Posted by Dave Dulberg on March 11th, 4:54 pm
When the Phoenix Suns welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to town Wednesday evening, they’ll do so a bit short-handed.
While guard Eric Bledsoe will return to the hardwood after a 33-game hiatus, the Suns will be without the services of starting small forward P.J. Tucker.
The third-year pro out of Texas was involved in a scuffle with Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin in Monday night’s 112-105 loss at the 5:28 mark of the fourth quarter, and subsequently was issued a personal foul and the first ejection of his NBA career.
Griffin and Tucker initially got tangled up jostling for position in the paint on a rebound attempt of Matt Barnes’ missed three-point try. The two took each other to the floor with Griffin seemingly pressed on top of Tucker’s body.
From there the particulars are a bit unclear.
Tucker appeared to try and push Griffin off with his right forearm, a movement that for whatever reason caused Griffin to respond with a noticeable head jerk. The multiple replays didn’t appear to provide a clear cut example of Tucker’s forearm landing anywhere above Griffin’s chest, however officials deemed the action worthy of punishment.
And they weren’t alone.
Tuesday, NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn issued the 28-year-old a one-game, unpaid suspension for his involvement in the alteration. Griffin, meanwhile, was not assessed any type of fine or punishment.
Tucker has started all 63 games this season, averaging career-highs in points (9.4) and rebounds (6.4) per game.
Tags: P.J. Tucker · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns News
Posted by Ryan Weisert on March 11th, 2:00 am
Eric Bledsoe is coming back at the perfect time. Sure the Suns would have loved to have their star guard return sooner, but was a recovering Bledsoe really going to help the Suns fair better in their last four games? I think not. A win over the Thunder was a better haul from those four matchups than most expected the Suns to get. And now those games are behind the team, and it’s time to look forward.
Phoenix currently sits in ninth with Minnesota 4.5 games behind and Memphis a half game ahead. Bledsoe has targeted Wednesday at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers as his return game. That matchup is the first in a stretch of 11 winnable games for the Suns. Between now and the end of the month, Phoenix will not face a single Western Conference playoff contender. They will play seven teams with losing records, and nine of their 11 opponents are in the East. Tempering the excitement about this stretch is the fact that seven of the 11 games are on the road. Phoenix will also have two tough road back-to-backs, Toronto-to-Brooklyn and Minnesota-to-Atlanta.
When I handicapped the playoff race at the All-Star break, I identified 14 games over .500 as the Suns’ target for making the postseason. That would put them at 48-34 for the year. Even in the exceedingly tough West, the Suns would be near locks to make the playoffs with 48 wins. If the Suns can go 8-3 the rest of this month that will put their record at 44-30, meaning they’d only need to go 4-4 in their brutal close to the season in April. 8-3 is a tall order for the Suns in their next 11, but it’s doable. Phoenix has gotten that hot for stretches this year. If I were a betting man, I’d say the Suns have one more winning streak left in the tank.
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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Ryan Weisert on March 10th, 11:23 pm
You know the sound a balloon makes when the air is let out? That sound perfectly sums up the Suns 112-105 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers tonight at the StaplesCenter.
Phoenix was completely blown away in the first half. Goran Dragic picked up two fouls early in the first and another early in the third. He played only 12 minutes of the first 24 minutes, and as a result, Phoenix looked out-of-rhythm and hapless on both ends of the floor. Offensively, they settled for far too many jumpers and shot just 36% from the floor. Defensively they allowed Blake Griffin to net 29 points on 11-of-12 shooting in the first half. As a team, the Clippers hit over 60% of their shots and built a 17-point halftime lead.
In the third quarter that lead swelled to 25 points as Phoenix continued to struggle at both ends. But then the Clippers got complacent and became more concerned with getting Blake Griffin to 40 points than running their offense or communicating on defense. Slowly but surely, the Suns whittled the Clippers’ lead down. And then came the scuffle.
With a little over five minutes left in the game and the Suns trailing by 14 points, PJ Tucker and Blake Griffin hit the deck while battling for a rebound. With Griffin on top and PJ in full guard, the two began shoving one another. PJ pushed his elbow into Blake’s face as both teams raced to their teammates’ aid and broke up the skirmish. After a lengthy official review, Tucker was assessed a technical foul and ejected. The smile on PJ’s face as he left the floor was reflective of how the Suns must have felt at that point. They proceeded to go on a 15-5 run. Griffin, who was visibly rattled by the altercation, picked up offensive fouls on back-to-back possessions and fouled out with three minutes left. The Suns got as close as four points, but ultimately succumbed to their self-inflicted wounds.
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Tags: Los Angeles Clippers · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 10th, 10:42 pm
P.J. Tucker earned a personal, technical and ejection Monday in the Phoenix Suns’ 112-105 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. In the second half, Griffin went after an offensive rebound and took down Tucker to earn a forearm shove below the head. Excuse the homer-ish analysis, but unless the pixels lie, Griffin’s head jerking back was not because Tucker threw a punch — semantically we could debate what a punch is, I suppose.
Griffin wasn’t penalized for the play but fouled out minutes later as the Suns cut in to a 25-point deficit but couldn’t pull off the comeback.
It could be interesting to see how the NBA handles this situation. Clearly, the league office already has eyes on Tucker, who earned two flopping violations in consecutive games earlier this season. But will they deem this as a punch? The bets are that it will.
And how will the NBA see Griffin’s involvement? The Clippers forward certainly had some unnecessary jabs of his right arm that didn’t connect with any Suns player at the 13-second mark of the above video.
Look to the Suns for an example of the borderline penalties for scuffles such as this. Marcus Morris earned a $25,000 fine earlier this season for escalating an altercation with Lakers guard Nick Young, and rookie Alex Len was fined $15,000 for the flagrant on Young that began that altercation.
Tags: Los Angeles Clippers · P.J. Tucker
Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on March 10th, 11:54 am
Time: 7:30 p.m. MST
The Phoenix Suns take on the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night for the second time this week, and they do so on the back end of a back-to-back. With the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies having hopped the Suns in the Western Conference standings, Phoenix doesn’t have much leeway to lose consecutive games.
On Sunday, the Suns dropped a 113-107 contest to the Golden State Warriors, a game they pretty much controlled outside of one stretch in the third quarter. It was very similar to Phoenix’s loss to the Clippers last Tuesday. Take out the third quarters of those two games, and the Suns could be a perfect 3-0 during this four-game gauntlet that wraps up tonight. Instead they are 1-2.
In two games against the Pacific Division leading Clippers, the Suns have played very well. In their first meeting, and the last game with Eric Bledsoe, the Suns ran the Clippers off the court. Last week, they took an 11-point lead into halftime before allowing Matt Barnes to spark a 37-18 third quarter outburst that helped the Clippers to victory.
Outside of not letting Matt Barnes score 28 points, here are some keys for the Suns tonight.
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Tags: Los Angeles Clippers · Phoenix Suns Preview
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 9th, 9:03 pm
A disappearing act in the third quarter bit the Suns in a 113-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, but missed opportunities became the theme of the day. Having the offense operating well through a half and the defense stymieing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Phoenix seemed in solid shape for a good portion of the game.
But then, the Oracle Arena magic caught up to the Suns.
Thompson and forward David Lee started hitting, the crowd’s energy spun up the pace, and before you could say “splash,” Phoenix found itself trailing by double-digits and losing the third quarter 38-17. The third quarter included a 16-0 burst by the Warriors, 13 points from Klay Thompson — he finished with 22 — and 10 more from Lee.
While some of those 38 points came from beyond the arc, 22 came in the paint. Meanwhile, the Suns could only score four points in the paint.
The Suns, as usual, didn’t fold and were within four points during the final minutes. Stagnant offense and a lack of execution became a pain for Jeff Hornacek’s squad, which was given plenty of opportunity with four missed Golden State foul shots in the final minute. Guard Gerald Green stepped out of bounds curling around a screen out of an inbounds play, summing up the Suns’ night of missed opportunities from both the micro and macro perspectives.
Phoenix fell to ninth place in the Western Conference standings considering its 36-26 record is the same as the Memphis Grizzlies, who hold the tiebreaker. More painfully, the Suns tied Golden State with a 2-2 record in the teams’ the season series.
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Tags: Golden State Warriors · Phoenix Suns Recap