Ish Smith, Gerald Green pick up slack in win over Bucks

PHOENIX – Ish Smith dunked. Had the 6-foot, third-string Phoenix Suns guard not had to compete with one of the best dunkers in the NBA, it might’ve been the most fun moment of the night in Phoenix’s 116-100 win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Smith lost the entertaining play of the game honors because Gerald Green dunked a lot. He had two windmill slams and one so wide open on a breakaway that all he could think to do was throw it straight at the floor. The starting shooting guard for the time being because of Eric Bledsoe’s injury led the Suns with 24 points, going 9-for-14 overall and 4-for-7 from three.

Green and Smith have adopted a next-man-up mentality that has Phoenix looking good, and it’s clear from the locker room setup the new bench mob has a bit of chemistry. It’s been customary for Smith, Dionte Christmas, Archie Goodwin, and the Morris twins to start a ruckus following wins, especially.

“Cause’ we’re around the same age, we all just kind of have fun, joke around,” Smith said. “From hair cuts, from shots – whatever it is – we’re super competitive in everything. On the bench, we always constantly cheering for the next man, and when somebody goes down, we hate injuries, but we know it’s next man up.”

“It’s a different mentality,” he said of starting. “Before it was kind of, ‘Ish go get’em,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, shucks.’ Like, I’m sitting on my hands. I can still get better. I still wasn’t happy with my performance.”

With Bledsoe out, Smith made it A-OK that starting point guard Goran Dragic played less than 30 minutes. True, it came against the lowly Bucks, but it was good with a five-game road trip upcoming. Playing four games in five nights during the trip, Phoenix will need Smith and his growing confidence to produce.

“Try to play (the starters) all 36, 38, 40 minutes a game – games 3 and 4 you might as well cash it in,” coach Jeff Hornacek said.

Dragic knows first-hand how tricky it’s been for Smith to sit behind himself and Bledsoe. The Dragon also knows how many problems Smith causes. Even with Dragic’s speed, the quirkiness in how his backup moves is troublesome.

“For me personally, I don’t like to guard small people,” Dragic said. “It’s tough for me. The most important thing of what he’s got – he brings intensity at every practice. When you have these kind of guys around you, it makes the practice better.”

Smith and Green will be relied upon with Bledsoe being out at least a week. That could keep the starting guard out of the first three games of the road swing – against Chicago, Minnesota and Memphis. His return depends on another examination, meaning the Jan. 11 Detroit and Jan. 13 New York games could be potential return dates if all goes well.

As well as Smith played on Saturday, it was easy being Green. Milwaukee coach Larry Drew went with a zone defense for long stretches, and the Suns were ready. Channing Frye took the most advantage, hitting 6-of-9 from range. He said the team hardly skips a beat with Green in the starting lineup, and the two three-point gunners complement one another well – against that zone, they certainly did that.

“Gerald comes in and I tell him it’s a little different,” Frye said. “You can’t be – I’m going to use the word reckless – he’s free-spirited with the first group. I’m telling him, man, the way he shoots the ball and the way he can literally jump outside of the stadium is something we can take advantage (of). Let’s use you to your strength and keep it simple.

“He’s been fun to play with.”

Bucks spar in locker room

Missed this while covering the Suns locker room, but apparently Milwaukee’s team chemistry is not quite where Phoenix’s is. From the AP’s Bob Baum:

And 1

Jeff Hornacek on Archie Goodwin, who was pushed around a bit by O.J. Mayo in the second half: “Guys in this league tend to like to play against rookies because they know they’re not going to get a lot of calls. Once he gets past his rookie year, they might call some fouls on some of those pushoffs. He just has to be more physical with guys and know what type of guys they are. Gary Neal is a three-point shooter and he’s sitting, holding the ball – he’s obviously holding the ball waiting for a guy to come set a screen so he come off, one dribble, shoot it. He’ll learn some of those things.”

  • Animan

    Hornacek is a genius with some of the comments he makes.

  • vtsunrise

    Einstein was a genius. Steve Jobs might have been a genius. Hornacek is an outstanding coach, and that’s more than good enough.

  • vtsunrise

    I didn’t see the game, but saw the amazing aerial display by Green following his outstanding reads of the telegraphed Buck passes. Don’t pass the buck, but Buck the passes.

    The thing that struck me in the highlights and on the stat sheet is Ish Smith’s play. He was +20 with 8 pts and 1 TO in 19 minutes. Archie Goodwin was -20, with 7 points in 15 minutes. Looks like Smith is earning many more minutes. And Archie just needs to mature.

    I also wonder if Smith and Green make a certain very marketable PG more tradeable. I’m not at all in favor of trading either Bledsoe or Goran. But I wonder what the Suns could get in return for Bledsoe if they went that route. A really solid PF, for instance?

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I did watch the game, and Archie’s +/- was more a circumstance of when he got inserted. Both times at the end of the 1st and 2nd, with the Bucks on runs in both instances.

    It just so happened that when Goodwin went back to the bench it was for Dragon. No real fault of his own. He played well even though the Bucks tried to bully him a bit.

  • vtsunrise

    I saw Archie play extensively in Summer League and loved what I saw. He will be good. He’s young and just needs some seasoning. Meanwhile, the Suns have great depth at point guard and really at the 1 and 2, given the fluidity of Bledsoe and Dragic.

    Thinking back to July’s summer league, it was pretty clear what a great rapport Coach Horny had with his crew. Every single one of those roster players, including Tucker and the twins, was hustling and loving it.

  • SJose

    I thought Archie still had a decent game, I just wish one of our bigs put OJ Mayo on the hardwood.