Phoenix Suns 98, Detroit Pistons 92 – Motoring through


PHOENIX — The US Airways Center was sold out for just the second time in 2013-14, but unlike the prior occurrence — a 106-85 win over the San Antonio Spurs back on Feb. 24 — the Phoenix Suns were unable to delight their faithful with a performance to remember Friday night.

As was the case against in their 109-93 victory the Orlando Magic Wednesday, the Suns didn’t appear all that interested in taking advantage of their inferior road opponent.

The Detroit Pistons were more than happy to play the part of the 25-42 squad — with a 10-of-26 night from the free throw line (tied for second-worst performance with at least 26 attempt since 1985-86), 43 percent shooting from the field and 18 turnovers — yet Phoenix’s knockout blow never really came.

Instead, it was more like a staggered series of smaller punches — which somehow managed to do the job.

Eric Bledsoe scored 15 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, four others reached double figures and the Suns hung on for dear life in a 98-92 slopfest of a game.

“Every game can’t be pretty,” Bledsoe said. “I keep saying that. We just have to tighten up everything. I think we’re going to be fine moving forward.”

The fourth-year pro was able to paint a pretty picture out of the result in large part because of his own late-game heroics.

Phoenix closed the game on a 9-4 run, highlighted by five straight from Bledsoe down the stretch, and pulled to within a half game of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot out West.

“They didn’t make free throws, and we didn’t make free throws,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “The game was a slow-down game. I don’t think it ever really got into the up-tempo game that we wanted. I told the guys a couple games ago that the rest of the season you’re going to have to scrap and claw and fight for every play, every possession to have a chance at making the playoffs.

“That’s kind of how tonight’s game went. We did a nice job at the end really scrapping, making tough shots and we got the boards at the key times.”

 Do the Suns avoid a March Madness-type upset?

They did, but it took far more work than expected when considering their opponent came into the evening 17 games below .500 in a woeful Eastern Conference.

The frontcourt combination of Greg Monroe (16 points and eight rebounds) and Andre Drummond (13 points and 16 rebounds) coupled with an athletic, physical small forward in Josh Smith (15 points and 10 rebounds) seemed to give Phoenix fits yet again. And while Detroit had no issue when it came to self-inflicted wounds, dictating the game at a methodical half-court pace and dominating the glass to the tune of a 53-39 advantage was more than enough to keep the contest close throughout.

They’re a good team,” said Goran Dragic, who finished with 20 points despite sitting the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. They might have only won 25 games, but if you look at their roster they have good players.

“We played well some parts of the time, but we still had a lot of problems getting big guys out of the way and getting rebounds. We got that 12 point lead in the quarter, but after that they had too many second chance points.”

Can Eric Bledsoe find his shot?

For the first time since his return from a 33-game absence, Bledsoe found his second gear as the game wound down. Bledsoe knocked down five of six shots in the final quarter of play, including a go-ahead three-point shot from the top of the key with 3:21 remaining.

“It feels good because we won the game,” Bledsoe said of his only three-point make of the night. “I think I was 0-for-4 before that one. I knew one was coming.”

It did come, but Bledsoe was absolutely right. Before his timely connection from downtown, the first-year Sun’s touch from beyond the arc was off — as it has been of late.

Of his 23 points, only seven came on jump shots outside of four feet. Several of his attempts from left or right of the arc fell well short and off the front rim, and his first three-point try — a rushed heave to beat the shot clock on Phoenix’s first possession of the evening –barely scraped the orange cylinder.

“Not yet,” Bledsoe said when asked if it feels like his shot has come back. “I was getting most of my shots at the rim. So you know not yet. I just have to stay focused and keep being aggressive.”

Was Wednesday’s performance a sign of progress or a one-hit wonder?

After a combined 14-point performance against Orlando, rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin finished with zero points in nearly 13 minutes of action Friday.

All of that playing time belonged to Len.

Outside of an early bucket by Monroe and alley-oop dunk by Drummond early in the second quarter, which came as a result of the former No. 5 overall pick over-committing near the charity stripe, Len had a nice overall night defensively. The same, though, could not be said for his play at the offensive end.

Officially, Len went 0-of-2 from the field, but it felt a lot worse than that. The 20-year-old center missed an ugly bunny hook following an offensive rebound, lost the ball in the paint after a beautiful feed from Bledsoe and was whistled for traveling on what would have been an uncontested dunk in the third quarter.

Needless to say, it wasn’t one of his finer performances.

Tags: Detroit Pistons Eric Bledsoe Jeff Hornacek Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • the real al

    Honestly, the Pistons gave the Suns this win with missing that many free throws. Suns got lucky.

    Regardless, a win IS A WIN!!

    We need atleast 10 more (in my opinion) to make the playoffs in the west. Its gonna be tough but should be exciting to watch!! Lets git’r’done!

  • bill_thomas

    @Goran: We got Shavlik Randolph for rebounding. Why doesn’t Horny play him? He would knock Greg Oden from here to Japan !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Luka

    Slopfest is right. Although, the Suns did get to the rim late and buckled down defensively which was good.

    Detroit is just a big team, and is in a way similar to a Memphis or Chicago. The Suns just can’t really operate in a half court set and our bigs are just awful rebounders. It did boil down to free throws. Against any other opponent the Suns would’ve lost.

    I’m at a loss for words as to why Hornacek is still starting Frye. He’d be better served going small with Tucker and Green. If Hornacek’s objective is to speed the game up it would only make sense to put your best athletes on the floor and try and trap and force more steals. Plus it will give Archie to get some minutes at back-up SG with enough room for Frye, and the Morris twins.

  • JK

    Frye is on the floor to space everything out and make it easier for the point guards to drive the lane and setup open looks for teammates. Goran Dragic even talks about this in an interview with Zach Lowe from Grantland.

    http://grantland.com/the-triangle/qa-goran-dragic-on-being-fearless-playing-his-game-and-words-with-friends/

    While Frye isn’t the most physical power forward out there, he is one of the very few stretch 4s in the league that can open up a team’s offense to run pick and pop plays and other actions on offense.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    The offense will come, Len is just trying to do everything at once, he just needs to slow down and he will be fine

    really nice to see 3 blocks in 13 minutes of time

  • sunsn7

    Time for that guy to go.

  • shazam

    i was going to leave an opinion but then i saw bill thomas is still around

  • Suns Fan in Portland

    Ya, I’m getting tired of having to sift through his racist, misogynistic, bigoted drivel to see the other comments. Dude: you’re not funny. You’re obnoxious and you give Suns fans a bad name.

  • Melon Man

    I don’t think bill thomas is trying to be funny, I think he’s just off his rocker. Nobody posts 10 times in a row having entire conversations with themselves if they’re sane.

  • EBJM

    Hey JK, what is Dragic suppose to say, that Frye sucks and he should be traded?

    Gerald Green could start and the Suns offense would not only be run the same, it would be far more effective with a guy who could drop 35 on any given night.

    The following analogy isn’t an exact fit but I’ll use it. “The point of diminishing returns.” With the Suns out of the playoffs and struggling against literally every team during the stretch run, it is time to put your best players on the floor.

    Last night, Frye: 1-6 FGs and 0-4 three-pointers. His man Greg Monroe dropped 16, grabbed 8 boards, 5 dimes and had two blocks. To compound Frye’s ineptness Plumlee had to guard a World-class center in Andre Drummond.

    Not taking a personal shot BUT those of you who love Frye crack me up. The majority of Suns fans dumped on Amare for “ONLY” grabbing 9 boards per game and allowing opposing PFs to score at will. BUT at least Amare provided post scoring.

    Frye SUCKS plain and simple. The threat of him shooting threes while doing absolutely nothing else simply isn’t enough to play him let alone start him. You could replace him with Markieff or Marcus and get better results.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Forever

    Great showing by UCLA…sorry for any consternation I might have caused.
    Anyways, went 10-6 yesterday & fell into tie for 3rd…coulda been worse.
    Had SF Austin…thought they were dead…VCU had a 4pt lead AND the ball with less than 11 seconds to play…yet SF Austin somehow won in OT…..WOW
    Good Luck today.

  • vtsunrise

    Down the home stretch.

    A quick look back at my original prognostication, game by game:
    I had the Suns about to begin a 12 game losing streak.

    My revised forecast, done 12 games ago, has the Suns going 9-3 for the next 12, 10-3 the rest of the way. Let’s hope the updated forecast hits the mark.

    Meanwhile, nice to see some energy and nasty hops from Green, Bledsoe, Markieff and Dragic.

  • john

    That vcu self destruction is precisely why I hate college basketball. It’s exceedingly rare to see that kind of incompetence in the NBA. In college, it will happen multiple times in a single tournament.

  • john

    At least 10 more wins? Have there ever been eight 50-win teams in a single conference? Have there ever been seven? 10 is a sure thing. The Suns might be able to get in with 47. Pretty likely at 48. Almost assuredly a lock at 49. It would take a miracle for the Suns to miss the playoffs at 49-33.

  • foreveris2long

    Hawki, Yesterday killed me. I lost seven games. I am not looking at the standings until Monday. While UCLA played well Anderson still seems very slow against athletic teams. He was the topic of discussion at the gym this morning.However Adams continues to shine. Did you see Payne go for 41 Thursday? We should size him for a Suns Uni this weekend.

    Regarding Suns I continue to be a big Monroe fan. If he joined a team with good perimeter shooters and really good point guard like the Suns he would cause major damage in the paint. Detroit is a mess because I doubt they can trade Jennings or J. Smith and Drummonds is their future. If I am the Suns I would definitely make him a really big offer. I absolutely cannot take Frye any more. I saw Pau Gasol in person against the Spurs Wednesday night and have reached the conclusion he too could help the Suns a lot at the 4 position. He is not a great defender, even though I saw him block Duncan’s shot in the paint. He is a very good rebounder and scorer. While I am glad we did not give a 1st round pick for him, if Monroe or Bosh not available, I might explore Gasol. Monroe, Bosh, Gasol and maybe even Davis are all big upgrades at the 4 spot IMO.

  • sunsn7

    Alex Len is gonna be a stud center someday.

    Take note Dave.

  • Rengaw

    I was down on Len early but his improving ability to guard the rim could be a valued asset for the Suns in the future. I still doubt his ability to be the number one center for the Suns.

  • sunsn7

    JK, thanks for the post above! I needed a chuckle today and you provided it. Keep it coming dude :)

  • DZ

    If Frye is hitting the three consistently then I can live with his defensive shortcomings. But he’s not doing that so count me in with those who either want to start Markieff or just go small and play Dragic, Bledsoe, Green, Tucker and Plumlee as the starting 5.

    I also just read that Marc Gasol sprained his ankle in the Miami game and may not play in tonight’s game against Indiana. I don’t ever wish to see anyone get hurt but an ankle sprain that could keep Gasol out for 1-2 games would be a great boost to our playoff run.

  • Foreveris2long

    Sunsn7, Absolutely I am in the boat that Len will be a stud center. He could become the starting center sometime next season.

  • sunsn7

    Foreveris,

    could??

    Miles Plumlee will make a fine backup center ;)

  • sunsn7

    No DZ, Suns fans are growing increasingly annoyed with Frye’s one trick pony, “chuck n duck” on court persona.

    Look I think Frye’s a good guy but basketball-wise, I hope this is his last year in a Suns uniform. He doesn’t put enough sweat in that jersey

  • sunsn7

    Oh and a resounding

    “HELL NO” to Pau Gasol .

    Can you say “RETREAD”???

  • DZ

    @ sunsn7 – I wasn’t defending Frye but I do understand why some people do. If he was contributing 20+ points a night by chucking up threes, THEN I would be defending him. But he’s not. I think he should be benched too, as I said in my previous post. I’ve long said that he would make a good backup 4/5 but he’s a poor starter at either spot.

  • DZ

    And I was talking about Marc Gasol, not Pau, in my original post. Unless you misread my post (again) and thought somehow I was talking about Pau, your ‘ “HELL NO” to Pau Gasol.’ post makes no more sense then most of bill_thomas’ posts.

  • sunsn7

    Ok you got me on the Gasol post. Wrong assumption I made while skimming through posts.

    I stand corrected.

  • Scott

    I don’t mind Frye, in fact I think he was a good player for the Suns to get, but I see him as more of a role player stuffed into a starting spot. If the Suns can trade him for another player that is more of a true starter or a potential starter, I could see that happening this summer.

    If the Suns try to deal Frye to a place of his choosing, I could see him going back to Portland as a backup for LMA, especially now that Frye’s shooting has improved. I don’t know what the Suns would want back on such a deal, but it sounds like Portland would be willing to send Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard away.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    With less than a minute to go in the 3rd, its Indiana 49, Memphis 64

    Yeah, you read that right.

    Ugh

  • EBJM

    Thomas Robinson? It was only last month that Stotts who was without Aldridge started T-Rob in the 2nd half against the Wolves and went for 14 points, 18 boards, 2 blocks and 2 dimes while slowing down Kevin Love and bring the Blazers from behind for a victory.

  • EBJM

    Marc Gasol dominating Roy Hibbert in the Grizzlies blowout of the Pacers.

    Did somebody post that Marc had a sprained ankle? I sure wish Miles would sprain his ankle!

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Thats what ESPN said

    but it looks like it just made him stronger!

    by the way, Hibbert has been in a major slump for the past few months

    Alex Len actually gets more rebounds per 36 than Hibbert does

    i went to basketball reference.com and saw that

    Lens per 36 minutes this year are

    9.3 points 9.8 boards and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes

    Hibberts are 13.5 points 8.4 boards and 2.8 blocks per 36

  • EBJM

    Bench Frye and start Alex Len!

  • Dave:f32

    @sunsn7. It all depends on how you define “stud” center… If that means doofus who looks like a basketball player in uniform…or gangly running the court… Or can get a couple blocks and rebounds but not dominate a game by his presence, then you might be on to something…. Buy to waste a #5 draft pick for “potential” again on an injured unproven and unskilled center, the Suns coulda just picked up any old ” Retread” for that and spent the pick on another player or traded up in the draft.

    You will see one day.

  • DBreezy

    Went to the game last night. As pointed out above, they got really lucky that the Pistons couldn’t hit even a decent percentage of their free throws or it would have been lights out. I liked their fight, but I don’t have a warm and fuzzy for the sweep I’d like to see on this upcoming road trip leading into a 5 game winning streak.

    We had pretty good seats, about 15 rows up. Len is long, he looked every bit as long as Drummond though obviously not as bulky as Andre, Monroe, or Plumlee. From our vantage point by the play, I would disagree that Bledsoe’s assist attempt to Len was a beautiful feed. It was a beautiful read, but an errant feed behind where his momentum was carrying him. Not a lot of bigs, especially young ones catch that cleanly. It’s an art, and something I think many Suns fans took for granted with Amar’e when he was here.

    While I agree with those who say that the Suns will need a new PF going forward if they want to improve, I can’t get myself to 15M per year for Monroe. He’s a versatile player who no one will be mad at having on their squad, but for that much money (2M more than Harden, 5M more than Curry) you better have a big impact every night under this cap system. I understand that he’s going to get that money because of the market value set by others like Hibbert and Cousins and his RFA status, but it doesn’t mean the Suns should pay it.

    While most of his makes were on the interior, he didn’t really operate much as a post player. They seemed to go to Josh Smith a lot more in that role. Monroe seemed to mostly punish Frye driving him to the hoop from the elbow area. They also didn’t seem to run much S/R with him at all, though that could be a function of the awful game and attitude that Brandon Jennings displayed last night that got him benched. He is burly and did abuse the skinnier Frye when he got the chance, including a pathetic sequence where he goaded Channing into a dumb foul just by posting him up hard. It was like the classic childish bumping fest you often see in pickup games when you post up a weaker opponent.

    All that said though, he still only scored 16 points on 6-16 shooting with 8 boards vs a team that was not defending him well and that has struggled defending 4′s. I give him a pass on the rebound numbers because he’s playing with two freaks in Smith and Drummond. He looks like a strong area rebounder, but don’t expect him to get much outside of his wingspan area. Offensively, if he’s not going to be the focal point that leaves the Goran or Bledsoe S/R with spacing as the mainstay. So it worries me that they don’t use Monroe in S/R and that he has a eFG% of 27% in jump shot situations. Or I should say that it worries me at 15M per year as I like him as a player overall.

  • sunsn7

    Dave32, when I say Alex Len is going to be a “stud” center for the Suns someday I don’t mean in the sense of an all time great. He is going to undoubtedly be (in my mind anyway) a formidable force in the middle with an all around game that will eventually remind people of a Vlade Divac.

    You stating that Alex Len is a “doofus” looking “gangly running upcourt” and so on is a misguided reference to his still developing physical stature. What I’ve seen from him is a kid who isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the paint and mix it up, is going to be an EXCELLENT outlet passer triggering the fast break that Suns fans love. He blocks and alters shots..

    His offense certainly needs work but I see him developing into a very good NBA center, even “studly” by current NBA center standards. Just wait til he develops that lil jump hook and fires the open 15 footer with regularity and without hesitation…but that’s down the road.

    YOU will see one day..and sooner than many of you think. This is coming from an initial Alex Len skeptic too.

  • sunsn7

    DBreezy?

    You make too much damn sense! I like Monroe too but i’m not as enamored with him as many fans are. Whoever acquires him will have to overpay, and although he’ll be solid for years to come, I don’t think his ceiling garners that kind of money per year. I was thinking like 10, maybe 11 million per year but he’s going to command more than that in FA.

    And you bring up good questions as to how he would mesh with the Suns as currently constructed.

  • sunsn7

    From NBATV:

    Top 5 teams with best winning percentage since 1996 (Greg Popovich era)

    1) Spurs

    2) Lakers

    3) Mavericks

    4) Heat

    5) Suns

    ..and in this time span, only ONE of the five teams above failed to win an NBA Championship.

    *sighhhhh*

  • Dave:f32

    Dave32, when I say Alex Len is going to be a “stud” center for the Suns someday I don’t mean in the sense of an all time great.”

    @sunsn7 – i know what ur saying, its just that one would expect that if a player turned professional, that the pro would already have these attributes in the arsenal and not have a need to develop anything other than adjusting to the NBA game speed, or developing other facets to his tight game.

    Meanwhile, Alfonso Clark Burke III, better known in the league as “Trey” Burke hits the game-winning 3pter to help his team win because he is that good already, and his game is in line with other players already in the league.

    Drafted 9th overall btw in the same draft class as Alex Len.

    Meanwhile, us Suns fans gotta wait some time to see the younger riokies on our team to “develop”.

    I hope you are right, sunsn7. I really do.

  • Dave:f32

    Eric Bledsoe vs. Trey Burke

    Higher ceiling?

    Who will be more successful over the lifetime of their careers?

    Who has the greater impact for the team they respectively play for?

  • Dave:f32

    Trey Burke gets my vote.

  • JK

    My statements about Frye weren’t meant to be taken in the sense that I thought he was a stud… all I was trying to point out is that he has a positive effect on the way the Suns’ offense is constructed to run. The fact that he can make 3-pointers as a PF makes teams have to decide whether to pack the paint and leave him wide open or to guard their man and risk having our athletic guards get to the rim at will. Would I like to see an upgrade in the near future? You can bet your ass that I would. That upgrade might already be here in Phoenix with the way Markieff has improved this season. Or perhaps our next studly 4 is acquired through the draft or free agency (Kevin Love). Only time will tell.

  • Rengaw

    Like to see a little more playing time for Mook and Keef.

    When these guys combine for 30 points or more, the Suns have a tremendous winning percentage. The playing of Frye is said to stretch the defense but these two guys can’t be left alone on the peremeter either, plus they will improve with more playing time and Frye won’t.

  • john

    Burke over Bledsoe and Dieng over Len?

    I didn’t know they made crap that strong.

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