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As I've watched games lately, I get the impression that PG Goran Dragic is at his best in the first quarter.

Last night, he finished with an impressive double-double - his fifth such double-double in just six games since the All-Star break. But it's occurred to me that his stats are quite impressive in the first quarter, only to tail off the rest of the way (relatively speaking).

  • In last night's first quarter against the Spurs, Dragic had 9 points and 7 assists. The next three quarters combined: 4 points, 6 assists
  • Against Golden State last week, he had 10 points and 5 assists in the first. The next three quarters combined: 10 points, 5 assists
  • Against Portland, he got 5 points and 10 assists in the first. The next three quarters combined: 11 points, 8 assists.

I realize this is nitpicking. Dragic has come out of the All-Star break a double-double machine. Marcin Gortat has expressed a great deal of appreciation for Dragic's extra efforts at setting up teammates, as have the rest of the team.

But it did make me wonder, so I did a little digging.

Suns beat Spurs in Overtime

Dragic started hot and then faded.

And what I found made a whole lot of sense: Dragic's stat-heavy first quarter is very directly correlated with his minutes. He usually plays all or almost-all of the first quarter. His second-most minutes are in the 3rd, while the 4th and 2nd bring up a distant rear.

This makes total sense, doesn't it? That's how Nash's minutes were distributed too. But you might think that a 26-year old best-player-on-your-team might get more run in the 4th when you're trying to win games.

Anyhoo, here's some stats you might like to peruse to illustrate my comments (compared to all other starting guards in the NBA this season).

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These stats compare Goran Dragic to the other STARTING GUARDS in the NBA.


These stats compare Goran Dragic to the other STARTING GUARDS in the NBA. This includes shooting guards as well as point guards, unfortunately, because the NBA stats tool does not allow me to limit the results only to PGs unless I try some fancy footwork. So, take these numbers with the knowledge that guys like Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson are included in the rankings.

As you can see, Goran is 8th among all starting guards in minutes in the first quarter, then tails off dramatically in the later quarters compared to his peers.

He compares favorably on a per-minute basis all game long, as you can see he generally ranks higher in assists, steals and personal fouls drawn than his minutes would dictate.

Shooting is a problem

Where he falls off statistically throughout the game is shooting percentage, as you can see. In the first quarter, he shoots like we all want him to shoot: 52% on all field goals and 40% on 3s. But then he loses it. His next best shooting quarter is the third, but that's no great shakes. And he's been terrible in the second and fourth.

What's behind those discrepancies in shooting?

Well, part of it is the nature of an NBA basketball game. Nobody shoots as well in the second and fourth quarters as defenses ramp up and rotations mess with chemistry - his scoring in each quarter generally keeps pace with his peers per minute.

Another part might be fatigue. While Marcin Gortat has commented all season how tired he is from playing year-round, Goran Dragic has played a lot of international ball over the years as well. Dragic did take last summer off though.

Dragic has the weight of the team on his shoulders, and those shoulders aren't the widest or thickest.

Dragic has the weight of the team on his shoulders, and those shoulders aren't the widest or thickest. He shot much better in the fourth quarter last season (with Houston) when he was thrust into the starting lineup after the All-Star break. He shot 52% in the 4th (16th in the NBA among starting guards in 222 4th-quarter minutes) and 42% on 3s. That was after playing backup minutes for the first 40 games.

Maybe he's more tired this season as the game wears on. Maybe he's more the focus of the defense, and so his scoring opportunities are tougher than last year.

Either way, Goran Dragic is a darn good point guard. We can see it on the floor and in the stats.

Where he can improve is keeping up his shooting percentages later in games.

  When league experts pinpointed Jermaine O’Neal as on his way out following the Suns’ trade to acquire Marcus Morris, it made sense. O’Neal, after all, didn’t fit into...

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Suns came out hot and jumped out to an 8-2 lead to start the game. Although the Spurs quickly caught up and even took the lead momentarily, the Suns were able to maintain the advantage throughout most of the first quarter; thanks in large part to the aggressive play and passing of Goran Dragic, and the sharp shooting of Luis Scola.

Wes Johnson sends game to overtime.

With about two minutes left in the first, the Spurs were able to hit a couple big shots, and Michael Beasley came in to mess things up for Phoenix with a poor shot and a quick turnover as well. At the end of the first the Spurs took the lead 27-25. The Suns were led by Dragic's 9 points and 7 assists, The Spurs by Tony Parker's 7 points, 3 assists.

Kendall Marshall, P.J. Tucker, Michael Beasley, Markieff Morris, and Jermain O'Neal were all in to start the second quarter for the Suns. The Suns bench was able to keep the game close initially against the Spurs' second unit of Patty Mills, Danny Green, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, and DeJuan Blair. After a few minutes though the Spurs began to pull away, and Marcus Morris and Tucker came in and seemed to give the Suns a bit more of a lift, and the Suns were able to once again pull within two before most of the Suns' and Spurs' starters returned.

With the Spurs' first unit back in, the Spurs almost instantly started widening the gap once more. The balanced attack of the Spurs seemed to be in full effect, and the Suns simply weren't as sharp as they were to start the game. At the end of the half the Spurs led 52-45. San antonio was led by Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard who had 11 points a piece, and the Suns were led by Goran Dragic who registered 11 points and 9 assists in just 16 minutes of action.

At the start of the third quarter, the Spurs' starters came out firing once again. Parker who had only 7 points and 3 assists in the first half picked up an additional four points and three more assists in the first six minutes, and the Spurs as a whole seemed to be playing with more tenacity. The Suns on the other hand were up and down, and Dragic seemed to cool off after his hot start.

Scola was once again replaced with about three minutes to go in the third, and the Suns quickly fell apart.

However, Scola who had a nice start continued to play very well in the third quarter and hit a few more shots racking up 15 points on 7/10 shooting, to go along with his 3 assists and 4 rebounds. Scola was once again replaced with about three minutes to go in the third, and the Suns quickly fell apart. The Suns lost their only hot hand and the Spurs seemed to find theirs in nearly every player. The Spurs led 77-67 at the end of the third behind Parker's 17 points and 6 assists. The Suns were led by Scola's 15 points and 4 rebounds.

In the final quarter, the Suns went on an 8-3 run in the first three minutes to bring the lead down to just five, and forcing Gregg Popovich to call a time out. Jermaine O'Neal came out strong to lead the team and made some nice plays at the basket as well as pulling down some much needed rebounds. The Suns went with their big line-up playing both Gortat and O'Neal together, with Marcus and P.J. at the wings. This worked very well as the Suns were able to claw their way to within 2 points with just under a minute left to play.

Manu Ginobli was fouled and went 1-2 from the free throw line. With only a couple seconds left, O'neal throws a long pass to Wesley Johnson who hits the game-tying three...BANG!!! Overtime 100-100.

Wesley Johnson’s defense on (Tony) Parker was phenomenal because he could recoup from being beat and still bother him. -Lindsey Hunter via Suns.com

In OT, both teams started cold and unable to score. However, the Suns continued to grind it out and play tough behind the inspired play of Jermaine O'Neal who eventually sealed the game with an and-one with under ten seconds left in the game. the Suns were able to hold the Spurs to only one point in overtime.

For once, the Spurs couldn't hit the big shots and the Suns were able to outlast the Spurs to come away with their biggest win of the year.

The Suns improve to 20-39 on the season and the Spurs fall to 45-14.

Player of the Game:

Jermaine O'Neal who chalked up 22 points on 8/14 shooting, and grabbed 13 rebounds in 27. Amazing effort tonight from J.O.

Final Stats:

The Suns 46% from the field, the Spurs shot 43%.

The Suns won the battle of the boards 49-44, including 19-10 offensive rebounds.

The Suns bench scored 57 points to just 33 for the Spurs.

Other Notes:

Marcus Morris had his best game of his short Phoenix career tonight, playing big in the 4th quarter and scoring 11 points overall.

Wesley Johnson didn't make a huge impact for most of the game, but there was nothing bigger than his three to send the game to overtime. He seems to have taken over the back-up two spot for good.

The Suns handed the Spurs their first loss at home since November 19, 2012...ending an 18 game home winning streak.

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Tonight, the Suns will take on their rival and arch nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs deep in enemy territory. Will the Suns be able to dig deep and come away with an upset victory in Texas?

What: Phoenix Suns (18-40) vs. San Antonio Spurs (45-13)

When: Wednesday, February 27nd, 2013, 6:30 PM local time/8:30 EST

Where: AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

After losing Sunday night's game to the Spurs at home, 87-97, in game that wasn't nearly as close as the score may indicate, the lowly Suns will once again take on the top ranked evil empire...but this time on a back-to-back while the Spurs have had two days of rest. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

In any case, the Suns, who are currently dead last in the Western Conference, will be taking on the Spurs who currently have the best record in the entire league. That's basically what this game boils down to, all excuses aside. But still, just like in any other sport, the underdog always has a puncher's chance. Maybe the stars will align for the good guys tonight?

The Weigh In:

Points/Game: Suns 94.4 (23rd), Spurs 104.3 (4th)

Rebounds/Game: Suns 41.5 (18st), Spurs 40.9 (25th)

Assists/Game: Suns 22.2 (15th), Spurs 24.9 (1st)

Steals/Game: Suns 7.7 (17th), Spurs 8.7 (4th)

Blocks/Game: Suns 5.5 (9th), Spurs 5.2 (15th)

Fouls/Game: Suns 20.7 (9th), Spurs 17.6 (30th)

Turnovers/Game: Suns 14.9 (14th), Spurs 14.6 (19th)

Field Goal %: Suns 44.2% (17th), Spurs 48.6% (2nd)

3pt. Field Goal %: Suns 32.6% (29th), Spurs 37.9 (5th)

Free Throw %: Suns 74.6% (19th), Spurs 79.0 (4th)

Stats:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Goran Dragic 56 32.9 5.0 11.5 43.3 1.2 3.8 31.6 2.9 4.0 73.4 0.6 2.3 2.9 6.8 2.5 1.5 0.4 2.8 14.1
Luis Scola 58 27.1 5.4 11.4 46.8 0.0 0.2 8.3 2.1 2.7 77.4 1.9 4.4 6.2 2.3 1.5 0.9 0.5 3.2 12.8
Marcin Gortat 58 31.1 4.9 9.3 53.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 2.3 66.9 2.1 6.4 8.5 1.3 1.7 0.7 1.7 2.1 11.4
Jared Dudley 56 29.4 4.1 8.9 46.7 1.4 3.6 38.5 1.6 2.0 79.6 1.1 2.4 3.5 2.7 1.4 0.9 0.1 1.7 11.3
Shannon Brown 53 25.2 4.3 10.3 41.8 0.7 2.6 27.3 1.8 2.4 78.4 0.8 1.9 2.7 2.0 1.3 1.1 0.3 1.6 11.2
Michael Beasley 54 21.6 4.1 10.5 39.5 0.6 1.9 33.3 1.3 1.7 78.0 0.9 3.1 4.0 1.7 2.1 0.4 0.5 1.6 10.2
Marcus Morris 57 20.8 3.1 7.2 42.6 1.3 3.4 38.3 0.9 1.5 63.5 1.1 2.9 4.0 0.8 0.9 0.5 0.3 2.1 8.4
Markieff Morris 58 20.6 3.0 7.6 40.0 0.5 1.6 29.3 1.0 1.4 71.2 1.5 2.9 4.3 1.2 1.1 0.8 0.7 2.6 7.5
Jermaine O`Neal 42 16.9 2.9 5.8 50.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 1.9 79.7 1.3 3.7 5.1 0.7 1.2 0.4 1.3 2.1 7.3
P.J. Tucker 56 23.1 2.3 5.0 45.4 0.2 0.8 31.0 0.7 1.0 69.1 1.5 2.6 4.1 1.3 0.7 0.7 0.2 1.9 5.5
Wesley Johnson 26 9.8 1.4 4.0 35.0 0.4 1.5 28.9 0.3 0.4 70.0 0.4 1.2 1.7 0.4 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.7 3.5
Kendall Marshall 24 11.1 0.8 2.1 40.0 0.4 1.1 33.3 0.0 0.1 50.0 0.1 0.3 0.4 1.7 0.9 0.3 0.0 0.7 2.1
Hamed Haddadi 13 6.6 0.5 1.6 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.2 50.0 0.8 1.1 1.8 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.5 1.2 1.2
Diante Garrett 9 5.7 0.3 1.3 25.0 0.0 0.2 0.0 0.3 0.7 50.0 0.1 0.6 0.7 1.3 0.4 0.4 0.0 0.1 1.0



FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Tony Parker 54 33.0 8.3 15.5 53.6 0.4 1.1 37.9 4.1 4.9 83.1 0.3 2.8 3.1 7.6 2.5 0.9 0.1 1.4 21.1
Tim Duncan 48 29.5 6.7 13.5 49.6 0.0 0.1 33.3 3.3 4.0 80.4 1.8 7.9 9.6 2.7 2.0 0.8 2.7 1.8 16.7
Manu Ginobili 45 23.2 4.0 9.0 44.4 1.5 4.0 36.7 3.0 3.7 80.7 0.5 3.2 3.7 4.4 2.1 1.4 0.2 1.9 12.4
Kawhi Leonard 38 29.6 3.9 8.1 48.5 1.3 3.3 38.7 1.6 1.8 84.3 0.8 4.7 5.5 1.2 1.0 1.8 0.5 1.8 10.7
Danny Green 56 27.6 3.8 8.3 45.2 2.3 5.3 43.1 0.8 0.9 86.5 0.5 2.7 3.2 1.6 1.1 1.2 0.7 1.6 10.6
Tiago Splitter 58 23.8 3.9 6.6 59.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.7 3.6 74.2 1.6 4.2 5.8 1.3 1.2 0.8 0.8 2.1 10.5
Gary Neal 51 22.4 3.6 8.8 40.8 1.3 3.6 35.5 1.0 1.1 86.2 0.2 1.9 2.2 1.7 1.1 0.4 0.0 1.4 9.4
Stephen Jackson 38 20.7 2.3 6.2 37.2 0.8 3.2 25.8 1.1 1.5 69.0 0.4 2.5 2.9 1.4 1.4 0.7 0.3 1.7 6.4
Boris Diaw 58 23.4 2.4 4.3 56.9 0.4 1.1 42.6 0.7 0.9 70.9 0.9 2.8 3.7 2.5 1.1 0.6 0.3 2.0 6.0
DeJuan Blair 43 13.3 2.2 4.3 49.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.3 65.5 1.2 2.6 3.8 0.7 0.7 0.6 0.1 1.7 5.2
Patty Mills 47 10.1 1.7 3.7 45.3 0.8 2.0 37.9 0.3 0.3 93.3 0.2 0.6 0.8 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.1 0.9 4.4
Matt Bonner 50 12.6 1.6 3.3 47.6 0.8 1.8 42.2 0.1 0.1 57.1 0.4 1.5 1.9 0.5 0.2 0.3 0.2 1.2 4.0
Nando De Colo 50 11.9 1.3 3.0 43.2 0.4 1.0 36.5 0.5 0.6 76.7 0.3 1.4 1.7 1.8 1.1 0.5 0.1 1.0 3.4
Cory Joseph 10 6.7 0.8 1.9 42.1 0.1 0.6 16.7 0.2 0.2 100.0 0.4 0.6 1.0 1.3 0.8 0.3 0.0 0.1 1.9
Aron Baynes 8 5.6 0.8 1.5 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.5 75.0 0.5 1.1 1.6 0.0 0.9 0.0 0.4 1.4 1.9


Starting Line-Ups:

PG - Goran Dragic v. Tony Parker

SG - Jared Dudley v. Danny Green

SF - P.J. Tucker v. Kawhi Leonard

PF - Luis Scola v. Tim Duncan

C - Marcin Gortat v. Tiago Splitter

Key Match-Up:

Goran Dragic vs. Tony Parker.

Although the Spurs have already shown they are more than capable of beating the Suns even without their all-star starting point guard, there's no question they are a much better team with Parker at the helm. Likewise, the Suns live and die by Goran Dragic, who just so happens to play the same position. When Dragic is on his game he is one of the most electric and exciting point guards to watch in the league. However, he has had trouble stopping opposing star players including Parker in the past, and has let his frustrations take him out of the game offensively as well. If the Suns are going to have any chance of stealing a victory in San Antonio tonight, Dragic will need to step up big and not only take over offensively, but control Parker on defense as well.

Final Thoughts:

Whether or not the Suns can actually win this game is almost beside the point at this stage of the season. What really matters is seeing the continued development of the young players, and finding some semblance of chemistry and consistency from this team. Don't get me wrong, I'd like nothing more than to see David take down the mighty Goliath tonight, but I think most of us would be content to see the Suns play with some heart and hustle, and put forth a respectable effort above all else. Besides, even with a loss the Suns just get that many more lottery balls...It's a win-win!

Time: 6:30 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ Winning typically cures all in the NBA, except when you’re a team 20 games below .500 and forced to play the second game of a back-to-back on the road against the...

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