San Antonio Spurs 112, Phoenix Suns 104 — That other Green

Posted by on April 11th, 8:19 pm

This is the type of loss expected from a team expected to win 20 games, if lucky.

It wasn’t necessarily a blown 21-point first-quarter lead that said a lot about how much the Phoenix Suns missed Goran Dragic in a 112-108 loss on Friday, or how far Eric Bledsoe is from being a true floor general.

The list of incomprehensible mistakes the Suns made in the second half at the AT&T Center said more.

Danny Green, who finished with 33 points, was left wide open beyond the arc with two minutes left after he’d already scored 30 and hit six threes, and the shot gave San Antonio a 106-100 lead. Gerald Green left Kawhi Leonard to nab an offensive rebound on the very next play. And with 32 seconds left, Eric Bledsoe pushed the ball on the break and got to the rim, but then decided to fling the ball to Channing Frye for a three-point attempt instead.

It didn’t drop, but the Suns did in the Western Conference standings as the Memphis Grizzlies cruised past the Philadelphia 76ers.

Bledsoe finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, but his seven turnovers came on casual and difficult dishes that the Spurs picked off — Phoenix committed 20 turnovers leading to 26 San Antonio points. Bledsoe’s command of the team wasn’t there as the Morris twins and Green got caught flinging long jumpers early in the shot clock, as if hero ball has ever saved the Suns.

It didn’t always look so painfully bleak for Jeff Hornacek’s team.

Like lackluster win at New Orleans didn’t happen, the Suns came out of the gates rolling like they had at Portland and against Oklahoma City, and they did so with Dragic sidelined with a sprained ankle.

The Suns shot better than 58 percent from the floor in the first half, at which point Bledsoe already had his season averages covered. He scored 19 points to go with six rebounds, five assists and three steals in the first half, mostly against a far-from-limber Tony Parker, who played through a back injury.

San Antonio rolled without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on the second night of a back-to-back, and it went as expected. Gregg Popovich’s team saw little drop-off with players stepping up in place of the two absent veterans.

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Tags: Phoenix Suns Recap · San Antonio Spurs → 36 Comments

VotS Live: The Suns and the playoff chase

Posted by on April 11th, 3:01 pm

Join our live chat at 4 p.m. MST as we preview the Suns and Spurs, then get into the race for the last two playoff spots. Feel free to ask us questions in the Q&A form or in the comment section of this post prior to the chat going live.

So, do you think the Suns will squeeze into the postseason?

Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis → 1 Comment

Preview: Phoenix Suns (47-31) at San Antonio Spurs (61-18)

Posted by on April 11th, 9:00 am

Programming alert: Join the VotS crew for a Google Hangout video chat at 4 p.m. MST. We’ll preview the game and the road ahead.

Time: 5:30 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

Spurs

Spurs

Suns Logo

Suns

From friend to foe in less than 24 hours, such is the life these days in the wacky and wild Western Conference.

Thursday night, the San Antonio Spurs did their part with a 109-100 road victory over the Dallas Mavericks, which temporarily allowed the Phoenix Suns to leapfrog into seventh place by percentage points.

Friday night, those same Spurs will be looking to lock up the top seed out West, showing no concern in the process for the Suns’ aspirations of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2009-10.

Phoenix has one regular season win at the AT&T Center over the last four campaigns, and the building has regularly served as a house of horrors for the purple and orange.

The last time the two teams met in the River City, the Suns squandered a late one-point lead in the waning moments en route to a 99-96 defeat.

While there’s plenty more at stake Friday — Spurs can secure home-court advantage for the entire playoffs and the Suns can lay claim to the No. 7 seed all by themselves — concerns about whether either squad will be at full strength remain at the forefront.

Here’s a look at three questions heading into Phoenix’s first leg of the all-important, Texas two-step:

Will Goran Dragic play? And if he does, how does he get around on the ankle?

AZCentral.com’s Paul Coro was the bearer of bad news late Thursday, announcing that Suns guard Goran Dragic would be questionable for the contest after spraining his left ankle.

On the surface, it’s hard to imagine Dragic missing the biggest game of the year to date. Then again, Saturday’s tussle in Dallas is just as important if not more so than a showdown in San Antonio.

Do the Suns rest their leading scorer in the hopes of keeping him fresh for the following night or does “The Dragon” find a way to make his 75th start of the season?

If a hobbled Dragic does play, staying with either Patty Mills or Cory Joseph will be intriguing to say the least.

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Tags: Goran Dragic · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview · San Antonio Spurs → 40 Comments

Throwback Thursday: Suns sink Spurs behind Johnson’s regulation buzzer-beater

Posted by on April 10th, 11:00 am

Across the Internet, Thursdays have turned into Throwback Thursdays, where social media users and abusers post old pictures of themselves. ValleyoftheSuns has decided to jump into the Phoenix Suns’ past to remember some of the best, worst and weirdest moments in franchise history.

Date: February 27, 2013

Place: AT&T Center, San Antonio

Set-up: For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we go back to last season. Why you might ask? Because before the present-day incarnation of the Suns take on the San Antonio Spurs Friday in the biggest road game to date, they need not look any further than the hapless 25-57 squad that pulled off an unexpected victory in the River City.

Johnson’s shot: Heading into their third contest of the 2012-13 regular season, the Suns and Spurs looked to be a far cry from the two rival organizations that battled six times in the postseason from 2000-10. By their final matchup of the campaign, Phoenix was limping in 20 games under .500, while San Antonio was gearing up for the postseason having won 18 straight games at home.

After jumping out to an early lead, the Suns could never seem to get control of the game over the next three-plus quarters. The Spurs held double-digit leads on a handful of occasions, but up until the final minutes of the game they were more than content to lead by an arms distance of six, seven or eight points.

But down by seven with a little more than three minutes to play, Jermaine O’Neal and Marcus Morris took over for Phoenix. The duo scored eleven straight points down the stretch to pull the Suns to within four with 11 seconds remaining.

Goran Dragic would whittle that lead down even further with a short jumper, setting the stage for a wild final few seconds.

Trailing 99-97 with four ticks still on the clock, Morris immediately fouled Manu Ginobili following Dragic’s shot. Despite being a career 83-percent shooter from the charity stripe, the Spurs guard missed the second of his two attempts from the line.

Without a timeout, O’Neal corralled the rebound and immediately heaved the ball down court. Swingman Wesley Johnson, who was one of five players around the paint at the time of the free throw attempt, managed to get all the way down court in time for the pass. In one fluid motion, he rose up from right of the arc and drained a 24-footer in the face of Tiago Splitter as time expired.

Aftermath: Although the Suns’ bench celebrated the buzzer-beater as if it won the team an NBA championship, they would need overtime to get past the vaunted Spurs. And as it turns out, the extra session didn’t turn out to be all that difficult. San Antonio went on to miss all eight shot attempts in overtime, and Phoenix pulled off the unlikely win by a final of 105-101.

O’Neal finished with an impressive double-double (22 points and 13 rebounds) off the pine, and Dragic also pitched in with 13 points and 13 assists.

The regular season win marked the Suns’ first at the AT&T Center since Oct. 29, 2008.

Tags: Jermaine O'Neal · Marcus Morris · Phoenix Suns · San Antonio Spurs · Wesley Johnson → 1 Comment

Phoenix Suns 94, New Orleans Pelicans 88 – Avoiding the trap

Posted by on April 9th, 8:42 pm

It was not pretty. It was not very entertaining. But the Suns’ 94-88 win over the New Orleans Pelicans was still a win. And that is all that matters at this point in the season.

We’ll start with the bad. The Suns gave up 44 points in the paint to a Pelicans team that was missing Anthony Davis. Davis sat out the game with back spasms, but that didn’t stop New Orleans from dominating around the rim. Rookie Jeff Withey led the Pelicans with 17 points, nearly all of which came on uncontested dunks and layups. The Suns’ defense was so lacking that in the second quarter, New Orleans shot 78% from the floor. Miles Plumlee was totally absent as a rim protector, recording no blocks and grabbing only six rebounds. New Orleans was missing all but one of their opening day starters, yet Phoenix’s porous defense allowed the Pelicans’ reserves to score 53 of the team’s 88 points and made guys like Anthony Morrow and Luke Babbitt look like All Stars. Tonight’s game was just another example of the Suns playing down to the level of their competition. Luckily the Suns have three tough opponents coming up, so Coach Hornacek won’t need to worry about his team’s nasty habit for another week.

Offensively, Phoenix played well aside from some poor shot selection by the Morris twins and continued hesitancy from Channing Frye. Goran Dragic captained the ship well throughout the game, keeping the team afloat with 20 points and nine assists and steadying the ship every time the home team threatened to put the Suns in a hole. P.J. Tucker was a rock, as usual, scoring 15 points on just nine shots and grabbing a team-high nine boards. Overall, the Suns shots nearly 49% from the floor, hit nine of their 19 attempts from downtown, and turned the ball over just 12 times. But it was not an offensive performance they’ll be rushing to watch on film anytime soon.

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NBA Standings: A look at the Suns’ playoff chase

Posted by on April 9th, 2:00 pm

PHOENIX — It’s pretty simple for the Phoenix Suns.

Win, and go to the playoffs.

Somehow, that’s made Jeff Hornacek’s team find itself playing the best basketball of the year.

During Phoenix’s 122-115 win against Oklahoma City on Sunday, Goran Dragic got his during a 19-point second quarter. Eric Bledsoe added 30 points total and forced a key turnover on Kevin Durant to help P.J. Tucker’s career scoring night end with a typical Tucker hustle play. Markieff Morris hit a key shot late that helped put the Suns over the top, and finally, Gerald Green launched shots aggressively but in the flow of the offense. Phoenix didn’t get flustered once the Thunder cut away at a 14-point deficit and took a fourth-quarter lead.

The Suns continued to attack with ease. It was unforced.

“I don’t think there were any lulls,” Hornacek said. “Ten-point leads, 12-point leads, that’s nothing (for the Thunder to overcome). We weathered that storm in the third quarter when they made the comeback and made the key plays.”

Phoenix controls its own destiny and seems to have realized it just in time.

Here’s how the Suns get into the playoffs, assuming they don’t sweep the five remaining games.

Where they stand as of Wednesday morning

The eighth-place Suns are a game back of the seventh-place Dallas Mavericks and a game ahead of the ninth-place Memphis Grizzlies. Phoenix has five games remaining, including tonight’s battle against the New Orleans Pelicans, while Dallas has three games left and Memphis has five.

Dallas’ three games left not only includes outings against the Suns and Grizzlies, but a showdown against San Antonio. Memphis, meanwhile, plays against Miami and then has two games against Philly and the Lakers before playing Phoenix and Dallas to close out the year.

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Tags: Dallas Mavericks · Memphis Grizzlies · Phoenix Suns → 17 Comments