Not a bad game, huh? The Phoenix Suns starters looks pretty much in synch already in Friday's preseason home win over the Portland Trail Blazers. As Jim said in his recap, Goran Dragic looked really sharp, super confident and in word, he Killed It.
His lack of "game shape" might have shown up in the second half when he seemed a step slower, but no worries there at this point in the calendar. Of course, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris made up for poor first half efforts to carry the second.
Here's my snap impressions of the team overall based on this game:
Rebounding is going to be an issue all year long unless Jermaine O'Neal is able to play a lot better than the last few years of his career would indicate or Gentry is will to sacrifice offense can play some of his bench bangers more.
Offensively, this team has a lot of weapons and with Dragic looking like a legit NBA point guard to run the show, they should score well and actually have a few new ways to put the ball in the hoop. Most notably, they can go to Luis Scola in the post (or even J.O.) which they didn't do much in this game; they can run pick and roll; they've got a few iso guys in Michael Beasley and Shannon Brown; and Jared Dudley and Wesley Johnson add floor spacing. You can see how it might be a very nice, diversified mix once we get to the regular season rotations.
Beasley really stood out for his willingness to move the ball (at least in the first half) and you could see a clear pattern emerge where he would get the shot late in the clock when plays broke down. Gentry's been wanting a player like that for the last few years.
Defensively, the jury is still out. The Blazers have a lot of work to do so while the Suns did well against them, I'm not sold yet that they are ready to stop better competition. We'll see.
The bench didn't play well in this game, but that doesn't bother me. We know Kendall Marshall isn't ready for the show so Sebastian Telfair should do a much better job at point and the rotations will be tighter.
That was a lot more words than I planned on writing as an intro to these other recap links. Suck it up.
From our cousins at SB Nation Arizona:
That was evident as Dragic created unique offense for his teammates with 5 assists in his first 15 minutes of action. Very Nash-like, but done in a very Dragic-like manner. "I think Goran is in a really good place," Coach Gentry after the game. "His idea is not to replace Steve, but to try to be the best player we want him to be. We just want him to be the best Goran he can be."
Suns vs. Blazers: Just 'a typical preseason game' - SB Nation Arizona
Finding five players, "guys that can play together," is one of the priorities that Gentry has in the preseason, and it looks like that the current starting lineup could be what we see on Opening Night. 58 points in two first quarters is what Gentry describes as "hard to do when you just throw a bunch of players together."
And from the Portland side of the fence:
You may recall that we've been saying for a while that there will be two sides to the Blazers' run-and-spread offense this season. When they catch opposing teams unprepared or unmotivated they're going to look pretty. When defenses remember to work and/or when the Blazers fail to execute properly those same players will look like they're walking through a collective nightmare.
And from our other local friends:
the point guard who had one practice before preseason, got in foul trouble Wednesday night at Sacramento and supposedly would have to play himself into shape, was the one point guard to watch at US Airways Center. Handed the impossible task of following Steve Nash,Goran Dragic is comfortable in his own skin, is in a Suns system he knows and has Nash’s old locker.
"The offensive rebounding is still a huge concern," Gentry said of giving up 17 offensive boards to the Blazers. "Then, I think the dribble penetration. We’re going to have to do a better job of keeping the ball out of the paint."
"He’s a good player," Gentry said. "I think with him the whole thing was just confidence. He needed confidence, and that’s not unusual for a young player, so hopefully we’re going to try to instill that in him. His overall game is better than we anticipated. He puts the ball down, he’s a long guy, pretty good defender, gets out and runs. We’ll just continue to try to work with him to get him to the point where he’s a very consistent and very confident player."
The Suns have the next 4 days off as they don’t play the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas until Wednesday.
And finally, the game book.
The Suns used an 18-5 run in the first quarter to build a lead over Portland which they never surrendered the rest of the game en route to a 104-93 victory at USAC. The Blazers looked completely overmatched by the Suns' starters for most of the time they were pitted against each other on the court.
The flow of the game was improved from the match against the Kings and the Suns got the fans tacos by breaking the triple digit barrier on 51.2% shooting including 10-20 from three point range. The Suns defense also held their own, holding the Blazers to 38.6% shooting including a 6-24 effort in the first quarter when the Suns set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Suns had another stellar start to the game. They shot 61.1% for the first quarter, including 5-7 from three, and led the disjointed Blazers 28-15.
Scola made several velvety smooth moves around the basket in the early going. He seems to be adapting well and finished with 12 points in just 18 minutes.
Dragic made Lillard look like a rookie.
Brown was strong off the bench, battling through a severe case of "Halloween Eye" to the tune of 12, 4, and 4.
Wes Johnson continued to hoist from outside and was 3-4 from three point range on the way to 12 points. He also pulled down six rebounds.
Auditioning Suns Luke Zeller and Ike Diogu both played well in limited minutes. P.J. Tucker was a hellion in very brief exposure.
Meyers Leonard played above the rim most of the night as he scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds (seven offensive).
Gortat pitched a shutout in the first half and look confused at times. He redeemed himself by scoring seven quick points to start the third quarter and looked more into the flow of the game.
The Suns got owned by Portland on the offensive glass. Leonard led the way with seven as the Blazers secured a dominant 17-9 edge.
Lillard made Marshall look like a rookie.
Morris picked up four fouls in just 3:47 in the first half. He also acquitted himself with a more cautious approach in the second half and finished with a team high 14 points to go with five rebounds.
LaMarcus Aldridge on offense. He was constantly stultified (the Blazer fans don't seem to be smitten with that word) by pesky, incessant defense and double teams. He looked visibly frustrated at times on the way to a poor 4-13 shooting night.
Player of the Game:
Goran Dragic. Many of his nine assists were of the highlight reel variety and he pummeled Lillard in the individual match up. Welcome to the NBA rook.
Comment of the Night:
Can we just sign Zeller, Diogu AND Garret? Rotate them in and out of the D-League. Zeller is a nice stretch big. Garret could be worth developing. And Diogu... well, I just really like Ike.
"I thought we were passive at the beginning of the game. The Suns came out and were the more aggressive team and we got in a hole," said Portland coach Terry Stotts on his team's performance tonight. "We fought back; we got to seven or six a few times, but couldn't quite get over the hump. I was disappointed in the first six minutes where the Suns set the tone for the game."
"We had no energy tonight, sloppy a little bit," said Batum. "Maybe sometimes we get a little bit tired but there are no excuses."
"We started real well. On offense and defense we controlled the game. We still have a long ways to go," said Dragic. "We need that second unit to come off the bench and give us that extra energy and play as hard as possible."
Suns lead 53-46 at the half. Goran Dragic looks completely in control and has four points, fives assists and four rebounds in 15 minutes. Luke Zeller has been interesting and the Suns are 8-12 from three.
The rookie Marshall looked lost. The Polish Gazelle is still grazing. Michael Beasley is passing and Wes Johnson is smoooth.