Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on December 5th, 10:00 am
On social media sites, Thursdays have turned into Throwback Thursdays. People post old pictures on their Instagram, Twitter or Facebook accounts every Thursday to showcase a special moment from earlier in time. ValleyoftheSuns has decided to join the craze to bring Suns fans some of the most memorable moments (good or bad) in the team’s history.
The Phoenix Suns defeated the Houston Rockets 97-88 last night, so today we bring you back to one of the more famous playoff moments in NBA history.
Date: May 20, 1995
Place: America West Arena
Set-up: It was deja vu all over again from 1994. The Phoenix Suns were playing the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals after winning the first two games in the series only to lose three of the next four. The only difference in 95 was the Suns got to host Game 7 instead of being on the road like the year before.
The Suns got out to a hot start and led 26-13 after one quarter and maintained a 10 point lead at halftime. The third quarter is when the Rockets made their run to get back into the game by outscoring the Suns 40-28 and actually led by two going into the final quarter. The fourth was a back and forth high-scoring affair with both teams combing for 69 points in the quarter. Kevin Johnson was dominating the game for the Suns and finished with a game-high 46 points, but missed a crucial free throw in the final minute. The game was tied at 110 with 20.4 seconds left and Houston had the ball coming off a timeout.
Kiss of death: Kenny Smith took the inbounds pass from in front of the Suns bench and brought it up to mid-court, where he was double teamed by Kevin Johnson and Danny Ainge. Smith threw a cross court pass horizontally to the cross-checker, Robert Horry, who got it over the mid-court line. After a couple dribbles up the court, the cross-checker threw the ball across the floor to a wide-open Mario Elie in the corner of the Rockets bench. After catching the ball and gathering himself, he lifted the three-point shot over a leaping Danny Schayes and sunk the shot with 7.7 seconds left. After hitting the shot, Elie ran down the court to blow the infamous “Kiss of Death” toward the Suns bench. The Rockets won the game 115-114 to move on to the Western Conference Finals.
Aftermath: Just like in 94, the Rockets used the series comeback against the Suns as a springboard to back-to-back championships. The Suns fell short in the playoffs for the third straight year in excruciating fashion and the window of dominance slammed shut. The next season the team traded Dan Majerle and lost several players to injuries for significant portions of the 1995-96 season, such as Johnson and Manning. The Suns ended up firing Paul Westphaul in January of 96 and the team finished the season at 41-41 with a first round loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Ironically enough, Elie finished his playing career with the Suns in 2000-01.
Tags: Houston Rockets · Kevin Johnson · Phoenix Suns · Playoffs
Posted by Ryan Weisert on December 4th, 9:42 pm
The following statement can no longer be disputed: when the Phoenix Suns bring the effort, they can beat anyone in the Western Conference. A night after a second half blowout at the hands of the Grizzlies, the Suns went into Houston and dominated the Rockets with their defense en route to 97-88 victory. This was a night of firsts. This was Phoenix’s first road win against a team over .500. It was Phoenix’s first win on the second night of a back-to-back this season. It was Eric Bledsoe’s first great game after returning from injury. This was also the first time the Rockets, the No. 1 offense in the NBA, have been held under 90 points this season. It was Houston’s least efficient game of the season as they shot a paltry 35 percent from the field.
The Suns defense was light years better than their last two games against Memphis on the road and Utah at home. Phoenix forced the Rockets into 22 turnovers, 10 of which were committed by Houston’s stars James Harden and Dwight Howard. P.J. Tucker had his best game of the season. He completely locked down the Beard from start to finish. Harden ended the night 3-of-17 from the field and 0-of-10 from downtown. Harden only made it to double figures because of his eight made free throws. Tucker was in Harden’s head, and by the end of the night, the former ASU star couldn’t even hit the rim on a wide-open look from downtown.
But Tucker’s contributions didn’t end there. He also grabbed four offensive boards, handed out four assists, and grabbed four steals in his 40 minutes of play. Despite playing last night, Tucker, Dragic, and Bledsoe each played 40 minutes and were instrumental to the Suns’ winning effort.
If not for Houston’s bench, this game would have been a blowout early. The Suns once again failed to contain a scrappy score-first guard, allowing Aaron Brooks to score 17 points off the bench. Guys like Brooks and Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas seem to give Phoenix trouble at both ends of the floor. It’s something Phoenix will need to address as the season moves on.
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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Houston Rockets · P.J. Tucker · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap
Posted by Dave Dulberg on December 4th, 11:00 am
Time: 6 p.m. MST
On their way to a 9-9 record, the Phoenix Suns have just about run the gamut: wins over good teams, routs of bad teams, come-from-behind victories, heartbreaking last-second losses and a few performances that are better left unmentioned.
What Phoenix doesn’t have, however, is a tally in the left-hand column of the standings on the second night of a back-to-back. In fact, the Suns are 0-4 in such contests, losing by an average margin of 8.3 points per game.
To make matters worse, Jeff Hornacek’s squad is coming off its worst loss of the season, a 19-point drubbing in Memphis that saw the Grizzlies outscore the Suns by 27 in the second half despite the absence of their two best interior players.
The challenge won’t get easier for the Suns Wednesday night, as they travel to Houston to face one of the deepest teams top-to-bottom in the Western Conference.
Do the Suns win the third quarter?
In seven of their nine losses — including the last five in row — the Suns have failed to win the third quarter. This deficiency was put on full display Tuesday night, when Memphis erased an eight-point halftime deficit with a 13-5 run in the first 3:54 of the third frame. By the time the quarter was over, the Suns were the team trailing by eight and never got within six the rest of the night.
Maybe the long intermission kills any semblance of momentum or simply the Suns are not making the same type of adjustments their opponents are, but against a Rockets’ lineup that features two All-Stars and a terrific supporting cast, any extended lapse in the third quarter could prove to be the difference yet again.
On most nights the Suns are not the more talented team on the court, so banking on a fourth-quarter rally time and time again seems like an exercise in futility.
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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Houston Rockets · Jeff Hornacek · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview
Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on December 3rd, 8:51 pm
The Memphis Grizzlies came into tonight’s game struggling badly offensively, having only scored over 88 points once in the last five games. They were also missing their two All-Stars, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, to injuries. Fortunately for them, they found a cure to their offensive woes in the Phoenix Suns as they put up a near season high in points in a 110-91 home victory on Tuesday night.
The Suns started both halves slowly, but overcame a slow start to lead 54-46 at the half. Memphis came out in the third quarter firing on all cylinders and put up a 36 spot in the quarter that the Suns could not recover from. Ed Davis started for Randolph and dominated on both ends by scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Mike Conley and Kosta Koufos both had double-doubles themselves in the rout.
I am not sure there are many bright spots for the Suns tonight. One exception could be Marcus Morris who led the team with 18 points, including 15 in the first half. His 13 point second quarter actually helped to give the Suns a lead that was up to as many as 10 in the second quarter. Markieff Morris finished the game as the only Sun to be on the positive side of the +/- ratings. Archie Goodwin played hard in his 12 minutes of playing time and grinded out eight points. What did the Suns in Tuesday was their poor shooting from behind the three point line (7-for-29) and their inability to control the game at any point in the second half.
Now a look at the three keys from our preview.
Does the tempo go in Phoenix’s favor?
The majority of the game was spent playing Grizzlies grind ball, which the Suns had trouble getting out of especially in the second half. The first quarter was played at the Grizzlies pace, but the Suns got going in the second quarter after a Goran Dragic blocked at the 8:45 mark that kind of kick-started the offense and led to 35 point in the quarter. The second half was all Memphis though, and the Grizzlies shot 16-for-23 from the floor in the third quarter to overwhelm the Suns in the third quarter. Memphis killed the Suns in the paint by outscoring them 56-34, and that was without Gasol or Randolph.
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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Goran Dragic · Memphis Grizzlies · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on December 3rd, 9:00 am
Time: 6 p.m. MST
For different and very obvious reasons, neither the Phoenix Suns nor the Memphis Grizzlies expected to be a middle-of-the-road team in 2013-14.
The two squads will jostle Tuesday in Memphis for the right to come out of the battle with a winning record, and it’s the Suns who could be an unofficial favorite. Memphis, already struggling to find an identity under first-year coach Dave Joerger, took a big hit when center Marc Gasol sprained his MCL two weeks ago. Adding to the frontcourt woes was an ingrown toenail hampering power forward Zach Randolph. He is questionable heading into Tuesday, and the Grizzlies missed him dearly in a 97-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
The Suns and head coach Jeff Hornacek will need to decide if guard Eric Bledsoe rejoins the starting unit after coming off the bench the last two games following his return from a shin bruise.
And overall, everyone sans Goran Dragic and perhaps P.J. Tucker will need to look at themselves in the mirror and fight after coming off a home loss to a troubled Utah Jazz team.
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Tags: Memphis Grizzlies · Phoenix Suns Preview
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on November 30th, 11:27 pm
PHOENIX – If this were in any of two New York City boroughs, this would’ve been panic time. The Phoenix Suns’ 112-104 home loss reeked of poor effort and a nonchalant approach to facing the now 3-15 Utah Jazz.
The Suns weren’t engaged early and throughout. Utah made them pay, and unlike the Knicks or Nets, veteran clubs with two large payrolls, Phoenix can cite youth for the gaps in the effort.
Or maybe not.
Reading the box score, Jeff Hornacek wondered why the Suns had surrendered 112 points on 51 percent shooting to a team that averaged 90 points per game and was only shooting in the low 40s coming into U.S. Airways Center on Saturday.
“Just shows they just come out and thought they were going to outscore them,” Hornacek said of his players. “You can never give a team easy shots, easy buckets early in the game. That usually transfers up throughout.
“They don’t want to listen to it,” Hornacek added. “Coaches are telling them they’ve got to be ready. That’s what happens.”
That is a loss for a team that is now apparently struggling to handle surprising success. Channing Frye laid into his team as well, saying the Suns weren’t “emotionally invested” in the loss.
Utah hit 9-for-18 from the three-point line – Hornacek said the three-point defense “half-challenged” the Jazz – and scored 20 points off of a reasonable 13 turnovers. It wasn’t the timeliness of Phoenix’s miscues that did it in, Hornacek said, taking another look at the box score and letting out a harumph when he read that the Suns allowed 34 fourth-quarter points.
It’s frustrating even more than the Suns have wins and losses against the league’s elite that showed what a full effort looks like.
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Tags: Phoenix Suns Analysis · Utah Jazz