The Phoenix Suns decided to go out on a high note for their fans. They played hard, they played fun and had the fans cheering more consistently than in most any game this season (besides the Laker wins maybe).
The Suns scored their most points since Lindsey Hunter took over, and second-most this whole season. A microcosm of their effort was a steal by Dragic and, on the next possession, a putback by Tucker.
The best part is that now Houston HAS to beat LA on Wednesday to definitely avoid OKC in round one. Thanks Houston!
After winning the game, the Suns players threw autographed basketballs and T-shirts into the crowd. Nice sendoff.
Way to leave a good taste on our pallets, Suns. Thank you.
The Suns started off the game with a bang, going up 35-23 very quickly in the first quarter. Luis Scola was balling, as was Goran Dragic. it was like a big weight was lifted and the Suns were playing focused, despite missing their top two centers once again. Scola made a plethora of midrange jumpers to frustrate Rockets C Asik, and Dragic was slicing and dicing through the lane and racking up assists.
When Kevin McHale called timeout, it appeared he would right the Rockets focus but all he did was wake up James Harden's drive-and-draw game. The rest of the Rox still played like they were in quicksand.
By the end of the first, the Suns nursed a 39-28 lead. Once again, a good opening quarter - the latest trend from the Suns in the last couple of weeks. Dragic had 8 points and 9 assists, while Scola put up 14 and 5 against their former team. It was truly a two-man game. Scola proving himself one more time can improve his trade value over summer.
In the second quarter, the Rockets kept driving to the lane, drawing more fouls and getting them on demand. Jeremy Lin took Kendall Marshall to school on the court, and Marshall appeared to be in first grade.
Carlos Delfino always seems to play like an All-Star against the Suns, putting up 6 points, 3 rebounds and assist and a block in only 6 minutes of play as the Rockets outscored the Suns 24-11 to start the second quarter.
The good they were a-gone, just like the lead. Rockets up 52-50 with 6 mins left in half.
The Suns eventually righted the ship though, and took a lead back into halftime. Funnily enough, that coincided with Dragic coming back into the game.
Dragic finished the half with 12 points, 13 assists and 2 steals.
The Suns biggest problem in recent games has been the third quarter, giving up twice as many points as they've scored.
But tonight, the Suns came out to play the third like it was any other quarter. Even with Dragic going out a while (to stitch a cut), the Suns extended their lead to open the third, leading 80-71 with 5:38 remaining.
McHale once again tried to wake up his troops. The Rockets made a couple of threes, but the Suns found a way to keep scoring by hitting the paint hard themselves, especially P.J. Tucker.
Again, Delfino a Suns killer this season, hit two more threes in the third when the Rockets needed some scoring. 4-5 on threes. Ouch. Rockets cut the lead from 12 to 7 in the final seconds of the third.
But hey, it wasn't a bloodbath in the third! Woo hoo! Phoenix outscored Houston 23-22 without Dragic most of the quarter.
"Rocky" came back into the building in the 4th with a huge bandage over his eye. He made a quick three and had a nice assist right away to help the Suns push the lead back to 10.
Dragic and Scola were really carrying the load all night, trying to finish off the season right on their new home court against their old home court.
When the Rockets cut the lead to three, Markieff Morris (who already had 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 assists) came back into the game. Morris quickly scored inside on a putback of his own miss, and then another block soon after.
When Kendall Marshall scored on a nifty drive against defensive dynamo Patrick Beverly, McHale once again called timeout with an 8-point deficit. These Suns were not just going to fade away on this night.
The Phoenix Mercury made it official Monday night: Baylor Bears senior center Brittney Griner is the teams newest member courtesy of the 2013 WNBA Draft. There was little doubt on this years No. 1 Overall pick was going to be used on Griner. She is a special player with the chance to be one of the best ever to play in the WNBA.
"Now that I can say her name, Brittney Griner, she is definitely a player that is going to change the game as we know it today," stated a very stoic and very elated Head Coach Corey Gaines.
At the Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix the Mercury welcomed hundreds of fans to come and view the the historic event live.
MC Kip Helt kicked off the festivities that included (at the time) the newest member of the Mercury Erin Thorn, last years No. 6 Overall pick Samantha Prahalis, Krystal Thomas, Bridget Pettis, Kayte Christensen, Amber Cox (via satellite), and Ann Meyers-Drysdale. The team rewarded the fans for being the fans.
Griner enters the fold with a litany of talent, all-stars, champions, and gold medal winners. She comes in as the rookie and looks like she has the humility and humbleness to make that transition with ease.
"I think in college, as you just saw her interview when she got drafted, she was saying how she wants to learn more things," Gaines on Griner's potential. "She is going to make Diana (Taurasi) better and Diana is going to make her better. I think pick-and-roll, moving around the lane will make her, offensively, better."
She comes in as the tallest player in the WNBA now officially at 6-8 locking down the center position for the Mercury for the future playing with the likes of Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner, and Candice Dupree. This is a Mercury team that, seemingly overnight, has become must watch television.
The Phoenix Suns play their final home game of the season tonight, putting an end to this season's misery for Suns tickets holders - the lifeblood of a franchise that's bleeding out by the day.
Guaranteed their second worst season in history, is there anything to play for tonight? Is there any intrigue for a viewer, any reason to even check the scoreboard let alone watch the game?
Why yes there is!
Here are a few of those reasons...
The Suns can finish no worse than fourth in lotto ball standings but are currently "fighting" with Cleveland for that third spot. Both team are playing as bad as possible in the final weeks. It's a (bleeding) neck-and-neck race with both teams sporting the same 24-56 record. If each lose their last two games, then a coin flip will decide their draft order UNLESS one of them moves up in the lottery.
It's worth noting that the #4 seed in the lottery has never won the #1 pick with the ping-pong balls.
Yet, that's what makes tonight's game a conundrum. With the Rockets fighting for playoff positioning, it's almost better for the Suns to WIN tonight. Why? Because then the Rockets will REALLY have to beat the Lakers on Wednesday. If Rockets lose out and the Lakers win that game, the Rockets would be dropped to 8th and would have to face OKC in the opening round.
If the Rockets win Wednesday night (regardless of tonight) they will keep the 6th or 7th spot AND (if Utah wins out) possibly bump the Lakers out of the playoffs and send their #14 pick over to the Suns this spring. Otherwise, the Suns get the Heat's #30 pick. Quite a difference.
Check out the Lottery Watch story by Sean on Sunday, which discusses all the possibilities.
As mentioned already, the Rockets are in a heated battle with Golden State for the #6 seed in the playoffs. But they are also in danger of ending up #8, behind the Lakers, if they lose both games this week.
Both the Rockets and Warriors have a 45-35 record heading into their final two games, just one win ahead of the Lakers (44-37). The #8 seed will most likely face OKC, with the #7 seed most likely playing San Antonio while the #6 seed gets Denver.
If the Rockets lose tonight, they HAVE to beat LA on Wednesday to avoid the #8 seed and a likely drubbing by OKC. Why not turn up the heat on them, you know?
Assuming the Rockets want the #6 seed, they need to win out to be assured of it.
A perfect scenario for the Suns and the Rockets, is to have the Rockets lose tonight and win Wednesday in LA. That would put the Rockets at #7 (assuming GS and Utah win at least 1 game) to face a hobbled San Antonio team in round one while the Suns get a second lotto pick and the Lakers go on summer vacation. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
The Rockets winning tonight and losing Wednesday also assures them of the 7th, but that scenario puts LA in the playoffs. Let's ignore that scenario for the moment.
After tonight, we won't see the Suns in their home uniforms again for more than 5 months. As bad as the team has been playing, it's better than nothing at all. You know what I mean?
Sure, you're reading this and itching to pop down to the comment section to say "no it's not better than nothing at all! I'd rather watch paint dry!". But no matter how bad the team is, it's still the Suns and there's still a loyalty to the team. Sure, maybe we're watching to see how bad it will get - like watching a car wreck - but we're still, for the most part, watching.
Those of you no longer watching games are still coming to BSotS most days to check on the latest news and comment threads about the team.
We are diehards. We are Suns fans. Five months without games will be torture.
The Rockets won last week's game in real cheesy fashion - badly missing but getting credit for a game-winning three-pointer by applying a hex to Jermaine O'Neal's body and making him jump into the net while the ball was still in the cylinder.
Any chance the Suns want payback tonight?
Not likely, but it's sure worth at least a moment's consideration.
I went to a silent auction fundraiser on Saturday night. There were about 60 items to bid on, ranging from a value of $30 to $500 and only about 80 attendees.
One of the items up for bid was an autographed portrait of Luis Scola in Suns home uni. The minimum bid was $40. NO ONE BID ON IT (including me). It was one of only two items in the entire auction without a single bid. Poor Luis.
Frankly, I can see why no one bid on it. Not only are the Suns bad, but Scola has only been in town for a year and is not likely to spend many years on the Suns. He's not good looking and isn't doing any local promos.
If the portrait had been of Goran Dragic or Jared Dudley, I could see bids being placed. Even I might have bid on it. Those guys are cemented in Suns fans hearts from the 2010 playoff run and years in Suns unis.
As it is, Luis Scola only represents the worst Suns team in most of our lifetimes. As I said, even I couldn't make myself bid on it. (Instead I bid on a Whiskey basket and Starbucks basket).
That right there is an indication of what's wrong with the Suns - their best chance of selling an autographed pic is Goran Dragic and Jared Dudley, neither of whom is an All-Star.
That's all I got, folks.
Check out The Dream Shake for more on the Rockets and their fans' intentions for this game.