Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on November 21st, 8:00 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 in the team’s history. After playing two games against the Sacramento Kings this week we decided to throw it back to Tony Delk’s 53 point game in 2001 as the inaugural Throwback Thursday.
Date: January 2nd, 2001
Place: ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California
Set-up: The Phoenix Suns went into the new calendar year with an 18-10 record and traveled up to northern California to face a 20-8 Kings team. This was the second game of the year between the two Pacific Division rivals with the first one being a Kings 105-98 win at home in the beginning of December. Going into the contest, Suns guard Tony Delk, a former King, was averaging 12 points per game and was making just his 9th start. In the eight games prior that he started, Delk was averaging a little over 14 points per game, but no one could have predicted what happened on this night.
Game: Both teams played a pretty even first quarter with the Kings holding a three point edge, 29-26 after one. Delk led all scorers with ten points, a good quarter, but nothing that shouts 50 plus. Delk started out on the bench to begin the second quarter and the Kings promptly go on a 14-2 run to break the game open. The teams play evenly the rest of the half once Delk reenters the game, but the damage is done and the Suns trail by 15 at the half, 66-51. Delk scores 12 in the quarter to up his game total to 22 points, already near his career high of 26. The third quarter is when Delk begins to go crazy, scoring 14 points with 12 of them coming in the final 6:30 to single-handedly bring the Suns to within one point after three. Delk then scores 12 of the Suns first 14 points in the fourth quarter to give the team a two point lead with 3:58 to play. Going back to the third quarter Delk has scored 24 (11-12) of the Suns last 34 points to bring his total to 48. Point number 50 comes on a free throw with 2:15 left to give the Suns a 103-98 lead. Unfortunately, the Kings close the game on an 8-3 run to send the game into overtime where they pull out a 121-117 victory. Delk finished the game with 53 points on 20-27 shooting with 13 free throws.
Aftermath: The 53 point game remains one of the most unlikeliest 50 plus game in NBA history according to this writer’s opinion. Delk only started two more games the rest of the season and scored over 20 points just five times after. He finished the year averaging 12.3 points per game, which was a career high. The Suns finished the year with a 51-31 record and placed 6th in the Western Conference, which set up a rematch against the Kings in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. After an 86-83 upset in Game 1, the Kings won the next three games to advance to the next round. Delk was traded in the middle of the next season along with Rodney Rodgers to the Boston Celtics for a rookie named Joe Johnson, along with guards Milt Palacio and Randy Brown. Phoenix also got a first-round pick that would become Casey Jacobsen.
Where is he now?: Delk was an assistant coach for New Mexico State, but left over the summer to be closer to his family.
Video: NBA.com has the footage of Delk’s career night.
Tags: Phoenix Suns
Posted by Dave Dulberg on November 20th, 11:16 pm
PHOENIX — Maybe it’s how it happened — three hard-fought losses followed by a clunker — or the fact that it took 11 games to transpire, but the Phoenix Suns surprisingly find themselves in unfamiliar territory for the first time in 2013-14.
After Wednesday night’s 113-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix is currently mired in its first four-game losing streak of the season.
For a team that most believed was destined for doom and gloom from the outset, four-game losing streaks would seem like the norm and not all that shocking. But for a Jeff Hornacek-led squad that has played its tail off in just about every one of its 11 contests, a bout of adversity is very much a new wrinkle in a season that’s been full of more highs than lows.
Last season, Phoenix dropped at least four games in a row on six separate occasions, including three streaks that lasted six, seven and 10 games respectively. As one of only four players on the Suns’ current active roster who endured such agony in 2012-13, P.J. Tucker emphasized the need for this year’s squad to remain focused on the bigger picture, rather than letting an early slump derail the season before it really even starts.
“You have to keep guys’ heads focused,” Tucker said. “Guys know it’s the NBA, man. We have so much more to play, so much more going. It’s about keeping our heads up. We still have a lot of season ahead of us. We’re going to keep playing.
“We’re young and ready to play. We’re heading out on a road trip and hope to get a couple games out of it.”
The recent four-game losing streak can be linked to a number of deficiencies: a failure to close late, stagnant half court offense, inconsistent lineups due to Eric Bledsoe’s absence, lapses during key portions of the second half, lack of size and strength on the glass and on and on the list goes.
But don’t blame Phoenix’s woes on chemistry, at least not within earshot of Goran Dragic. The Suns guard, who scored a season-high 31 points in Wednesday’s loss, thinks it has less to do with eight new faces on the roster and more to do with playing sound, fundamental basketball.
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Tags: Gerald Green · Goran Dragic · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Sacramento Kings
Posted by Dave Dulberg on November 20th, 10:26 pm
PHOENIX — It had been awhile, almost a lifetime ago. Well not quite that long, more like 217 days ago to be exact.
But for the first time since a season-ending 118-98 drubbing at the hands of the Denver Nuggets back on April 17, the Phoenix Suns played more or less three-and-a-half quarters of flat, uninspired basketball. Outside of impressive first halves from Goran Dragic (scored team’s first 11 points) and Gerald Green (20 points on 5-of-6 from three-point range) and a late 13-2 run, there was little to like about the effort Jeff Hornacek’s squad put forth on the U.S. Airways Center court Wednesday night.
There was no life on the fast break, no execution in the half court, no response to adversity, and consequently no fourth quarter lead or any semblance of a close contest down the stretch.
Behind 17 turnovers forced and 18 second-chance points, the Sacramento Kings swept their home-and-home series with the Suns, taking the back end by a final of 113-106.
Four Kings scored in double figures, as Mike Malone’s squad recorded its first three-game win streak of the season and fourth straight win overall against Phoenix.
“Tonight was the first night that we probably didn’t have the effort,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “I don’t know, they outhustled us on most things, especially early on in the game with the rebounding. I told the guys after the game that the two games we played those guys, of the 50-50 balls I don’t think we got to a single one.
“We were a step slow for balls, not tough enough. We let them do what they wanted.”
How’d the game answer the pregame questions?
How strong is Phoenix’s short-term memory?
On this night, it wasn’t necessarily about memory as much as it was about energy. Without Eric Bledsoe (left shin contusion) in the lineup, the Suns were in dire need of a third scorer to carry the load alongside Dragic, who poured in a season-high 31 points, and Green — a search that proved futile.
Marcus Morris added 13 off the bench, but complimentary pieces like Markieff Morris, Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker scored a combined 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
That lack of offensive production combined with a .70 assist/turnover ratio and a lack of desire on the boards turned a very winnable contest into a game of catch up.
While the last three losses by a combined six points hurt, this one might linger a little longer. Phoenix simply was outclassed and outworked on its own floor, and it didn’t have anything to do with a lack of talent, depth or a youthful roster.
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Tags: Goran Dragic · Jeff Hornacek · Phoenix Suns Recap · Sacramento Kings
Posted by Dave Dulberg on November 20th, 6:26 pm
PHOENIX — Playing hard hasn’t been the problem. Neither has a lack of depth or talent. Sure, there have been deficiencies on both sides of the floor, but overall, the Phoenix Suns have had no problem playing their way through the first 47 minutes of a contest.
In fact, the Suns’ five losses so far this season — which have come by a combined 16 points — can largely be attributed to the final minute of play.
As mentioned in the game preview, during its current three-game losing streak, Phoenix has failed to convert on all nine offensive possessions inside of 24 seconds left to go in the fourth quarter/overtime. Six different players have had their hands on the ball, and yet none have managed to put the ball in the basket.
In similar heartbreaking losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, it was the same story. Outside of Gerald Green’s three-point shot in Oklahoma City, the team failed to convert on six of its seven possessions inside of a minute in those respective contests.
Ten games provides for an awfully small sample size, but even Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek noted before Wednesday’s game that the team is searching for some type of closer who can finish with the game on the line.
“We’re trying to find that guy,” Hornacek said. “Obviously, Eric Bledsoe did early [against Utah]. We had a shot in Portland that was right there, and we ended up missing it. Without him in the lineup, Goran [Dragic] has taken a couple. We’ll just keep spreading it around. I think it’ll be a learning process for us to try and figure out which guy at the end of a game can help us be a closer, finish games off for us. Someone we can depend on. We’re searching for that. But at this point, where we don’t have a guy like that.”
The Suns may not have that guy 10 games in, but all signs point to Bledsoe, who will miss his second consecutive game Wednesday with a left shin contusion, taking over that role eventually.
“He’s not afraid,” said Hornacek. “The Utah game, he made the shot. I think he said it was the first game-winning shot he’s ever made. Hopefully that’s a guy we can look to to maybe do that. I think he has the ability to get by guys and create something. We’ll probably see it happen several times where he makes the right shot and finishes one, then maybe one where he makes the right play and misses it.
“Hopefully, we can get to the point where he can get in there and dish it out to someone for a wide open shot because they’re going to collapse on him.”
Until that point comes, though, Hornacek said his team would be best served preventing those situations from happening in the first place. While on the paper it would appear the Suns stayed in some games they probably didn’t have any business being in in the first place, several of their tight finishes have occurred because of notable lapses long before the waning seconds – be it Portland’s 9-0 run on Nov. 13 or Brooklyn’s 30-4 run on Nov. 15.
“We probably need to buckle down at different points the game,” said Hornacek. “I think it was the fourth [quarter] Tuesday night, where we let them come out with three three-point shots right off the bat. Situations like that, you can’t allow to happen.”
While Phoenix’s 5-2 start masked the youth that was more than apparent on the roster coming into the season, recent late-game woes and an inability to limit runs before they become game changers is unquestionably a byproduct of having personnel that features seven players under the age of 26.
Call it growing pains or simply the tough lessons learned during an 82-game season, but Hornacek believes in the long run these type of gut-wrenching losses will benefit his team, primarily the younger players as it pertains to the speed of the game.
“On the play last night, Marcus takes the three, and he really didn’t have the shot,” said Hornacek. “We had five seconds to go, and he could have taken a dribble to the left. There was a big opening right there. If he would have driven the ball, [DeMarcus] Cousins would have had to help a little bit and maybe Miles [Plumlee] gets behind someone for a dunk. Or if he cracks down on him, we pass out. Gerald was open on the weak side.
“Guys are going to have to through these. It’s tough for all of us to lose those games, but at some point though – after doing it two, three, four times — they’ll start to get the feel. We always talk about the game slowing down for the young guys as they get up in age and have a couple years of experience in the league. The same thing happens with last-second shots.”
Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Jeff Hornacek · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Dave Dulberg on November 20th, 12:00 pm
Time: 7 p.m. MST
So much for the fast start.
After racing out to an impressive 5-2 record, the Phoenix Suns have fallen back to earth a little bit, following three straight losses by a combined six points.
The latest defeat, a 107-104 heart breaker on the road against the Sacramento Kings, came despite the fact that Phoenix held a lead for the first 11 minutes and 30 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Luckily for Jeff Hornacek and Co, they’ll have another crack at the Kings, as the two teams face off Wednesday at U.S. Airways Center in the back end of their home-and-home series.
For the Suns, they’ll look to avoid going below .500 for the first time this season. And for the Kings, they’ll look to win back-to-back games for the first time all season.
How strong is Phoenix’s short-term memory?
While the NBA season is more of a marathon than a sprint, losing hurts regardless of whether its the ninth game or 79th game of the season. Losing three straight in the final moments? Well, that’s even harder to swallow.
With that said, the Suns have an opportunity to erase all of their recent heartache, and thanks to the thoughtful schedule makers, it comes against the team’s most recent pain inflicter.
But for the Suns to prove that their short-term memory is an asset not a deficit, they must overcome one of their biggest weaknesses so far in 2013: winning the fourth quarter.
Outside of a 100-98 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix has been outscored in the fourth quarter in every game its lost. Tuesday night was no exception, as the Kings closed out their third victory of the year with a 10-0 run.
Winning in the fourth quarter is of course about making shots (more on that below), but it’s also about taking care of the ball as the pressure mounts. In their three-point loss Tuesday night, the Suns, without guard Eric Bledsoe (bruised shin), turned it over six times in the fourth quarter. It’s hard to be successful giving up that many possessions in the final 12 minutes of game.
Who will close?
Part of finding ways to win late in games is having a closer. Ten games in, it’s not so clear the Suns have filled that role just yet.
Here’s an offensive breakdown of the final 24 seconds in the fourth quarter/overtime during their three-game losing streak: Eric Bledsoe missed layup, P.J. Tucker missed put back, Markieff Morris missed put back, Goran Dragic missed two-point shot, Channing Frye missed three-pointer, Goran Dragic turnover, Goran Dragic missed jumper, Marcus Morris missed three-pointer and Gerald Green missed three-pointer.
That comes out to nine different scoring chances with six different players failing to convert.
On some teams, the closer is simply the guy with the hot hand. On other teams, it’s a designated player who commands the ball regardless of his prior production.
For the Suns, well, it’s still very much a work in progress. That’s not to say the team hasn’t hit big shots in late-game situations — look no further than Bledsoe’s game-winner for proof of that. However, a common theme in the team’s recent string of close losses has been the inability to record a key bucket in the waning moments.
Maybe that all changes Wednesday night, especially if Bledsoe is able to return to the lineup.
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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Sacramento Kings
Posted by Ryan Weisert on November 19th, 11:41 pm
The Suns are the only team in the NBA to hold a lead in the fourth quarter of every game they’ve played this year. But Phoenix, playing without their closer Eric Bledsoe, failed to hold the lead once again, succumbing to the Sacramento Kings 107-104 in a very frenetic game. Bledsoe, who is suffering from a bruised shin, was a late scratch from the lineup. In his absence, the Suns got valiant performances from fill-in starter Gerald Green, as well Marcus Morris and Archie Goodwin off the bench. Green had a season-high 23 points and went 4-of-8 from downtown. Marcus’ jump shot was clicking as he dropped in 19 points. And Goodwin had a breakout performance which will surely garner him more playing time. He had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and was a force in transition.
But for the all the contributions the Suns got from unlikely sources, they had no answer on defense for DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie looked nearly unstoppable in this game, ending the night with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Both Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye were abused all night long by the Kings’ franchise big man. Had he not knicked up his shoulder in the second quarter, Cousins might have had 40 in this one. He was a bit slower in the second half.
The Kings were also led by backup point guard Isaiah Thomas, who leads the NBA in bench scoring. Thomas was a force on both ends, scoring 19 points thanks primarily to his blazing speed and forcing several turnovers on defense.
This was a game of runs, like every other Suns game this year. After a 9-2 run, the Suns led 104-97 with three minutes to play. They didn’t score another point. Isaiah Thomas hounded Dragic defensively and forced him into turnovers on two different possessions with less than a minute to go. Jeff Hornacek brought in Ish Smith to help alleviate the Thomas pressure, but Isaiah picked his pocket for another Suns turnover. Even with all their miscues, the Suns still had a shot to win the game at the buzzer, but Marcus Morris’ corner three came up short.
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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap · Sacramento Kings