Channing wants to know what went wrong. We have the answers.

More photos » Steve Dykes - AP

Channing wants to know what went wrong. We have the answers.

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The Phoenix Suns struggled to put points on the board while Steve Nash was resting during Tuesday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Goran Dragic got much of the blame, but how much of it was really his fault? What really went down in Portland that took the Suns bench out of their game and led to Nash coming back in without his typical six minutes of rest in the fourth quarter?

I went back and looked at each offensive play by the Goran-led Suns bench and found the following:

  • In the first half, the bench was outscored 17-11 by the Blazers in about 7 minutes
  • The Blazers were in a zone defense almost the entire time (probably because they were afraid of Dragic penetrating)
  • The Suns zone offense wasn't horrible; they got open shots, but they didn't hit many of the looks they got and instead of trying to get open threes, they kept trying to flash to the middle of the lane around the free throw line and work from there with Hedo. But the baseline cuts were covered, so they didn't get much else
  • Childress was on the floor in the first half with the bench unit in the first half, Grant Hill in the second. Click here for the full look at who played with who, and when
  • In the first half, the plays Dragic did make were decent. No turnovers and he missed just one open jump shot and got blocked from behind by Camby (who hasn't)
  • In the second half, the Suns were outscored 8-4 in about 2:30 before Gentry pulled the plug on the bench
  • Dragic had two turnovers in that stretch: a travel call on the catch and dribble and the offensive foul on the fast break
  • Before getting yanked, Dragic was running a quick high screen-and-roll with Warrick to quickly break the Blazers zone. It was working well
So bottom line, the bench wasn't really prepared to deal with the zone in the first half and tried to run the offense through Hedo in the high post, which didn't work. In the second half, the attack plan was better because Goran was running a quick pick-and-roll with Warrick. It was working before Dragic committed the two turnovers.

I think it was mistake to pull him so fast.

The real issue was the defense of the bench unit. They gave up 25 points in 9:30 total thanks in large part to Patty Mills' attack off the screen-and-roll and Warrick doing a really poor job defending, which prompted Gentry to sub Barron back in after 1:37, which didn't help the offense, either. 

Here's the play-by-play break down of the offensive possessions from the Suns bench in the game:

1st half

1.       :30, 23-26. Blazers in zone. Frye flashes to high post trying to find Warrick on baseline but he's covered. Frye shots (miss) at end of the clock

2.       12:00, 23-29. Blazers in zone. Suns try and post Childress against Aldridge. Childress backs out, faces up and gets past LMA. Pryzbilla helps, Josh kicks to wide open Warrick for baseline 17ft shot (miss)

3.       11:19, 23-31. Dragic uses high Warrick screen, gets into the lane and draws help. Find Warrick at the front of the rim. Blazers foul to prevent dunk

4.       10:29, 25-31. Blazers in zone. Hedo flashes to middle, draws Pryzbilla, misses open step back 17ft  jump shot

5.       10:20, 27-31. Dragic strips Mills in the back court. Suns swing ball against unset defense. Dudley hits open three

6.       9:52, 30-34. Blazers in zone. Hedo flashes to middle, draws Pryzbilla, misses open step back 17ft  jump shot

7.       9:12, 30-37. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick. Blazers defenders get caught up going under screen. Dragic misses open 17 foot jump shot

8.       8:46, 30-39. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick, gets into lane and draws help. Nice bounce pass to Dudley cutting baseline, Cunningham with great rotation and block

9.       8:28, 30-39. Blazers in box and 1 zone. Warrick flashes to middle of lane, draws Pryzbilla, spins to attack rim and loses ball

10.   7:12, 32-41. Blazers zone. Childress cuts baseline, gets pass from Hedo for layup

11.   6:41, 34-43. Blazers zone. Hill finds seam to attack but steps out of bounds on initial move

12.   6:23, 34-43. Blazers zone. Dragic fakes pass to Hill open the corner and attacks Batum, gets into the lane for layup attempt. Camby blocks from behind


2nd half

1.       11:33, 75-69. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick and drives the lane. Help comes, Goran kicks to Dudley in the corner who hits an open three

2.       11:13, 78-72. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick. Blazers switch. Warrick dives to front of the rim. Dragic swings to Hedo for hi-lo pass to Warrick in paint. He's fouled by Aldridge who rotated over

3.       10:46, 79-75. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick. Mills fights over screen and fouls Dragic as he tries to turn the corner. It could have been an offensive foul on Dragic who didn't use the screen well enough to gain separation from Mills

4.       10:37, 79-75. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick. Blazers switch, Dragic drives the lane but Aldridge cuts him off without help. Dragic kicks out to Hedo iso against Batum, probes and goes nowhere and swings back to Dragic iso against Aldridge. Dragic travel on the catch / dribble

5.       10:10, 79-77.  Dragic pass to Barron (in for Warrick for defense). Barron hands off to Hill who gets to free throw line for open jump shot (miss).

6.       9:33, 79-77. Dragic on the fast break after Hill steal. Dragic offensive foul


There are plenty of other questions about this game like what happened to the Suns offense late in the game. Why was the Suns bench defense so poor. Why was the Suns strong side zone defense by the starters so good. Maybe we'll have time to answer those today. Maybe not. You just never know.


The Portland Trail Blazers have a way of getting putting the clamps on the Phoenix Suns late in games. The last time the Suns squared off against the Blazers in their season opener, they took a 81-75...

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Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash (13) looks on as he is called for a foul during the first quarter of the game against the Portland Trailblazers at the Rose Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

More photos » Steve Dykes - AP

8 days ago: Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash (13) looks on as he is called for a foul during the first quarter of the game against the Portland Trailblazers at the Rose Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

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Forget the reffing. Forget how much you're sick of the Blazers fighting and shoving the Phoenix Suns and ultimately getting the benefit of the calls. 

Forget how many bruises Nash is going to have tomorrow (oh yeah, its a back-to-back tomorrow!). Forget that the Phoenix Suns made Aldridge and Roy look good, despite neither of them playing that well on their own.

It's tough for the Phoenix Suns to win when 3 of their rotation players fail to show up to the game. They lost 106-99.

Hakim Warrick forgot his aggressiveness in Phoenix. He had one - one! - pick-n-roll finish in the entire game. In fact, he had more airballs than baskets.

Jason Richardson failed to show up for this game. He collected more fouls than baskets. His head just was not in this game, except for a 1-minute stretch to start the third quarter where he had 4 of his 6 points. Ugh. In fact, his terrible play allowed the Blazers to put a big, physical guy on Nash during key stretches which slowed the offense to a halt.

But the capper, the biggest reason the Suns lost this game: Goran Dragic.

If you think I'm being unfair, you were not watching the game.

Not only was Dragic a -10 in this game, he killed the momentum over and over again. Offensive fouls, travelling calls, missed shots, and NO aggressive drives to the hoop for a hard layup. It's like Dragic had no interest in the physicality of the game.

And worse than all that? Dragic's horrible presence at the start of the fourth - allowing the Blazers to cut a 9-point lead to 2 in only 2.5 minutes - forced Gentry's hand.

Nash had to come back in at the 9:18 mark. And we all know what that means.

Nash loses steam on too many minutes.

From the 4:31 mark to the 0:39 mark, the Suns scored ONE point on 9 possessions. ONE. And that was a 1-for-2 at the free throw line by Earl Barron.

Here are those possessions: block, shot clock violation, steal, offensive foul, missed 3-pointer, missed 9-footer, missed 3-pointer, missed free throw, MADE free throw, steal. 

There's 3 really bad things here. (1) bad possessions, (2) too few possessions (stagnant, half-court) and (3) no offensive rebounds!

In fact, the Suns had only 2 offensive rebounds all game. That's just terrible. That's lack of movement, big-time.

Give it up to the Blazers for once again forcing this issue, playing hard defense, and making Steve Nash really, really tired. In the latter, that's taking a page right out of the Spurs old playbook. Wear Nash down and the end of the 4th quarter is theirs.

And that's what happened. Again.

(Of course, these are only regular season games. Before Christmas. They don't erase the wonderful beatdown in the playoffs a few months ago. Playoffs matter most. The Suns have 2 home games left against the Blazers to even this score.)




Second half, here we come!


Play big, Channing! (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rick Bowmer - AP

Play big, Channing! (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

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It's time to get this party started.

The Suns lost the season's first game in a tightly-contested blowout 106-92.

Tightly contested because the Suns actually had the lead halfway through the fourth quarter.

Blowout because the Blazers finished the game on a 10,000-1 run.

Time to return the favor, boys.

At the Rose Garden.

Amidst 20,000 always-supportive-yet-perpetually-relaxed-unless-they're-blogging-about-the-Blazers fans. 

Can you believe that game meltdown on Oct 26 was only a few short weeks ago? Seems like a lifetime.

Let's get some payback, baby. Fight to the finish! Take no prisoners!



 

Suns vs Trail Blazers coverage

Suns vs Trail Blazers preview

Check out the hubub about this game on the sometimes-well-attended sister blog, Blazersedge

Great stuff (slices?) from Coro pregame, including comments on Nash's assists streak, JRich's scoring streak, the Suns' winning streak and Portland winning streak (at home, in the regular season only) against the Suns.

Channing Frye feels right at home in Portland - SBNation AZ feature

 

SB Nation AZ Preview: Phoenix Suns Face Knee Injury-Plagued Portland Trail Blazers 8 P.M. AZT

The Suns look to avenge their opening day loss to the Blazers in Portland where they got killed on the glass. This time Phoenix has a new weapon -- Earl Barron.


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