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Any time Andrea Bargnani is credited with "three crucial defensive plays" in the final seconds of an NBA basketball game, you know your team is in trouble.

Notebook: Raptors 101, Suns 97 | nba.com

Bargnani made three crucial defensive plays in the final two minutes of the game, and grabbed a big rebound with three seconds left leading to the free throws that iced the victory for Toronto.

This was an ugly finish. The Suns missed FIVE shots in the paint to tie or take the lead in the last couple of minutes. On one hand, that's a good execution of play to get close shots in big moments. On the other, they did not fall.

Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown all missed shots inside 10 feet. One could argue that at least two of those were missed because of non-called fouls, but one would be missing the point. The Suns only got there by allowing yet another opponent to KILL them on 3s and overall field goal shooting percentage.

Suns fail to bounce back against Toronto Raptors | Paul Coro | azcentral.com

Gentry turned to Luis Scola, seldom a go-to guy in Houston, because of his experience. Scola missed a good look at a 6-foot post hook with 36 seconds, but Marcin Gortat had an unmolested chance at a tap-in and missed with 33 seconds.

"I really thought it was going in," Gortat said. "I swear I saw it inside the basket. For some reason, it came out. It was a little message from the gods that we have to keep fighting a little more."

The basketball gods, huh? I guess that makes sense. In both the Philly game and now the Toronto game, the Suns missed bunnies at the rim that bounced away along with their chance at a .500 record. Is that karma to make up for four comebacks to beat teams earlier this month after playing poorly to start the game?

CBS Sportswire recap

"We needed this one," Suns forward Luis Scola said. "We were close, we just couldn't finish."

Scola suggested an attitude adjustment was in order for his struggling club. "We need to change the dynamic, we need to change our attitude, we need to change our minds," he said. "We're in the kind of dynamic where everything goes wrong. We just can't get it going.

"We need to start thinking like a winning team. We need to start believing in ourselves and winning games."

Luis Scola has been adamant from day one of the season that there's only one way to win games and that's to fight, scrap and claw for everything. Clearly, not enough of the Suns are heeding that message to go all out for 48 straight minutes.

While the effort was better last night, the results are the same.

As you can see by Luis' comments, this is a team that clearly does not think as one. They don't trust each other yet - on offense or defense. They don't trust the plays or the players.

Maybe that will develop, maybe it won't. But it's certainly not going to be easy.


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Martin Knesevic is an NBA blogger residing in California. He writes for BlogNBasketball.com on a number of NBA teams and will occasionally contribute to BSotS on Suns topics. Today, he takes on P.J. Tucker who has made his presence known throughout the league already this season.

At Phoenix Suns training camp in San Diego, a colleague of mine asked "Hey, who's that big man taking shots?"

I responded...oh, that's P.J.Tucker, he's a swingman.

My counterpart..."A swingman?! That's a bigman."

Even I was caught off guard by Tuckers', um, girth. His shooting partner, Sean Rooks, looked scrawny standing next to him. The 6'6" small forward may be listed at 225 lbs but he looks more like 240.

This ain't the same P.J. who played sparingly for Toronto back in 2006-07. Nope, this is a whole different player. You'd be too after stints in Israel, Greece, Italy, Germany, Ukraine, and Puerto Rico. After all those stops, the new and improved Tucker has finally carved out an NBA niche for himself.

There was once a time when every NBA team had a P.J. Tucker or two...a beefy wing player coaches could sick on opposing scorers to help keep them grounded. These days, they're few and far between. But P.J. has shown recently how much he can contribute to a team in today's NBA. Just ask Lebron James...who had Tucker draped all over him recently in Phoenix and walked away with a new found respect for him.

You may remember that Charles Barkley played a lot at the 3-spot his first couple of years in the 80's, on a veteran 76ers squad. How about former Piston/Jazzman Adrian Dantley? He couldn't be stopped from scoring down on the block. His power forward game destroyed other small forwards.

In the 90's, the 'beefy small forward' trend continued, but with an emphasis on defense and toughness. Anthony Mason (the younger version) played the three-spot for years and made stars like Scottie Pippen and Dominique Wilkins pay for driving to the rim. The X-Man Xavier McDaniels, another former Knick as well as a former Phoenix Sun, intimidated perimeter players for over a decade...his days in Seattle and Boston, included.

I know...the aforementioned guys were proven All-Stars. Tucker will likely never be that. But here are a few names to remember more recently: Corliss Williamson, Bonzi Wells, Byron Houston. In more recent memory a player like Ime Udoka also played the wing hard and well with his thick frame. I see P.J. having a similar effect on Phoenix that Ime had on championship contender San Antonio.

With the current rules in the NBA allowing perimeter players to move around untouched, the big and physical SF has all but disappeared. Even the artist formerly known as Ron Artest was forced to adapt...he's t least 30 lbs lighter this year, out of necessity.

Speaking of Artest, Metta World Peace backed off a recent altercation with Tucker in Los Angeles. 'MWP' had to respect P.J.'s chippiness...and must've reminded him of a young Ron Artest. Today's lighter version of Ron-Ron wanted no piece of the Phoenix freight train.

The Suns rebounded from a slow start this season to hover around .500 (until this week), and that directly coincides with Tucker's increased minutes. He sparked a comeback win versus the Cavaliers at home to start this recent run of good play in the desert.

The stats page says that P.J. contributes 5 points and almost 4 rebounds a night in 18 minutes. But if you watch Suns games you'll know that this dog's bark is much louder.....and so is his bite.

Follow me at https//twitter.com/@nbaknez {For more of my stuff, check out www.blogNBAsketball.com}


After an abysmal loss to the Pistons Wednesday night that left everyone wondering how the team would respond, the Phoenix Suns fought to the bitter end tonight in Toronto. Though they fell 101-97 to...

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Recap:

The Suns got off to a quick start fueled by the play of Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic. Toronto seemed complacent and content shooting long twos, which allowed the Suns to extend the defense to the perimeter. The Suns were able to build a 10 point lead, but coasted in a little bit and led 25-19 at the end of the first quarter.

Toronto came out with renewed vigor in the second quarter and scampered off a 21-11 stretch to take a 40-36 lead (25-11 going back to the first quarter). Jared Dudley scored 11 points in the first half of the second quarter to keep the Suns afloat as the Raptors made their surge. The Suns flipped the script at this point with an 8-0 run of their own as the rest of the quarter was tightly contested. The player of the half was Toronto's DeMar DeRozan (16 points on 5-9 shooting). Six late points by him coupled with a buzzer beating three from Kyle Lowry helped Toronto pull within one at halftime (52-51).

Lowry and Dragic started to go after each other a little bit in the third, but the player who caught my eye was Michael Beasley, who seemed much more assertive and aggressive in the quarter (and the game). He finished with eight points in the quarter, which could have been more if he could make free throws. A back and forth third quarter once again ended in catastrophe as DeRozan hit an and-one as time expired to give the Raptors an 80-76 lead and him a game high 23 points.

The Suns just couldn't seem to catch up in the fourth, pulling within one at 96-95, and again at 98-97 with 1:07 to go after a Shannon Brown layup. Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson (a fearsome duo indeed) kept the Suns at bay and the Suns couldn't execute down the stretch when they had opportunities to win the game. Dinos triumph 101-97.

Player of the Game:

DeMar DeRozan led all players in points (23) and rebounds (8). He was more effective in the first half, but still had a solid all-around game and was instrumental in the Dinos W. I feel confident that a Sun will eventually earn this honor in a game that I cover this season.

Comments of the Game:

What happened to that scrappy 2nd unit of ours from 2 games back?

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I do think the Suns have come ready to play tonight

But a road game against the Raptors.....actually a pretty even matchup.

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I think there will be a 100% refund rate for every ticket for the Suns/Mavs home game.

If games like these are fun for Suns fans, then we have some masochists.

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Never wish for losing..

I knew this season was going to be a roller coaster ride, I just want to see the Suns at least play with some heart and pride and I will be happy with the end result regardless of the record at the end of the season.

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Beasley's having the best game I've seen him play for the Suns.

Yet still, he does things that make me say, "that boy's not right" in a Hank Hill voice.

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For the love of all that is holy, can we play something that remotely resembles good defense???

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Wow really Shannon Brown takes the final shot

seriously I'm so sick of this team not having a go to guy

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The Good:

The Sun definitely came out more spirited in the first half. After an abysmal effort on Wednesday at least they showed up. They might not be world beaters this year, but a team that quits is unacceptable. There was no standout player, but across the board the players seemed more invested.

Beasley was engaged and effective in stretches. The Suns need some kind of production from him this season, and this was closer to what that may look like.

Dudley made an appearance and chipped in with 14 points off the bench while providing a spark in the second quarter. A consistent effort from JD3 has been something that has been conspicuously absent this season. Hopefully games like this will help him round into form.

The Suns kept it close the whole way and gave themselves an opportunity to win. Anytime a team does that on the road is an encouraging sign (the lugubrious fan writes about a good loss). I copied this verbatim from the Philadelphia game. It damn near felt like the same game (except this may be even more demoralizing considering the competition).

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The Bad:

The tempestuous nature of the Suns starters and bench continued, as it seems both units can never show up on the same night. The inconsistency is maddening.

Buy some Windex. The Suns managed just four offensive rebounds on 40 attempts en route to losing the battle of the boards to Toronto 41-34. Offensive rebounds tend to be a hustle stat, so take it for what it's worth...

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The Ugly:

It's getting to the point where we might want to concede that the Suns are just flat out one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The defensive field goal percentages have become more of a nightly massacre than something to keep an eye on. Toronto was 20-38 from the field (52.6%) and 4-7 from three (57.1%) in the first half. It didn't get much better as Toronto finished at 48.1% for the game including 57.1% (8-14) from three. Just. Simply. Pathetic.


Toronto Raptors 101, Phoenix Suns 97 If Wednesday’s loss to Detroit was any indication, the Phoenix Suns have reached their first critical turning point this season. When in the past...

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