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Rohan hits the nail on the head over and over again with his review of former Suns C Robin Lopez. So much that he could have built a house.

First things first, the picture to go with the article is one of Lady Liberty herself. With her single outstretched hand while standing in rebound position. I smiled.

Robin Lopez, [on Wednesday night against the Pacers], was a perfect encapsulation of the offensive and defensive philosophies of both the Hornets this season and Monty Williams at large.

Am I the only Suns fan saying "uh oh"?

Lopez is the team's go-to for disturbingly long stretches. When a ball-handler -- Vasquez, Mason, Roberts, Aminu -- is in trouble, it is Lopez's giant, huddled figure he seeks refuge in. Lopez is happy to oblige, receiving the ball countless times with his back to the basket, 20 feet away from the hoop.

In short order, he's become New Orleans' personal Statue of Liberty, eagerly welcoming the team's beleaguered, its tired and its poor, its huddled masses yearning to breathe free and/or dribble at a semiprofessional level.

Suns fans can conjure this image all too easily - Lopez going way out on the perimeter to receive the pass, then awkwardly move it along to the next guy in slow motion.

Needless to say, there are many problems with Lopez, Point-Center. Turnovers: bad. Quality of shot: bad. Loss of rebounding ability due to the team's 7 foot center being 15 feet from the hoop even if he's a pretty pedestrian rebounder: also bad.

Rohan goes on to talk more about Robin and the Hornets' defensive and offensive struggles. It's a great read. Be sure to hit the link and learn something about tonight's opponent.


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One of Alvin Gentry's changes in the starting lineup portends a shift in the Suns offense from where they started - a "corner" offense that relies on every player cutting and screening and curling - to a more straight-forward offense that relies more on spacing and single entry passes.

"Spacing will be better," Gentry said of the change to Markieff Morris from Luis Scola at power forward next to Marcin Gortat. "Kieff is more accustomed to the spacing that we have."

Gortat agrees, and approves of the change. "Markieff can spot up at the 3-point line," he said after the game. "And there's the whole middle open for me and for Goran."

Sounds more like last year's offense than the corner offense to me. It's simpler this way, I guess. More direct lines to the basket. One thing you can say about Alvin Gentry is that he is willing to make adjustments and give people a chance to prove themselves. On Wednesday night, he gave Gortat a chance to shine.

"I'm just glad the coach gave me the opportunity to help the team offensively and I'll try to use that."

Gortat scored mostly on post-ups to the tune of 11 makes in 14 attempts, by far his best offensive showing of the year. Nearly each score was of his own making. Once he got it going, it was easy to keep feeding him (and O'Neal) the ball.

"We have a rule on this team," Gortat said. "If you keep scoring inside, they are going to throw you the ball. Repeat that until they stop. Jermaine was unstoppable. I try to work on it."

Marcin Gortat has been frustrated early this season, getting two fewer shots per game and making a lower percentage on the chances he did get. He is not getting the easy finishes at the basket after the point guard has already drawn his defender away from him, like in the old days. It's not a two-man game anymore with secondary options on the perimeter.

With a new point guard at his best attacking off the screen, the Suns tried to shift to a "corner" offense to get everyone their touches, but only after doing the dirty work and only if the defense ultimately rotated off them versus their teammates.

Randy Hill of Fox Sports Arizona tried to explain to me what wasn't working for these Suns with that new offense. Forgive me, Randy, if I totally botch this analysis. Randy also mentioned some of this in his own article earlier this week.

The corner offense often starts the same way any other offense starts - someone setting a hard screen to force the defense to react. But that's where the similarities should end. While the traditional Suns pick-and-roll offense spaces the floor with three-point shooters, opening the middle for the PG and a single big man to operate a two-man game against a couple of defenders, the corner offense relies on multiple cuts, curls, passes and screens to free a player based on defensive rotations.

Rather than focusing on two defenders, like the pick and roll, a few curls, screens, handoffs and entry passes on one possession can create chaos, leaving a player who originally did some dirty work to get free for an open shot. That open shot might be a layup, a mid-range or a three-pointer.

But the key to the corner offense is trust. A player has to trust that the ball will come back to them enough times throughout the game. This new offense doesn't work with a single pass and finish. It works after multiple passes, cuts and curls resulting in a finish by the guy who happened to get open. An offense like this, when run well, is difficult to defend because the defense is constantly deciding when to rotate and when to fight through the screen. All five guys have to be in unison, and it can still break down with proper offensive execution.

Not all Suns players embraced this scheme. It is easier knowing exactly when you will get the ball. They were used to spacing rather than cutting and screening and making themselves available.

The Suns offense has since transmorgrified to better fit the current personnel's mentality. As Marcin Gortat put it the other day, the ball was "stopping" on one or two players once they got their hands on the ball. Rather than continuing to pass, some players would force the play with a shot or a pretty "scoring" assist after only one or two passes. And we're not talking just about the guy in charge of scoring assists, Goran Dragic.

As Randy Hill put it the other day, players were not enamored with playing the weak side and only getting the ball if their cuts and screens worked. They didn't trust the ball would get to them before someone chucked up a contested perimeter shot, and the coaching staff wasn't forcing the players to stay within the offense.

Maybe the switch to Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown signal a change back to spacing and two-man games surrounded by shooters. For one night, the players appeared more comfortable and it worked like a charm to the tune of winning every quarter and beating Portland by 27 points.

"This is just one game," Gortat said. "But if we distribute the ball, move the ball, look how much fun we got."

Will it continue to work? Sure, as long as players make their shots. The Suns made nearly 60% of their shots from all over the court - the first game of the season they even sniffed 50%.

And, it will work as long as the other team doesn't make as many of theirs. After allowing 50% shooting to their opponents the first 11 games, including an astounding 43% on three-pointers, the Suns would benefit from a few more misses by their opponents like Portland did (40.7% for the game, lowest opponent shooting percentage in weeks).

Which, by the way, makes any offensive scheme look genius.


The Suns played their best game of the season from the tip to the final buzzer.


PHOENIX — Alvin Gentry made two changes to his starting lineup, but the way the Suns played it almost seemed like he swapped out his entire team before Phoenix’s 114-87 victory over the...

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For only the third time all season, the Phoenix Suns won the first quarter. Then they won second, and the third and finally the fourth to finish with a 27 point win over Portland - 114-97.

This was the most complete win of the young season, and boy did the Suns need it. New starters Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris brought energy to the group and the Suns built leads in both the first and third quarters as a result.

Luis Scola and Jared Dudley played necessarily scrappy, which was new to one of them this season. The second unit played the whole game with a lead, though they made it a little scary at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Blazers were playing their starters in an attempt to get back into the game, and the second unit struggled to find offense. Then Jermaine O'Neal got the ball on the block a few times, and the Suns ramped up their energy. O'Neal finished with a season high 17 points.

Alvin Gentry was a master mixer tonight, finding the right mix between the starters and the bench. It helped that Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown played better than they have played most of the season so far. And it helped that Myers Leonard is bad on defense. Like, really bad. Marcin put him in the spin cycle several times in the first half, clearing out the basket for layups by the time he was done. Marcin finishes the first half with 16 points - all on the inside - to go along with 6 rebounds.

Let me digress a bit on rebounding - the Suns were not very good. In the first half alone, the Suns allowed two missed Portland shots to hit the ground and still allowed Portand to grab the ball and keep possession. Luckily, Portland only scored once.

It also helped that the Suns played very good defense on Damian Lillard all night, with Sebastian Telfair and Goran Dragic hassling him and staying in front of him all night. P.J. Tucker was a hound on Batum or Matthews as well for the entire second quarter, which helped further disrupt the Blazers offense. He was so good that Beasley didn't play in the second quarter at all.

Many times, Portland's only good play was drawing the big man on a drive then dumping to Myers Leonard for the now-open ten-footer. Leonard was surprisingly good at making those - even shot-putting one from the elbow. But he more than lost that value by allowing Gortat to own him on the other end of the court.

Oh yeah, Damian Lillard is a good player, folks. He can hit shots with a hand in his face, even changing the shot in the air to get a better look.

The Suns came out hot in the second half, going on a 10-2 run to open the quarter and take a 21-point lead in the third. Quite the departure from the old starting lineup, indeed. It looks as though the Suns came out ready to prove something to themselves tonight, and they did just that.

Portland ended Phoenix's mini-run by going at Beasley on a drive to the hoop (fouled by Beasley), and then giving it to Aldridge for a drive on Gortat (two points).

The Suns began to lose their focus once they got a 17-point lead while the Blazers ramped up their own focus. Ronnie Price even hit a three-pointer during a slow run to close the gap.

But the Suns tonight were making their shots and that's all that matters when you have the lead. Dragic personally stemmed the tide with nice passes, shotmaking and a fast break steal after the lead had been whittled to 12.

Then Morris had a heck of a sequence fighting for an offensive rebound, then getting the ball back and spinning to the hoop for a nice layup.

Portland kept making shots, and kept the Suns within one long dry spell of a close game. But Dragic wasn't having any of it though. He made nice play after nice play on offense and defense, and the Suns ended the third quarter with an 18-point lead, including 8 free throws by Dragic.

Portland gave up the ghost when Jermaine O'Neal and P.J. Tucker helped the Suns build a 23-point lead against the Portland starters, who began the fourth quarter in an attempt to make one last run.

This was the Suns' best all-around game. Enjoy it, folks. The Blazers had won three straight games while the Suns were mired in the muck of losing 4 of 5. This was a good win.

The Suns were shooting 59.6% through three quarters, and the scrubs of the scrubs (Kendall Marshall and Wesley Johnson) played the final four minutes and combined for a couple nice plays.

And for the record, the Suns are 3-0 when I sit in press row.


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