Caught in the Nets: Suns Lose in Brooklyn 94-91

Dec 1, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) moves against Phoenix Suns forward Mirza Teletovic (35) during the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 1, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) moves against Phoenix Suns forward Mirza Teletovic (35) during the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /

Brandon Knight spent the entire evening in fifth gear, scoring 26 points and collecting seven rebounds. His effort was not enough for the Suns, who sit at 8-10 after a 94-91 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

If one was to define this game in a short phrase, “closer than it should have been” would be a good way to go. The Nets are 5-13 after this game, are 29th in the league in scoring, and at face value are a demonstrably worse team than the Suns. That did not stop Phoenix from keeping it interesting. The Suns allowed Brooklyn to shoot 56 percent in the first half, and 69 percent if Thaddeus Young’s 2-12 first half is removed.

The Suns held onto a narrow lead for much of the first quarter until a late Brooklyn run made it 25-20 in Brooklyn’s favor at the end of one. The Suns struggled to defend the paint and crash the boards, and Brooklyn had a nine-point lead going into the half.

The Suns turned it around with a 13-0 run to open the third quarter. Brooklyn battled back with a 10 point run of their own.

This back and forth continued until the end of the game, when the Suns trailed by three points with four seconds left. A potential game-tying shot was not given the chance to even take place, and the Suns will leave New York with another L in the column

One Power Forward Showed Up. One Did Not.

Mirza Teletovic spent his first three years in the NBA with the Nets. After Brooklyn made him an unrestricted free agent this summer, he joined Phoenix. This was his first game back in his original NBA home.

Sadly for the Suns, Teletovic’s revenge game did not include a 60 point outburst. He had 12 points, shooting all nine of his shots from long-range, and five rebounds. He struggled to defend Brook Lopez in the paint, turning the NBA”s new them of small ball against the Suns.

While Teletovic did not have a phenomenal game, he was better than the Suns’ starter. Markieff Morris could not continue his decent game streak. He had six points on 3-11 shooting and only one rebound.

The Suns have been wildly inconsistent this season, and Morris’ struggles are a big reason. He is the third best offensive player in the lineup and has not been able to reliably hit shots. Needles to say, Suns fans are not taking it well.

Morris still takes a significant about of unlikable isolation shots, but at the very least, he used to make them. Teletovic was good this game, but he cannot carry the Suns. They need Morris to find their stride to avoid more losses like this.

Len Starts

With Tyson Chandler sidelined due to a hamstring strain, Alex Len was slotted into the starting lineup for the third time this season. He performed well, notching his first double-double since March 2015. He added 13 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks.

However there were weaknesses. Len struggled to defend Brook Lopez, who put up 22 points and gave Len some trouble in the low post.While he has developed as a defender, he is no Chandler, and putting him against Lopez was one reason the Suns struggled to defend the interior. The Nets notched 50 points in the paint in this contest.

Len also missed a late game layup that might have allowed the Suns to get the game back.

This game from Len served to show both how far he’s come but also how far he can still go. He gave a valuable effort, and deserves credit in spite of an unsettling loss by the Suns.

Late Game Pains

Statistically, the Suns are one of the worst teams in the NBA in clutch situations. The difficulty the team has with closing out games was shown here. The Suns offense was weak in the final quarter and did not come up with enough big plays.

The final play call did not go as planned. Mirza Teletovic took the inbound, waited for a second or two, and gave it up to Brandon Knight who immediately lost the ball to Jarrett Jack. Ignoring the idea that the Suns should not have allowed Brooklyn to be that close, late game execution has been a problem.

The Suns are a young team, so late game execution is a learning process. They also do not have a go-to superstar, which makes it even harder. However, if the Suns want to be recognized as a playoff threat, closing out games is critical.

This loss was not the way the Suns wanted to start their east road trip. They will be visiting Detroit, Washington, Memphis, and Chicago over the next week. The Suns are obviously hoping those games turn out better.