"We finally have a championship game. Let's have fun with it," P.J. Tucker says, of his sixth summer season. Tucker was ready to rumble.
All players were ready to go. This is the kind of game that can give these guys some confidence as a unit going into next season. Unless you get blown out, that is. Then it's all about excuses and missed opportunities.
After a strong start and a big attempt to stay in the game until they found their shooting, the Suns ended up fading. They lost all the loose balls, gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and in the end couldn't pull out a win.
Golden State won the inaugural Summer League Championship 91-77 in a game that wasn't as close as the score, after all.
Get used to it Suns fans. Just when you think the Suns are turning a corner, they will throw up a stinker. The Suns finish 6-1 in summer league.
It was the third game in three days, seventh in just over a week for both teams. Early, the shots were off for both teams, but then they both heated up to an extent. The Suns did it by scoring inside, being aggressive going to the rim and taking contact. Golden State started setting up on the three-point line and turning the game into a broken-down transition game as often as possible.
Both teams played this game hard at first, but the Golden State Warriors played the Suns harder than any opponent to date and ran the Suns off their confidence. They have lots of scorers on that team, and they all scored.
Golden State went on a big run in the second quarter, stunning the Suns who were focusing on smart scores near the basket.
Ian Clark had 19 points at halftime on 7-9 shooting, 4-5 on threes. As a team, GS made 6-13 first half three-pointers. You might think Clark would cool off in the second half, but no. Clark went 12-19, 7-10 for the game to win MVP honors with 33 points.
Archie Goodwin was the Suns' best first-half player, with 16 points of his own, making 5-8 shots and 5-5 free throws. Unfortunately, Goodwin was not nearly as active in the second half and only finished with 18 points.
Marcus Morris was 4-6 for 9 points, plus 3 rebounds, in the first half while P.J. Tucker dropped 10 tough points inside. Both of these guys did show in the second half, but it wasn't enough. Morris finished with 17 and 6, while Tucker played hard but just didn't get the results.
Both the Suns and Warriors made more than half their shots in the first two quarters.
"Both teams?" Hornacek replied at halftime with an exaggerated squint (I've gotten some of those too), after David Aldridge tried to say both teams played hard in the first half. "They were playing hard. We were a little slow."
Diante Garrett started the second half at PG, but the Suns didn't start the second half with much more precision or passion. Golden State still got to every loose ball and Phoenix couldn't finish layups or open shots.
Still, it's summer league. Both teams struggle more with playing basketball at this level. As before, teams were tight (tired) coming out of the break. The Suns apparently more tired, because they didn't come out of their funk as fast as Golden State did.
The Suns started coming apart when they couldn't make open layup after layup on the same possession, ending in a breakaway to give Golden State back the lead. Form that point, Golden State broke out and took a 63-54 lead.
Greg Anthony was very complimentary of both Morris brothers, referring to their quality footwork both under the basket and on the perimeter, on offense and defense. He also complimented them on their ball handling and passing. He just said they need to make shots (Kieff was 2-10 at that point, mostly on inside shots).
Kent Bazemore was a big time scorer for the Warriors with an array of scoring drives and dipsy-do moves to get open jumpers.
After a timeout, the Suns righted the ship and pulled back within two, beginning with a three-pointer by Kieff, who to that point was missing everything. Good on Hornacek sketching out a play to get him another three which he made.
Archie Goodwin came out completely flat in the second half, deferring totally to his teammates. He didn't drive or cut or demand the ball at all. This is something that reminds you Goodwin is still just 18 years old.
Overall, it was a really sloppy third quarter with neither team taking control of the game. In fact, it appears that the Warriors were dominating the game, but only had a 4 point lead.
In the fourth, the Warriors came out with a vengeance and the Suns, once again, weren't ready to match the intensity. The Suns defense broke down totally, leaving Ian Clark open AGAIN for a three like the Suns were back in 2012-13 again. Ugh.
Add in giving up offensive rebounds, and the Warriors took an 11-point lead before the Suns could even take a breath.
The Suns were just back on their heels all night long.
What: 2013 NBA Summer League Championship Game
Where: Las Vegas Nevada; NBA TV
When: 6pm PDT (AZ time)/9pm EST
|Golden State Warriors||6-0||76.4||37.9%||25.5%||71.9%||38.2||9.6||9.4||3.4||15.6|
Although neither of these teams has lost a single game in Vegas this year, a team statistical comparison reveals that each has achieved success with different styles. The Suns' offense this summer has been crisp and on-point, averaging a Vegas-leading 93.2 points per game. Moreover, the team is shooting the ball extremely well from the field and the three point line and is playing stellar team ball, averaging 17.7 assists per game (although they are turning the ball over at an equally high rate).
The Suns' summer squad boasts a roster replete with NBA-worthy talent. PJ Tucker is playing like a seasoned veteran this summer, complementing the young guys well but also putting his foot down and downright dominating whenever he feels the need. The Morris twins have performed very well, shooting the ball, scoring, and hitting game-winning shots (and unfortunately, fouling) at a great rate. Kendall Marshall continues to struggle statistically, but has at times shown tremendous poise when running the team's high-powered offense. And of course, Archie Goodwin has been one of the most sensational rookies in Vegas (with plays such as this).
The Suns also have some great reserves in Dionte Christmas, Diante Garrett, Chris Babb, and Arinze Onuaku, all of whom have played arguably well enough to earn a roster spot. The problem is that the Suns' actual roster is already pretty packed with 15 guaranteed contracts. It will be very interesting to see if the team makes any moves to free up a roster spot or two.
On the other side, the Warriors haven't been the most efficient team. However, they are a great defensive squad that also has solid talent on their roster. Kent Bazemore has been lighting up the Summer League to the tune of nearly 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. He's also getting help from Draymond Green, the Warriors' second round pick from 2012 who was a rotation player for them last year, playing an integral role in their playoff run.
Other notable names include former Iona College point guard Scott Machado (who has started every game for Golden State despite shooting a ridiculously low 18% from the field and 8% from three - wow), guard Cameron Jones (a D-League standout), shooting guard Ian Clark (an undrafted rookie who led the Miami Heat's Orlando Summer League squad in scoring), along with big men Dwayne Jones (who was actually on the Suns' regular roster for a bit in 2010), and Gary McGhee (a center from Pitt who spent the last two years playing in Europe).
- Kent Bazemore vs. Archie Goodwin: This will be the matchup of the game. Goodwin, already the new favorite player of many Suns fans, will have to try and keep Bazemore, one of Summer League's highest scorers, in check. Bazemore is also a good defender so Archie will have to bring his best tonight. This should be a great litmus test for the 18 year old.
-Suns front-court vs. Warriors' front-court: The Suns' front-court has a clear advantage here with actual NBA talent in Tucker and the Morris twins, whereas the Warriors only have Draymond Green and a couple of fringe-NBA big men.
-Kendall Marshall: Marshall has received much criticism for his supposedly lackluster performance thus far in Summer League. While he's by no means blowing away his competition, I think he has shown a lot of promise in his ability to lead the team and run a fast-paced offense. He has also displayed better touch as a spot-up shooter, knocking down one three pointer per game while shooting 50%. He'll be facing Scott Machado in this game, who's a quick point guard but is really struggling with his shot.
-Which reserve will make the team? As mentioned earlier, the Suns have 15 players under contract for the upcoming season. Pending a trade to get rid of some players, they have absolutely no roster space, though they can invite players to their training camp. This likely means that Christmas, Garrett, Babb, Onuaku, and Oriakhi are all competing for one available spot on the team's final roster. Personally, I like Christmas (versatile, do-it all guard, will be 27 soon), Babb (undrafted rookie, very good 3-point shooter, solid defender), and Onuaku (a big body that can be useful at the end of the bench as a 12th man, as well as in practice). Let's see which of them steps up tonight.
Many people are wondering why summer league success even matters. Both of these teams have been seriously competing to do well in the first-ever Summer League tournament. Truth be told, what happens in Summer League should be relatively inconsequential - you should never extrapolate conclusions from overreactions to Summer League play. So what could be the point in trying to win meaningless games?
For these teams, it's all about setting a tone and a mindset. The Golden State Warriors have not lost a summer league game since 2011. The actual Warriors team is coming off a successful year which saw Steph Curry break out into a bonafide star in the league, leading his Warriors team to the second round of the playoffs before they ultimately lost a competitive series to the San Antonio Spurs. Having signed Andre Iguodala in the offseason, they hope to accomplish even greater things in the upcoming season. For them, Summer League is about setting a winning mindset and culture that they can carry with them into the regular season.
The Phoenix Suns are also taking Summer League very seriously, albeit for slightly different reasons. The team has a vastly remodeled front office, with a new General Manager and Head Coach that want to lead Phoenix out of the purgatory it has been stuck in for the last few years. They know that the players and fans are starved for success and that a great showing in Vegas can bring at least a little bit of excitement back to the team, something it desperately needs as it continues rebuilding and experiencing growing pains. In an interview with Hoopsworld two days ago, Markieff Morris said, "It was terrible" when asked about the trials of last year's losing season.
Our own Dave King said it best:
I hope Suns fans just enjoy the moment without over analyzing other scenarios. Suns are 6-0. Smile big.— Dave King (@DaveKing_BSotS) July 22, 2013
There you go, Suns fans. Just watch the young guys play and enjoy what you see. Tune in at 6pm PDT to witness what could possibly be the first championship in Phoenix Suns history.
Place In Standings: Third
Points Per Game: 83.8
Points Against: 85.4
Coming into this stretch of games there was a very good chance the injured, short-handed, and inconsistent Phoenix Mercury could have fallen into a downward spiral. At this point the team is in a spiral, but knocking off the Los Angeles Sparks on the road was a testament of how good this team can be.
With their backs against the wall Diana Taurasi (32 points 7 rebounds 6 assists 15-17 FT) and the Mercury put together a win when failure was not an option.
Sure, the team is locked into the third seed in the Western Conference now and for the foreseeable future with the way the teams below them are playing. They have some security. But that security means nothing when the playoffs begin and the Minnesota Lynx are an impossible mountain to climb and the Sparks are as tough as they come. The Mercury have Championship potential and, when fully healthy, can compete and defeat any team in the league.
It was a good sign seeing the Mercury play tough with the Sparks the Lynx, closing out the former, but still struggling with the latter. Gaining (creating) some consistency and figuring out the rotation to a machine like nature are the next steps for this team in the progression towards reaching their potential.
In lieu of waiving Samantha Prahalis the Mercury signed Jasmine James, former University of Georgia guard that was selected by the Seattle Storm in the third round of this years draft. She played just one pre-season game with the Storm where she collected 4 points 2 assists and 2 steals in 14 minutes.
At Georgia, James never showed a proficiency shooting the ball, which is one of the team needs, but can be a facilitator and distribute the ball. She brings the Mercury roster to 11 and will be the third point guard behind Taurasi and Alexis Hornbuckle.
When talking about the Mercury's potential as a team it should become obvious when looking at the All-Star Game this year. Of the five Western Conference starters they all come from the Lynx (Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore), Mercury (Taurasi and Brittney Griner), and Sparks (Candace Parker). They have the talent and the star power on the court.
Looking at Griner specifically, she was voted as a starter and will be on the court with No. 2 Overall pick Elena Della Donne. Both rookies have been fantastic this year and could form a competitive rivalry over the next 7-10 years in the WNBA.
Right now it is arguable that either Taurasi or Della Donne is the MVP of the league at this point in the season. Should make for an interesting game with unique individual battles.
Wednesday @ Minnesota Lynx at 10am AZ Time
Saturday ALL-STAR GAME at 12:30pm AZ Time