PHOENIX — The Suns have lost to the Hornets, Cavs, Nets and Raptors at home, yet a couple minutes into the second half they seemed to be on a collision course with their worst loss to date,...

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Kemba Walker, allow me to introduce you to Marcin Gortat.

It shouldn't be so difficult to defeat the league's worst team at home, especially when said team is missing their top three scorers. But there were our Suns trailing the Bobcats 54-44 in the 3rd quarter tonight before the bench came in to save the day, and the Suns escaped total embarrassment by pulling out a 95-89 win.

Michael Redd got the start in place of the injured (thigh bruise) Jared Dudley. Dudley looked quite dapper in his suit on the bench and Redd looked impressive himself, leading the Suns with 17 points behind 4-7 3-point shooting.

The Suns also received excellent production from their two centers as Marcin Gortat put up yet another double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Robin Lopez was the player of the game during the decisive 4th quarter. Lopez ended up with 13 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes of play, in what was his best performance since the season opener almost a month and a half ago.

My mom always taught me never to look a gift horse in the mouth, and a win is a win. But, to beat this team when they're shorthanded, well....a win is a win.

The Suns had five players in double digit scoring, but the bench was the real story. The game was tied at 72 going into the 4th, and then the Bobcats showed why they are the league's worst team, scoring 3 points in the first 8 minutes of the quarter as the Suns seized an 84-75 lead when Alvin Gentry sent Steve Nash back into the game to seal the deal. Nash immediately hit a jumper to push the lead to 11 and the Suns coasted to victory from then.

Kemba Walker had a nice game as he led all scorers with 22 points but he went cold along with the rest of the Bobcats and scored only 3 in the 4th, and only had 4 assists in 41 minutes. Reggie Williams scored 21, but the Bobcats bench was overmatched as their bench players were forced into starting duty due to injuries to starters. The Suns' bench outscored the Bobcats' 40-15.

To be fair, the Suns bench didn't benefit solely from Charlotte's ineffectiveness and did play strong defense, yet the story is mostly told by a poor opponent playing poorly. A win is a win, and a win here is so much better than a loss to this terrible team. I was contemplating the headline and tone of this story had the Suns lost and it was leaning in an apocalyptic direction. Whew, apocalypse isn't now....quite.


Final - 2.4.2012 1 2 3 4 Total
Charlotte Bobcats 24 24 24 17 89
Phoenix Suns 25 17 30 23 95

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Postgame Quotes:

"The major problem was when Lopez came in. We didn't box him out and it really changed the whole game around." -- Paul Silas

"I was happy with the way the reserves played which is why they stayed in the game. Robin came in and did a great job and really gave us a big lift and got us over the hump." -- Alvin Gentry

"The was definitely really good for us. Closing out the game like that, I think the game was tied when the bench came in and we ended up pulling it out. I think we can keep playing with that energy -- I mean obviously we will play some better teams -- hopefully, our energy, we can translate that into some wins." -- Robin Lopez

"You know what, one of the proudest moments in my career. One of the proudest moments in my career, and to get the win was obviously the key. But to come back through the tears, through the hurt, through the hours of rehab, training, to come back and accomplish this is maybe the most proudest moment of my career actually." -- Michael Redd



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Winning isn't everything, but the will to win is everything.

~Vince Lombardi

The Suns are without Jared Dudley (thigh bruise) for tonight's game. Here's what Gentry had to say about the state of things:

Phoenix Suns Vs. Charlotte Bobcats: TV Schedule, Lineups And No Jared Dudley - SB Nation Arizona
Coach Alvin Gentry's biggest concern right now is the team's energy level and inconsistent effort.

"I am more concerned about the overall energy level as anything. To me that's the most important thing. We've just had too much of a discrepancy and that area right there is something we've got to get back and be consistent with, competing and playing hard night in and night out," Gentry said before the game.


Boris Diaw works hard hustling after a loose ball. Wait, what?

Phoenix Suns fans looking forward to the franchise trading off all assets in hopes of losing the maximum amount of games to get a premium pick in the upcoming draft need look no further than the Charlotte Bobcats to see what the resulting team would be. The Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA by most measures, sitting at 3-20. The average score of their games is 87.3-101.3.

If the regular Bobcats squad wasn't beatable enough, the Suns have the added advantage of their opponents missing their top three scorers, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette for tonight's game at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

Of course, the Suns have plenty of problems of their own. This will be the second night of a back to back after being pulverized by the Rockets in Houston last night. In their last five games, the Suns have suffered losses of 38, 23 and 18 points, and Seth thinks the grim reaper is lurking. It's hard to look at any opponent right now and say, "the Suns should beat these guys." But really, the Suns should beat these guys.

Point guard Kemba Walker is the Bobcats leading scorer with the top three others out, and the #9 overall pick of the 2011 draft out of UConn figures to be the most intriguing Bobcats player to watch tonight. On the surface, the 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game look respectable, but it's taking a lot of usage for Walker to get those numbers. He's shooting only 36% from the field and his assist to turnover ratio is less than 2 to 1. In fact, advanced stats aren't kind to any of the Bobcats.

Rk Player Age G MP PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
1 Eduardo Najera 35 6 46 9.6 .636 .636 2.4 12.8 7.4 7.2 1.1 0.0 0.0 10.9 135 111 0.1 0.0 0.1 .122
2 D.J. White 25 17 399 14.7 .537 .519 6.6 17.2 11.7 6.9 0.8 1.9 8.6 17.3 107 110 0.5 0.1 0.6 .070
3 Byron Mullens 22 23 524 16.0 .511 .470 6.7 16.0 11.1 5.3 0.8 1.8 7.7 23.6 103 110 0.6 0.1 0.7 .060
4 D.J. Augustin 24 17 555 16.4 .518 .473 2.6 8.5 5.4 36.1 1.1 0.1 16.1 21.9 103 113 0.7 -0.1 0.6 .050
5 Derrick Brown 24 23 456 14.0 .517 .500 8.8 11.9 10.3 6.9 2.2 0.7 12.4 16.9 102 109 0.4 0.1 0.5 .048
6 Gerald Henderson 24 21 710 13.4 .505 .473 3.7 11.3 7.3 10.1 1.4 0.8 11.9 22.7 96 111 0.2 0.0 0.2 .012
7 Bismack Biyombo 19 22 279 10.2 .471 .464 8.6 20.3 14.2 2.3 0.9 8.3 21.0 14.0 85 104 -0.2 0.3 0.0 .005
8 Tyrus Thomas 25 16 444 10.3 .442 .376 4.4 16.5 10.2 4.4 1.9 5.5 14.0 16.0 87 105 -0.3 0.3 0.0 .000
9 Boris Diaw 29 23 634 12.2 .484 .473 4.6 19.2 11.6 25.6 1.0 1.4 20.9 17.9 93 109 -0.1 0.1 0.0 .000
10 Kemba Walker 21 23 633 14.0 .452 .406 2.2 14.9 8.3 23.2 2.1 1.2 13.5 25.1 91 108 -0.4 0.2 -0.1 -0.011
11 DeSagana Diop 30 14 179 7.6 .261 .259 11.0 20.5 15.5 10.8 1.7 3.7 21.8 9.3 76 105 -0.2 0.1 -0.1 -0.028
12 Matt Carroll 31 20 271 6.1 .418 .364 1.2 10.0 5.4 9.7 1.5 0.5 12.6 17.3 83 111 -0.3 0.0 -0.3 -0.057
13 Corey Maggette 32 6 181 8.2 .436 .329 4.8 18.9 11.6 8.3 0.9 0.4 15.2 24.8 85 110 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 -0.061
14 Cory Higgins 22 16 203 5.1 .394 .338 1.6 8.1 4.7 15.0 0.5 0.4 14.0 22.5 80 114 -0.4 -0.1 -0.5 -0.118
15 Reggie Williams 25 2 30 -0.7 .267 .267 14.5 11.8 13.2 5.8 0.0 0.0 16.7 27.3 60 114 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 -0.308
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/4/2012.

League average of win shares/48 minutes is approximately .100, meaning the Bobcats have no regular rotation players who are even average, let alone above average. Our old friend Boris Diaw sits at .000, which seems amusingly appropriate. Wasn't that Bluto's grade point average in Animal House?

Still, last year's edition of the Bobcats beat the Suns twice and The Big Croissant scored 26 in the first game and 18 in the second. Could a meeting with his former team motivate Diaw for a strong performance? That's certainly a possibility.

The Suns will also get their first look at freakishly athletic, raw as nigiri rookie Bismack Biyombo. He has yet to be a factor, averaging 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.

Marcin Gortat continues his double-double producing ways and is playing like a near all-star, but he is the only consistent Suns player. Steve Nash is playing through a bruised thigh. At least last night's blowout at the hands of the Rockets allowed Nash to play only 25 minutes in the game. We'll have to wait and see how fresh his legs are tonight.

Rk Player Age G MP PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
1 Steve Nash 37 20 620 23.4 .631 .600 1.1 7.7 4.4 57.9 1.0 0.1 22.6 22.4 116 110 2.1 0.1 2.2 .172
2 Marcin Gortat 27 22 701 21.8 .584 .566 8.2 27.4 17.9 4.8 1.1 4.1 10.8 21.3 110 100 1.4 0.9 2.4 .163
3 Jared Dudley 26 22 657 15.3 .546 .495 4.6 10.8 7.8 9.9 2.0 0.4 7.6 16.7 113 106 1.3 0.4 1.6 .120
4 Josh Childress 28 10 136 11.8 .535 .552 6.7 11.4 9.1 9.3 1.9 1.1 11.8 11.5 109 106 0.1 0.1 0.2 .082
5 Robin Lopez 23 20 266 11.9 .528 .456 9.4 17.9 13.7 4.2 0.4 3.6 15.2 17.1 102 105 0.2 0.2 0.4 .079
6 Hakim Warrick 29 19 316 14.3 .513 .449 7.2 11.6 9.4 9.9 0.5 0.5 11.9 23.3 102 109 0.3 0.1 0.4 .060
7 Markieff Morris 22 22 449 12.0 .503 .480 6.5 20.3 13.5 8.5 1.5 1.6 14.1 18.9 97 103 0.1 0.4 0.6 .059
8 Channing Frye 28 22 482 11.0 .454 .419 4.9 22.6 13.8 6.6 1.3 2.8 10.5 18.3 93 102 -0.1 0.5 0.4 .042
9 Ronnie Price 28 22 373 9.4 .478 .444 3.6 7.4 5.6 21.5 3.1 0.6 24.6 15.6 91 105 -0.2 0.3 0.1 .017
10 Shannon Brown 26 21 439 11.5 .478 .443 2.3 8.1 5.2 7.5 2.3 0.7 11.2 23.4 91 107 -0.2 0.2 0.1 .006
11 Grant Hill 39 21 541 9.8 .458 .413 2.3 11.7 7.0 9.2 1.3 1.9 13.1 20.3 89 107 -0.4 0.3 -0.1 -0.008
12 Michael Redd 32 9 89 7.1 .411 .353 0.0 7.5 3.8 7.2 1.8 0.0 7.0 22.4 85 108 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 -0.042
13 Sebastian Telfair 26 16 210 8.5 .427 .375 2.2 6.9 4.5 17.3 3.2 0.0 15.6 25.4 84 105 -0.3 0.2 -0.2 -0.045
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/4/2012.

Ben Swanson of Bobcats' blog Rufus on Fire answered five questions about the Bobcats for us as they navigate a rough season but have their eyes on the future.

Ray: This is the Bobcats 8th season as an NBA franchise, without much success so far. North Carolina is known for its rabid college basketball fans. How are the Bobcats catching on? Have they built a solid fanbase?

Ben: The Bobcats are catching on slightly, I'd say. They had built up a somewhat strong fanbase during the playoff year, but fell off hard last season, especially after trading or not re-signing most of the pieces that were involved in that season.


Ray: Before last year's trade deadline, the Bobcats traded Gerald Wallace for Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, Joel Przybilla, cash, a 2011 1st round draft pick (Tobias Harris) and a 2013 1st round draft pick. Wallace was the heart and soul of the team, and was dumped for cap space and a couple of non-premium draft picks. How hard was that trade for Bobcats fans to deal with?

Ben: It's a lot harder to deal with in hindsight. People often forget how much Wallace was struggling that season before he was traded. I, and others, wondered if age was catching up to him. It seemed like opposing defense had figured out how to stop him completely. He was called for more charges than I had ever seen. And when a player's style is so dependent on athleticism and has such a history of concussions and injuries, you have to wonder if Wallace had reached his apex the previous season. It wasn't a great return then, but I don't know if there was a better deal out there.


Ray:
The Bobcats appear to have gone with the "blow the team up completely and start from scratch" method of rebuilding. How's the long-term prognosis there? What do you think of the Suns alternate method to attempt to re-tool while holding on to Steve Nash and hoping to add pieces around him?

Ben: I'm definitely all for the 'blow it up' rebuilding mode for the Bobcats. It's painful for fans, but this team is on track for a top-four pick in a draft that's regarded as one of the most talented in years. As for the Suns and Steve Nash, I wonder if it's too late. Nash is still a great point guard, but he's nearing 40 (which is amazing) and injuries are catching up. The return on a trade involving him might not be as franchise-altering as even just a year or two ago. I think the way they're just adding pieces around him limits their future.


Ray: From an outsider's view, Michael Jordan looks overmatched as a team owner. Do you think he's capable of being an effective NBA executive?

Ben: I think he can be if he doesn't get too involved. Some input is fine, but he needs guys in that organization that are willing to contradict him if they have differing opinions. That is why I and many others were encouraged by the Rich Cho hiring. And though very few have heard of him, Bobcats Vice Chairman Curtis Polk has an important role in the organization as one of the few guys who Jordan will listen to as a dissenter. Jordan is not the GM (though many like to act like he is) but he needs to take a more hands-off approach when it comes to personnel.


Ray: Gotta ask about former Sun Boris Diaw. His career arc in Phoenix was one spectacular season followed by a fat contract, followed by him getting fat. Oh, and a lot of passes out to the perimeter when he had an open look right next to the basket. What have you seen from him in Charlotte?

Ben: Wow. That pretty much sums it up. He came on strong immediately after the trade but fell apart the following season, especially after the Stephen Jackson trade. His play is marked by immense inconsistency. It's maddening not only to fans, but to coach Paul Silas, who benched Diaw from the starting lineup last month for the first time in years. Diaw has so much talent but can never seem to put it together. He always prefers to just pass, when he needs to take shots and be aggressive to keep defenses guessing when he has the ball. It's a shame, really.

Thanks for the knowledge, Ben! For more insight and humor from Ben, AKA Cardboard Gerald, he's on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/CardboardGerald and his game preview can be found here:

Charlotte Bobcats at Phoenix Suns preview -- Game 24




Phoenix Suns 95, Charlotte Bobcats 89 Typically, this preview would focus on the statistical differentials between the teams in various advanced metrics — offensive rebound rate, effective...

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