20121231_jla_ax1_660

Recap:

The Suns started strong against the Thunder with Oklahoma City yielding perimeter shots and the Suns canning them. The lethargy that has been apparent at the beginning of many games this season was delightfully absent with the Suns giving the Thunder fits on the defensive end early. P.J. Tucker, in particular, played aggravating defense and held Kevin Durant to 2-8 shooting. Despite the promising start, and Tucker's outstanding D, the Thunder picked up steam as the period progressed and ended up shooting 54.2% in the quarter. The Suns countered with their own blistering shooting, 57.9%, but trailed 32-28 at the end of one.

The Suns continued to hang with Oklahoma City in the second quarter as Morris, O'Neal and Telfair all made their presence felt. In fact, every Sun that played contributed with the exception of Shannon Brown. In a testament to that, the Suns ended the half with eight players scoring between four and nine points. The Suns held the Thunder to 36.8% shooting in the quarter. Durant led all scorers with 12 points, but Tucker vexed him into 4-11 shooting. Russell Westbrook left the game at the 1:13 mark, most likely to get stitches, after an inadvertent elbow from Luis Scola. An overall solid half of basketball by the Suns resulted in them trailing by just one point, 54-53.

The Thunder started the third quarter on a 12-0 run, as Phoenix appeared listless and languid to start the period. They recovered from their brief slumber to keep the game within single digits for most of the quarter. Luis Scola, on the tails of his 33 point effort, was the Suns focal point on offense with 14 points in the third. Russell Westbrook, all stitched up, countered with 12 for the Thunder. The Suns trailed 84-78 at the end of three.

The Suns couldn't quite seem to gain traction at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It wasn't so much that they played particularly poorly, but they were unable to close the gap. Then they did play poorly and the Thunder put them out of their misery. A close game through three quarters turned into a laugher that was finished off by the end of the Thunder's bench. The 30-18 fourth quarter was the fifth time in six games where the Suns have been outclassed in the final period.

Thunder win 114-96.

----------

Player of the Game:

Russell Westbrook. He recovered from a blow that required stitches to carry the Thunder during a decisive stretch of the game. He finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and nine assists and dominated the point guard matchup.

----------

Comments of the Game:

Goran's really going at Westbrook.

I love it.

Yep, it's a matchup of who flails their arms to get calls.

Goran is winning.

----------

Jermaine has played much better than I thought he would.

He was positively corpsified all those years ago.

----------

Hey! If we keep it this close...

Maybe we can see a new way to throw away the game at the end.

----------

We're at the point with this site where we need a serious font.

----------

3rd quarter just on par for the Suns.

Gentry's halftime talks must be depressing.

----------

Oh right, now I remember.

The Thunder let you hang around for a while, then bury you in an avalanche of scoring at some point in the game.

----------

If you were to graph his (Brown's) season performance,

You'd get a sine wave.

----------

Dragic looked very confident and aggressive initially, but has since disappeared in an all too familiar way.

I still question his mental make-up.

----------

The Good:

The Suns were more spirited out of the gate than in many of their recent games. The defense was again lacking, but a more ebullient effort was readily apparent.

Tucker's individual defense on Durant was outstanding. He made him work for everything and Durant was visibly irritated by the constant pressure. Durant finished with 30 on 11-24 shooting, but Tucker made him earn them. Maybe Tucker will adopt the Grant Hill/Shawn Marion role of guarding the opposing team's most dangerous threat.

Scola continued his torrid scoring with 24 points on 10-17 shooting.

----------

The Bad:

The Suns forgot to come out ready to play after the intermission. A whole half of inspired basketball was undone in a few minutes. The Suns got back in the game, but these types of lapses happen all too frequently.

After a good start to the game, Dragic got owned by Westbrook for most of the night. Dragic had a couple meaningless buckets after the Thunder emptied the bench, but he was basically a non-factor after the first quarter.

Shannon Brown was a ghost. What the hell happened to him? He didn't even pull the cannon act... His net contribution to the game was the same as mine.

----------

The Ugly:

Fourth quarter meltdowns are the Suns specialty. This time they collapsed a little bit earlier and didn't keep us in suspense until the closing minutes. Maybe we should all start turning the game off at the start of the fourth and just pretend that the Suns won...

----------

Final Thoughts:

The Thunder is a much better team than the Suns. Much better. The Suns fought hard for most of the night, but it comes as no surprise that Oklahoma City triumphed. Have a happy, healthy 2013 Brightsiders!

LIKE Bright Side of the Sun on Facebook!

20121126_kkt_ax3_305

When: Monday, December 31, 2012, 6:00 PM local time (8:00 EST)

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

----------

Last Meeting:

The most recent meeting between the teams was last season on April 18th. The Thunder won that game, and dealt a severe blow to the Suns playoff aspirations, in Phoenix 109-97. Some guy named James Harden scored 40 points on 12-17 shooting, 5-8 from three and 11-11 from the line. I think he plays for Houston now. Jared Dudley led the Suns in scoring with 21 points.

Coincidentally, the Suns played at Oklahoma City last New Year's Eve and lost 107-97. There's nothing like the schedule makers doing us a solid by continuing the tradition of ringing in the New Year by giving us another crack at the Thunder.

Team Bios:

Oklahoma City Thunder: 23-6

Points per game: 105.7 (1st) Points allowed: 96.7 (T-12th)

Oklahoma City does just about everything exceptionally well. They lead the league in scoring. They are second in point differential (+9.0). They are fifth in rebounding differential (+4.0). They are fourth in field goal percentage (47.7%). They are second in three point field goal percentage (40.2%). They shoot 84.6% from the free throw line (first) as a team. They are second in free throws attempted per game (27.6). They are second in opponent field goal percentage (42.6%). They are good.

After starting off 6-3, the Thunder has gone 17-3 over their last 20 games. Their "worst" loss of the season was a 108-100 loss at Boston on November 23rd. That is the only loss to a team with a losing record for the Thunder. Despite this early season success, the Thunder still trails the Los Angeles Clippers by percentage points in the standings. The Thunder's last game was a 124-94 drubbing of the Houston Rockets.

The Thunder is led by all-everything superstar Kevin Durant. Durant is averaging 28.4 points (third in the NBA) and 8.1 rebounds and is currently pacing to join the elite ranks of the 50/40/90 club with averages of 51.6/43.6/90.3. Some guy named Steve Nash pulled off the feat four times (and missed it by shooting .899 from the line another year). Durant also appears to be heating up as over his last five games he has exceeded those gaudy shooting numbers while averaging 34.6 points per game.

Durant is the obvious #1 on the Thunder, but Russell Westbrook is a pretty serviceable #2. Despite fairly miserable shooting numbers, Westbrook still averages 21.4 points (6th in NBA), 8.7 assists (5th in NBA) and 2.14 steals (4th in NBA). No other player in the NBA is top 10 in those three categories.

New addition Kevin Martin is chipping in with 15.9 points per game and blistering 46.7% shooting from three point range. Serge Ibaka contributes 14.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks (2nd in NBA).

Did I mention these guys are good?

----------

Phoenix Suns: 11-20

Points per game: 97.4 (13th) Points allowed: 101.0 (26th)

Injuries: Goran Dragic played Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it was evident that he has not completely recovered from the spill in the game against the New York Knicks. Jermaine O'Neal missed Saturday's game and is day-to-day suffering from back spasms.

While the Thunder is good at just about everything, the Suns are not. The Suns are a middle of the pack team offensively, ranking 13th in scoring, 13th in field goal percentage (44.9%) and 25th in three point field goal percentage (33.7%). The Suns are 16th in ORtg and 15th in eFG% for those of you who prefer those metrics.

What has plagued the Suns, though, and derailed this season is an inadequately insufficient defensive effort. The Suns are 29th in opponent field goal percentage (47%) and 30th in opponent three point field goal percentage (40.4%). They are 27th and 28th in DRtg and opponent eFG%, respectively. The Suns are also 27th in the league in rebounding differential (-3.8). The Suns aren't very good.

While the Suns have a paucity of legitimate strengths, they do take care of the ball and force turnovers. The Suns commit the fourth fewest turnovers (13.4) and force the seventh most (15.4). This differential is the fifth best in the league.

The Suns come in licking their wounds after back-to-back road losses at Indiana and Minnesota, and five consecutive losses overall. Late game execution has plagued the Suns in four of the five losses. When they score they can't defend. When they can defend they can't score. When they need a big play they make a mental mistake. When they need a stop they can't get one. The Suns seem to be able to find interesting new ways to lose every night.

Phoenix enters the game in 14th place in the Western Conference (yes, the Kings are now 13th) touting a streak of eight consecutive losses on the road. The Suns have also been outrebounded in eight consecutive games. A ninth straight road loss would be the Suns longest such streak since 1988. The Suns only victories on the road this season (2-13) are against Charlotte (7-23) and Cleveland (7-25).

Did I mention the Suns aren't very good?

----------

What To Watch For:

Russell Westbrook: Westbrook has struggled (more than usual) to shoot the ball at an efficient rate. Since it is a given that Westbrook will continue to jack up shots regardless of the results, I would like to see Gentry switch up defenders early and often to keep a fresh body on Westbrook and try to get him flustered. Westbrook shooting over 50% from the field probably spells doom for the Suns.

OKC From 3 vs. A Lack Of Suns D: The Thunder is second in the league in three point shooting. The Suns are dead last at defending the shot. This sounds like déjà vu all over again...

Quick Start: The Suns disturbing trend of falling behind, crawling and scraping back and then falling just short is deflating. Why do the Suns come out of the gates so listless? To illustrate the Suns absence of vim to start games, they are yielding 55.6 points in the first half during the current five game losing streak, but only 45.6 points in the second half. If the light switch is off in the first half tonight the Thunder is a team that is probably good enough to annihilate the Suns and eliminate any chance at a Suns comeback.

----------

Notes/Stats:

The Suns didn't have a 30 point scorer through the first 28 games this season. Now they have had two (Dudley with 36 and Scola with 33) in the last three games.

The four turnovers the Suns committed Saturday against Minnesota were tied for the second lowest total in franchise history. The franchise record of three was actually set April 7th of this year in 125-105 victory against the LA Lakers. The Suns tied the previous record of four against Denver on January 17th, 1995.

The Suns have played the 17th most difficult, or 14th easiest, schedule to this point. It's going to get more parlous in the coming days as the combined record of the Suns next 10 opponents is 172-112, including seven teams with winning records, with the Philadelphia 76ers at home looking like the most winnable game.

Oklahoma City has won six straight games against the Suns.

The Suns are 8-7 against teams with losing records and 3-13 against teams with winning records.

The Suns 11-20 start through 31 games is their worst start since the 1996-97 season.

----------

The Final Word(s):

Hopefully this game will serve as a respite from the crepuscular morbidity this season has devolved into. After a 7-8 start, the Suns have proceeded to go 4-12 and essentially annulled any hope of competing for a playoff spot.

It's hard to envision a scenario where the Suns win this game. Phoenix blowing out the Thunder doesn't seem plausible and even if Phoenix can keep it close it seems likely they will invent some befuddling new way to implode in the closing minutes/seconds.

But... watching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should be entertaining and... the Suns have to crack back into the win column at some point so... Go Suns!

LIKE Bright Side of the Sun on Facebook!

On the last day of the year, the Valley of the Suns team takes a look back at five of the top storylines from 2012. Most of the stories hinge on a year involving significant change; 2012 represented...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
20121226_mjr_su5_116

Well, thanks to the holiday and a flip-flop in the schedule here is the inaugural "Center of the Sun" for Bright Side of the Sun. How about that? This is typically going to be a weekly endeavor, but this week it will scope the past two weeks with the games, the highs, the lows, key stats, quotes, player of the week, grades, and a peek into the week ahead.

Let's get this started!

The last two weeks have been a struggle for the Phoenix Suns as they started off with two very impressive wins at home before dropping five straight games. The good news, that is not the worst losing streak this season, but the bad news is the team now has two five game losing streaks on the season already. Something only Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans, Orlando, Sacramento, Toronto, and Washington can claim to their name.

Game Recaps

vs. Sacramento Kings -- W (101-90)

vs. Charlotte Bobcats -- W (121-104)

@ Portland Trail Blazers -- L (96-93)

vs. Los Angeles Clippers -- L (103-77)

vs. New York Knicks -- L (99-97)

@ Indiana Pacers -- L (97-91)

@ Minnesota Timberwolves -- L (111-107)

After that stretch the Suns (11-20) are now separating themselves from the pack, but in the opposite way that they would like as the sixth worst team in the league and the second worst team out West. Tough.

The toughest part of the week was losing four games by a combined 15 points due to late game execution. Outside of the game against the Clippers where the team just ran into a wall in the third quarter the past two weeks was more proof that they can compete with anyone, but can also lose to just about anyone.

Key Stats

In these seven games the Suns were outscored by an average of 98.1 to 100, which is only a margin of -1.9 PPG. That is better than their season average of -3.6 PPG on the season so far. They are fighting it out, but the issue is that they are losing close games despite being in them. No closer established so far.

In games decided by <10 the Suns are: 5-12

In games decided by <5 the Suns are: 4-7 (all of these count in the above column, but this highlights closer losses)

In games decided by 10> the Suns are: 6-8

They have a losing record in close, semi-close, and blowout type games right now. Seventeen of the 31 games have at least been within striking distance whereas 14 have been blowouts one way or the other. Who are the 2012-2013 Phoenix Suns?

The Highs

The season best four game winning streak extended into this week with two of the more impressive wins of the season. After falling behind by double-digits (again) to Sacramento the Suns stormed back and dominated the second half winning their first divisional game in impressive fashion.

Then with a Jared Dudley three late in the first quarter the Suns took a lead and never looked back on the Bobcats scoring the most points all season and enjoying their second best winning margin all season along the way.

Those two wins became a distant memory after dropping five straight since then.

The Lows

To be very specific the low was primarily on, well, Goran Dragic's lower region (backside) as he hit the deck from a questionable foul by J.R. Smith in the loss to the Knicks. There was not a lot of contact on the play, but Smith came from underneath Dragic as he glided to the rim and he took a nasty fall.

Practice Report

Here is what I reported before the team took off on the road, my Practice Report. Other items discussed were:

  • Line-Up Changes -- There will be no more of that as far as the starters are concerned as Alvin Gentry is happy with the way they are starting games, but he is very unhappy with the way they are closing games. Look for different wrinkles before he settles on a closing crew.
  • Dragic Injury -- Well, that was all in the Low's, but that injury caused Dragic to miss practice this week and the game at Indiana. All sore, nothing major.
  • Three-Point Defense -- The team has been about as poor as it comes (30th in the NBA) on pick-and-roll defense leading to bad rotations on three point shooters. As Gentry told me, you have to be a step and half quicker on a guy like Novak verse a guy like Kenneth Faried.
  • Film Study -- In film study the coaches are showing the team their mistakes, which are similar as the ones form previous weeks. Different players, different times, and even different spots on the floor, but overall the same result. Bad rotations. They continue to watch film, but no results to date to show that it is paying off.
  • Road Woes -- Only six teams in the NBA had winning road records last season as Gentry pointed out when asked about the difference in home and away records. He wants the team to find consistency in their game-plan and then, and only then, can they begin to win no matter the environment.

Grades

A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.

  • B+ for Luis Scola -- Granted it has been an up-and-down season for the forward, but this was a return of throw-back Scola as he put up 33 points and 10 rebounds against Minnesota, only his 5th double-double of the season.
  • D- for Markieff Morris -- It was not the sophomore forwards week as he shot 0/7 from three on his way to 5 PPG and 2.8 RPG in seven games. He was very unproductive off of the bench in the wins, even less impressive in the losses.
  • C+ for Sebastian Telfair -- Bassy played well over the past two weeks despite having some situational turnovers that really hurt the team. He stepped in for the injured Dragic to the tune of 19 points and 6 assists while nearly upsetting the Pacers.

Player of the Week:

Jared Dudley - 18.8 PPG 4.8 RPG 4.0 APG 1.1 SPG

Who would have ever thought that all Dudley needed was to have Nash, Stoudemire, and Hill to get out of his way? The past two weeks are a prime example of the value Dudley brings to this team as a shooter, leader, and situational scorer on the perimeter. He had the teams first 30 point game (36 against New York) in 45 games dating back to last season.

Consistent scoring has been an issue for the Suns all season from an individual standpoint and in general as a collective unit.

Dudley put together six games of 18+ points in an eight game stretch. Invaluable as they went 4-4 during that time period. Scoring 36 points was a nice burst despite losing the game, but the fact that Dudley has seemed to take on more of an aggressive role in the offense 34 times over the past two weeks while still getting up 41 threes shows his versatility. Now it is time to show his consistency.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Monday, December 31st @ Oklahoma City Thunder (23-6)

Wednesday, January 2nd vs. Philadelphia 76ers (14-17)

Friday, January 4th vs. Utah Jazz (15-16)

Sunday, January 6th vs. Memphis Grizzlies (19-8)

20121229_jla_ah7_491

Clearly, the Phoenix Suns are struggling to win games. If you are going to lose, why do it with middle-aged players (by NBA standards) whose frustration level will grow by the week?

The Suns have to consider trading their best players for future assets.

We will discuss each Suns player in a different thread - check on a Jared Dudley trade idea on a different thread today!

Trade Proposal

Reggie Miller opined the other night that Marcin Gortat would fit well in Boston because they need starting-caliber size in their front court.

John Gambodoro took that a bit further, and suggested rookie C Fab Melo and old man SG Jason Terry might be the return package the Suns could get in this deal. Knowing that Gambo has the Suns owner's ear gives it a little more weight than most random rumors.

Fab Melo (7'0", 255 lbs, 22 years old) was the 22nd pick in the draft this past spring. He was a late bloomer in college on the Syracuse second unit alongside Dion Waiters. He has no offensive game, but is a good defender and shot-blocker. In the D-League, Melo had 23 blocks in two games and has dominated (which cannot be said of the Suns' lottery pick).

Jason Terry is... Jason Terry. You all know who he is.

Salary Situation

Marcin Gortat is under contract for another year after this one: $7.25 this year, $7.7 next. After that, he will be 31 years old and wanting $10+ million per year. Any team acquiring Gortat has to consider this demand that will be placed on his next contract.

Jason Terry makes $5 million this year, and is owed $10.7 fully guaranteed millions in 2013-14 and 2014-15. That's three full years for a guy who is already 34 years old.

Fab Melo is on a rookie contract making $1.25 this year and $1.3 next. After that, he has qualifying offers as a restricted free agent for two more seasons.

How would they fit?

Marcin Gortat is much-needed in Boston as a rotation big man with Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and basically nobody else. Yes, that includes Fab Melo who was demoted to the D-league as a raw rookie despite Boston's desperate need for size.

Fab Melo would be a project. Probably ahead of Kendall Marshall in terms of development, but not far. Melo would be an upgrade over Luke Zeller, at least.

Jason Terry would take Jared Dudley's role as a wing player expected to make big shots when needed. He would share time with Shannon Brown, Michael Beasley and P.J. Tucker.

What do others say?

1. Would you trade him to Boston for Terry and Fab Melo?

Kris Habbas, BSotS/SB Nation: Despite how he has been playing this season -- with the up-and-down tendencies, Marcin Gortat is still a solid center in this league with a good contract. In that trade scenario the Suns are not getting the proper value back for a young center, a rare commodity in this league. I am all for a Gortat trade and even one to Boston, but they need to show more green in return.

Dave King, BSotS: No way. I really despise Jason Terry as a player, and won't enjoy a single minute he takes the court for the Suns, if this happens. Hate the idea.

Jim Coughenour, BSotS: No. Gortat should have more trade value than that. He is a competent starting center in this league. With Rondo feeding him there's no reason to quash the possibility that Marcin returns to a level of efficient, productive play paralleling his time with Nash. In a similar dynamic to that of Dudley, Gortat's trade value should escalate as teams become more desperate before the deadline, especially if Marcin can continue his recently solid play.

2. If not, for who (on Boston)?

KH: The homerun would be to net Avery Bradley, Fab Melo, and a pick (2014) for a Gortat package. Grabbing a 2014 first round pick is the real win with how good that crop of young talent and Melo is a project for Jermaine O'Neal to work with and groom. There is not much to gain adding the veteran Terry to the mix for the long-term future of the team.

DK: Instead, I would consider acquiring Courtney Lee (over Terry), Jared Sullinger (over Melo) and require the Suns to receive a 2014 first-round pick or Avery Bradley for their troubles. The Suns HAVE to take back a middling contract to make this work in the CBA rules. Lee would be a better fit, despite being owed another year in salary. He fit well with Dragic last year. And the 2014 pick is the gem in the trade.

JC: If we take Terry and Melo/Sullinger, I want Boston's unprotected 2014 pick. If Bradley is included in a package, I may step back from the adamance of demanding the #1, but that deal would be more complicated because of Boston's cap situation. If we take Bradley, would they give us Bass? Another guard (Terry/Lee) seems superfluous at that point. Maybe it makes more sense if Dudley is traded for Williams?

3. Who wins the trade you like best?

KH: This is a win-win for both teams if the Suns get the proposal I suggested above, but if they settle for Terry and Melo for Gortat they will once again be the butt end of front office jokes next season... Again.

DK: If the Suns get Melo/Sullinger, Lee and a 2014 #1/Bradley then this trade is a wash. Maybe a win for the Suns, but not this year in terms of on-court success.

JC: I think another case of Boston now and the Suns later. I still don't think that Boston is a contender after this trade, so it isn't a foudroyant coup for them. As I've mentioned, any trade that makes the Suns better or worse while returning young prospects and/or picks deserves serious consideration. I also think that the Suns want to/need to trade Gortat, so there's that.

Note: we had an 85-message email trail that included Sean Sullivan and Jason Feldman, but I couldn't find where they actually answered the questions posed. So they're out. Sorry guys.

Summary

I hate this proposal of Terry and Melo for Marcin Gortat, but if they throw in an unprotected 2014 then I might be able to swallow it.

Frankly, Gortat is not as good of an asset when you consider he needs a new contract really soon.

But, acquiring Jason Terry makes my skin crawl. Kind of like acquiring Sam Cassell and Robert Horry for Charles Barkley...

Page 756 of 1605

756

Sponsored Ads