There's been several times this season the Suns have lost games in the final quarter of play. That's really not a surprise, actually, as crunch time is what separates teams and where talent deficiencies really show up the most.
In the Warriors loss on Monday the Suns had a lot of issues. They gave up 17 second chance points in the first half to let Golden State stay in the game. In the third quarter the defense fell apart and they blew a 12-point lead and have up 25 points in 6:46 of play.
But it's the fourth quarter where things are always most telling. You learn exactly who coaches trust and you can see where teams need to improve from both a talent and execution standpoint.
In the fourth quarter of this game, the Suns were very much in the mix, down just three points with 12 minutes to play and again down three points with just under two minutes to play. Some things worked really well like Nash and Hill getting the ball in to the post against Nate Robinson after switches, and other things didn't work well like Ronnie Price running the offense.
After the jump there's a detailing of every Suns offensive possession and some general thoughts. No Jeremy Lin mention at all.
Suns down 76-73 to start the fourth
1. Motion offense, Redd curling off screens. Catch, pump, shoot, miss.
2. Price/Frye p/r. Warriors switch. Frye goes to post w/ Nate Rob on him. Price tries to go to Frye but throws the ball away (horrible pass).
3. Frye posts up Rush, Chill cuts baseline, Ellis leaves to try for steal, Frye hits Chill for open layup.
4. Play designed to get Redd in the post but well defended by Klay T. Redd gets ball too far out, calls Morris over for screen, Warriors switch. Morris w/ clock down posts Klay for bucket.
5. Warriors switch cross screens early end up with Nate Rob on Frye. Price ignores and goes to Chill in the corner. Chill goes to Morris in post on Rush. Morris fouled.
6. Play starts are #4 above. Redd catches on wing, calls Morris over for side screen and roll. Warriors trap Redd and force him high. Play falls apart, Redd gives back to Price with 5 sec on clock. Price uses Frye screen, Warriors switch and Price drives on Udoh, tries to hit cutting Morris but pass dropped. Turnover, run out layup for GSW.
7. High p/r w/ Price and Morris. GSW switches. Morris dives down lane. Nat Rob flops so Rush moves in to lane to cover Morris w/ Nate on the ground leaving Frye and Chill wide open on weak side. Price doesn't recognize, gives to Redd in mid-post vs. Klay. Redd turns down shot, kicks to Price for open three. Miss. Chill tap miss to Morris for put back.
8. Play goes to Morris in the post on David Lee. Morris goes middle, shoulder fake then turns over his left shoulder and hits hook from five feet.
9. Price turns down entry pass to Morris in post. Price drives middle, sucks in some help defenders, Morris floats to arc, gets open three, miss. Chill back tap OReb.
10. Free lance play w/ Dudley driving, kick to Frye, drives on Udoh, miss.
Nash, Gortat and Hill come back in at 6:50. Morris and Dudley stay on the floor. GSW up 88-82
11. Suns run some motion but end up with Nash / Morris high p/r. Morris slips screen and Nash hits him. Help comes and Morris hits Gortat for four foot hook.
12. Quick high p/r w. Nash and Gortat. Nash goes to Morris for open three. He doesn't take shot, passes to Dudley on weak side wing. Dud drives, draws defenders, kicks back out to Nash for wide open three. Miss.
13. Nash runs off a few screens in the paint and curls, but GSW defends well. Nash to Dudley on weak side, Dudley drives and kicks to Nash, runs quick screen w/ Morris who ends up with wide open three, miss. Gortat OReb.
14. Nash/Gortat high p/r. GSW switches Nate Rob on to Gortat, Nate hands Gortat off to Lee but then is left defending Morris on weak side post. Ball to Dudley, back to Nash high then down to Morris in paint on Nate. Nate pokes ball away, after scramble, Morris hits three at buzzer.
15. Nash/Gortat high p/r. GSW switches Nate Rob on to Gortat, Udoh pressures Nash who kicks to Hill on wing who lobs to Gortat being fronted by Nate Rob. Easy lay up.
16. Hill steals pass, misses lay up, Dudley pushed on rebound w/ no call. GSW up 94-89.
17. Suns run series of p/r with Warriors sucking in, Dudley passes up open three, leaves Nash w/ ball just a few seconds left. Forced to take tough three w/ Lee in his face. Miss.
18. After series of screens and passes, Nash drives, draws help, dish to Morris, great block by Udoh.
19. Quick p/r w. Nash and Gortat. GSW rotates well from corner to cut off Gortat. Nash to Hill who takes advantage of rotations and hits pull up J.
20. 1:51, Suns down just 94-91. Quick p/r w. Nash and Gortat. Warriors trap and recover. Ellis pokes ball from Nash, Nash recovers, drives to baseline, finds Gortat for open 15 foot J. Miss.
21. 1:12, Suns still down 94-91. Timeout, Suns. Hill gets ball at high angle right, Nash pin down screen on Udoh to try and free Gortat but Udoh fights through and breaks up play. No pass. Nash back out high gets ball, Hill dives, Nash passes, Hill kicks to Dudley for semi-open three. Miss.
22. 36 sec, Suns down 96-91. Dudley uses Hill screen to get open three. Miss. Game over.
The Suns used 10 offensive possessions with Nash, Hill and Gortat on the bench. The Suns scored nine points and were -3 in that stretch which wasn't horrible but Price on offense was pretty bad and Redd didn't get anything done as the second option. Morris played well.
I'm not sure how much we actually learned here. The Warriors did defend pretty well but the Suns weren't horrible in their execution in the fourth either other than Price not getting the ball in to the post against Nate Rob.
A lot of these close games are going to come down to making jump shots b/c the Suns are a jump shooting team.
When the news broke that Steve Nash and Grant Hill would sit tonight in an attempt to rest them during the second game of three in three nights, then the Nuggets started the game 10-0 against the Suns, it was easy to see where this contest was headed. It ended up playing out that way, as the Nuggets rolled to a 109-92 win, but the Suns made things interesting for awhile, even tying the game up early in the second half.
Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 20 and 17 points, respectively, and Chris Andersen, best known for his enormous assortment of freakish tattoos, scored 16 in 22 minutes in the absence of Nene Hilario and Timofey Mozgov. The Nuggets exceeded their per game scoring average of 104 points, feasting on Suns turnovers and converting them to easy baskets. We have seen all of this before.
Ronnie Price and Michael Redd got the starts for the Suns with Nash and Hill sitting, and Redd played a great game, hitting 3 3-pointers on his way to 20 points. Price......eh, not so much: 5 turnovers, 4 personal fouls and only 2-11 shooting.
The brightest spot for the Suns was Markieff Morris, who played with confidence and aggressiveness and ended up with a career-high 21 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Morris also continued his problem with getting into foul trouble, which will limit his playing time if he can't get it rectified. He fouled out after 28 minutes tonight.
Ugly game, no Nash or Hill. At least the Suns got a glimmer of hope from their rookie and their reclamation project. That's something, right?
With each team missing two starters and the Suns on the road after a late game last night, not much can be discovered about either team from this game. The Nuggets have superior depth to the Suns, and are better able to plug in backups and not face a huge drop off in play, but we already knew that.
When healthy and playing at full force, the Nuggets are a team that can do some damage in the playoffs, while the Suns are among the few worst teams in the conference. Nothing we saw tonight changed that one bit.