Preview: Los Angeles Clippers (53-22) vs. Phoenix Suns (44-30)

Posted by on April 2nd, 8:00 am

Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

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Clippers

A review of the Sunday night loss to the Los Angeles Lakers saw the Suns look almost perturbed in running back to match up against a fast-paced team, and even in the halfcourt, Phoenix seemed bothered if they needed to help their teammates from the weakside and annoyed when the Lakers scored when that didn’t happen.

It probably had Jeff Hornacek scratching his head, too.

This was an opportunity, maybe the Suns’ last one of the year. And they blew it, not because they didn’t match up well with Chris Kaman, the center who thrived despite recently clashing with his coach. It was all because the Suns didn’t appear to care about trying to stop him.

The effort excuse is used a lot in basketball, but usually it’s about an effort in focusing for every play, or the effort in trying to fix problems. But the Suns’ problems in a 115-99 loss that broke a six-game winning streak was about not running back hard enough and not racing to teammates’ aide when matchups were mixed up the a hectic race to the other end of the court.

If the Suns do the same Wednesday night at home against the Los Angeles Clippers, the result will be much, much worse for a team locked in the standings with the Memphis Grizzlies and a half-game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks, who fell in overtime to the Warriors on Tuesday.

Luckily for Phoenix, Los Angeles will probably not be at full strength.

Forward Blake Griffin, who scored 37 points against the Suns on March 10, a 112-105 Clippers win, is doubtful with a back injury, reports the Los Angeles Times. Bench spark plug Jamal Crawford is dealing with an Achilles injury.

Los Angeles’ last outing, a 114-104 win Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, was the third win in a row for the Clippers. Chris Paul, Darren Collison and DeAndre Jordan have still been plugging along, and though the bench is short, Doc Rivers’ crew won’t be an easy victory for Phoenix.

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Watch: Slovenian comedian makes a Goran Dragic music video

Posted by on April 1st, 12:07 pm

Greg Esposito of Suns.com uncovered this gem of a music video and its meaning:

According to Dragic, the video is from a Slovenian comedian and impersonator named Klemen Slakonja … The guard said a lot of it, including the scenes with the stone dragons, are filmed in his hometown. And, while we couldn’t get him to sing it, the Dragon told us the lyrics are satirically praising his evolution as a basketball player.”

The Dragon’s fame in Ljubljana and across Slovenia is great, but so great he gets to hoop with the FIBA mascot on the daily? That he wears his jersey and shooter sleeve into clubs? And where did Slakonja get the Bledsoe, Dragic and Hornacek bobbleshead and their questionable-resemblance?

I honestly have no idea what is going on throughout this music video, but Slovenia seems pretty swell.

Tags: Goran Dragic → 9 Comments

Los Angeles Lakers 115, Phoenix Suns 99 — Asleep at the wheel

Posted by on March 30th, 9:17 pm

The Suns mixed up their defensive assignments in transition defense and lost the Lakers on backdoor cuts. Chris Kaman scored 28 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and added six assists. Mike D’Antoni’s usual perimeter-oriented Los Angeles team shot 53 percent for the game but did it mostly in the paint on Sunday night in the Staples Center.

And with that, Phoenix fell 115-99 to Los Angeles, falling asleep at the wheel with its fellow conference playoff hopefuls slipping on Sunday.

The paradoxical bit of news for the Suns came out of Oakland and Portland.

Despite the loss, seventh-place Phoenix hung steady in the Western Conference race as the sixth-place Golden State Warriors fell 89-84 to the woeful Knicks team that Phoenix dropped in its last outing. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers earned themselves a victory over the eight-place Memphis Grizzlies, who fell out of the playoff picture.

The Suns are 1.5 games behind Golden State for sixth place, tied with the idle Dallas Mavericks and a half-game ahead of the now ninth-place Grizzlies.

The Suns’ 26-15 deficit after one quarter came behind a 25 percent shooting effort, but all seemed well when it took less than 4:30 from the start of the second quarter for Phoenix to tie the game at 31.

Gerald Green led Phoenix with 22 points and lit up the Lakers in the first half, but that was about the only bit of good news for Jeff Hornacek’s team on Sunday.

From that point forward, the Suns’ starters floundered like they had in the opening minutes. Los Angeles picked Phoenix’s defense to shreds with a 26-8 run to lead 61-43 at the half.

It got worse in the third quarter.

Phoenix found itself behind by 26 points, and even though that was cut to a 15-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter, botched defensive possessions and missed shots didn’t cut into Los Angeles at a fast enough rate to climb all the way back.

Offensively, Phoenix found it easy to take mildly-contested shots early in the shot clock but difficult to get easy paint points or jumpers in rhythm. Caught up in the Lakers’ ways, the Suns launched 36 threes, hit just eight, and made 39 percent of their total attempts.

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Preview: Phoenix Suns (44-29) at Los Angeles Lakers (24-48)

Posted by on March 30th, 9:44 am

Time: 6:30 pm MST

TV: FSAZ

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Suns

The Phoenix Suns head to the Staples Center tonight, enjoying the final bit of calm before the storm that is their April close to the season. The Suns have one more winnable game, and then eight games of storm that will decide their playoff fate. As of this morning, Phoenix sits in seventh place in the West. They hold a half game lead on the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, and trail the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors by 2.5 and 1.5 games respectively. It’s still more than feasible for the Suns to climb as high as fifth. It’s even more feasible that the Suns could miss the playoffs all together. To put a little more distance between themselves and ninth place, Phoenix has to take care of business against a Lakers team that is a shadow of its former self, but still dangerous if underestimated.

51 points in a quarter is awe inspiring. It doesn’t matter who was on the court for the Lakers during their third quarter drubbing of the Knicks last week. All that matters is their ability to put up a historic number of points in just 12 minutes. Though the Knicks have some definite defensive short comings, offensive fire power like that speaks for itself. The Lakers will not be a team the Suns can put away early and coast to the finish line against. LA, for all its flaws, injuries, and drama, can still score the basketball and surprise some of the best teams in the NBA. Just look at their win over the Thunder earlier this month. If Phoenix wants to win its eighth game in a row, they will have to fight their old Pacific division foes for all 48 minutes. For more on this game, let’s ask three preview questions.

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Health and playing time has given Amare Stoudemire a recent resurgence

Posted by on March 29th, 8:00 am

PHOENIX — New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire returned home to US Airways Center on Friday night to play in front of his old fans for just the second time since he bolted Phoenix for the Big Apple after the 2010 NBA playoffs. Stoudemire’s only other appearance in Arizona came on January 7, 2011, when he scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help the Knicks defeat the Suns, 112-96.

On Friday night, the result wasn’t the same, but the numbers for STAT were close to similar. Stoudemire posted his 12th straight double-digit scoring game with 19 points and six rebounds in the Suns’ 112-88 win. The former MVP candidate showed flashes of his past athleticism with some strong moves to the basket, but his strong effort was hidden in his team’s sloppy play.

“We cannot make any excuses,” Stoudemire said. “We knew what they were going to do coming into tonight’s game.

“We talked about the pace, we talked about the matchups, we talked about the three-point shooters. We discussed all of this before the game, so it should not have caught us by surprise.”

What has been a surprise to some is Stoudemire’s return to relevance.

Stoudemire has turned into a high quality player for the Knicks in the month of March. It’s surprisingly because his overall numbers — 11.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game — don’t paint the picture of how well he has played these last 12 games. Since March 2, Stoudemire is averaging 16.8 points and more than six rebounds per game, including four games of scoring 20 points or more.

New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson points to Stoudemire’s return to the starting lineup as a key attribute to the sudden flip in the forward’s play.

“That has something to do with it,” Woodson said. “The fact is he can play more minutes. When a player’s minutes go up, a player’s productivity goes up, and it has been that way with Amare.”

Stoudemire had surgery on his knee over the summer and came into the season with his minutes being tightly restricted. He only topped 20 plus minutes three times in the Knicks’ first 18 games. The minutes restriction was something that Woodson has never dealt with before.

“I had no idea to be honest,” Woodson said of his expectations for Stoudemire before the season. “When Amare tells you that he can only play 10 minutes a game, that is tough.

“Those minutes have grown and we have benefitted from it. I always keep my fingers crossed with Amare.”

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Phoenix Suns 112, New York Knicks 88 — Burning hot

Posted by on March 28th, 9:38 pm

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns (44-29) shot, ran and dunked their way to a 112-88 victory on Friday night over the defensively uninterested New York Knicks (30-43). The win gave the Suns their sixth in a row, the second longest winning streak in the NBA, only behind the 16 straight by the San Antonio Spurs.

Suns coach Jeff Hornacek called the game their, “best overall win of the year.”

It truly was a dominant game from start to finish for the Suns. The Suns won every statistical category including a whopping 19 rebound edge on the Knicks led my Miles Plumlee’s 12 boards.

For the highlight of the game? Well, you can take your pick with that.

Any one of the multiple Plumlee dunks would be up for nomination — my vote would be his halfcourt reverse ally-opp from Eric Bledsoe, narrowly beating out his put-back one-handed slam with his off hand. Bledsoe’s clean block on the 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler is not a bad option either. Or how about the lucky fan that hit hit a half court shot, winning $77,777? It was just that kind of night for the Suns.

Guard Goran Dragic got the Suns going early by scoring 18 first quarter points, hitting all three of his three point attempts. He finished the game with 32 points, and five stitches. He received the stitches above his eye after being on the wrong end of an accidental Chandler elbow late in the second quarter.

“We tell the guys that if you play hard, which Goran does, that your going to get hurt a few times,” Hornacek said. “And that is alright, there is nothing wrong with getting a couple knocks on your head.

“That is Goran, he ran off the court because I knew he wanted to get back into the game. He played a great game and got us off to a great start.”

Dragic hit seven of his first eight shots and credited a lazy Knicks defense for the hot start.

“They were not contested shots, so I just spot up and just shoot it. I think that every time they are going to do that then I am going to have a good game,” Dragic said.

The Suns broke the game open in the second quarter thanks to an 18-3 run to close out the first half, out-running and out-hustling a Knicks team that showed disinterest for most of the first half. A quick start to the second half gave the Suns a 32-point lead, their largest of the game.

Forward PJ Tucker was pleased with the complete performance tonight.

“I told the guys, let us put a game together,” Tucker said. “I feel like this is the first game that we played from start to finish a complete game.”

The Knicks started showing some interest late in the third and cut the lead down to 17 early in the fourth quarter before a Bledsoe three and a Dragic and-one layup quickly boosted the Suns lead and catapulted them to a 12-0 run.

 

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Tags: Amare Stoudemire · Goran Dragic · New York Knicks · Phoenix Suns Recap → 16 Comments