playoffs.

    Ish Smith is a very good assist man and can score as well as Bledsoe. Perhaps he needs to be considered for the fat contract too.

  • http://none Go Phx

    lmao, Butler. Thanks for the sarcasm.

  • vtsunrise

    That’s Ishful thinking, Butler.

  • vtsunrise

    But sometimes you get what you Ish for.

  • BUTLER

    Ishful thinking is reality-based as opposed to wishful thinking?

  • Luka

    The thing that bothers me is it takes Markieff Morris being down 21 to actually start giving a damn. He then woke up and started posting up Faried and got to the foul line. Why can’t he do this every game?

  • foreveris2long

    Hawki, Watching the Suns is like seeing a beautiful and sensual woman walk into the office with a solid education and great earning capacity, you cannot take your eyes off of her and cannot stop thinking of her. This is the Suns, all day every day you think how they are stunning the NBA with their play.

  • EBJM

    Damn Forever, why did you set the bar so high? In Vegas they only have to be beautiful and sensual!

  • foreveris2long

    EBJM, What happens in Vegas is suppose to stay there so the standards drop a little. I am just saying.

  • EBJM

    Lol! Nice, Forever. I only wish I could have left some baggage in Vegas!

  • Zack B.

    Nice pun work sunrise.