First things first, the picture to go with the article is one of Lady Liberty herself. With her single outstretched hand while standing in rebound position. I smiled.
Am I the only Suns fan saying "uh oh"?
Lopez is the team's go-to for disturbingly long stretches. When a ball-handler -- Vasquez, Mason, Roberts, Aminu -- is in trouble, it is Lopez's giant, huddled figure he seeks refuge in. Lopez is happy to oblige, receiving the ball countless times with his back to the basket, 20 feet away from the hoop.
In short order, he's become New Orleans' personal Statue of Liberty, eagerly welcoming the team's beleaguered, its tired and its poor, its huddled masses yearning to breathe free and/or dribble at a semiprofessional level.
Suns fans can conjure this image all too easily - Lopez going way out on the perimeter to receive the pass, then awkwardly move it along to the next guy in slow motion.
Needless to say, there are many problems with Lopez, Point-Center. Turnovers: bad. Quality of shot: bad. Loss of rebounding ability due to the team's 7 foot center being 15 feet from the hoop even if he's a pretty pedestrian rebounder: also bad.
Rohan goes on to talk more about Robin and the Hornets' defensive and offensive struggles. It's a great read. Be sure to hit the link and learn something about tonight's opponent.
Another lackluster start from the starters, except Morris and Brown played very hard. Dragic, Beasley and Gortat did not. Those three started the game tentative, though Beasley had a couple of nice passes. But Gortat missed open shot after open shot, and Dragic got abused and beaten over and over again by Vasquez. Couple that with hot shooting all over the place, and you've got another double-digit deficit created by the starters.
The first quarter ended with an 8-point lead for the Hornets, 31-23. Vasquez had 8 points and 6 assists while Aminu had 8 points and 4 rebounds. The Hornets, after a blistering start, still shot 66.7% percent. Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown had 17 of the Suns' 23 points on 7 of 10 shooting between them. The rest of the Suns shot 3 for 13.
Then the Suns best defensive unit stepped onto the court, even with Dudley and Scola now a part of that group. Any unit with Tucker, O'neal and Telfair is a good defensive unit.
Still, everything was falling for Hornets. Xavier Henry avoided a steal by having the ball bounce right back into his lap for an easy layup. Then the Suns turned it over and committed yet another foul. And so on. It was while before the Suns were able to cut the lead for good, all thanks to Bassy, Tucker and O'Neal.
The Suns cut it to three before Telfair sat down after making several "Bass-ty" plays to right the Suns' ship. His hounding defense really gets the other team off-kilter in his short spurts.
Dragic returned halfway through the quarter, with O'Neal staying at C in place of the fumbling Marcin Gortat for a while. Not sure what's going on in that guy's head as he came out tentative once again. The Gortat on Wednesday was aggressive, every shot being taken with strength and purpose.
Beasley and Gortat returned with a 4-point deficit (one minute apart) and couldn't help the Suns close the gap. In fact, the Hornets made layup after layup by forcing the Suns to switch and rotate too much, ending up out of position. The Hornets got all the 50/50 balls when the Suns starters were on the floor, which usually is a bad sign.
The half ended with a 6-point Hornet lead, 53-47. Beasley blocked a layup at the halftime buzzer. The Suns created this deficit as much as the Hornets earned it by failing to hustle enough to make good things happen. Grievis Vasquez had 14 points and 7 rebounds at halftime.
The third quarter was much like the the first, with the Hornets making most of their shots and the Suns starting unit coming out listless. The Hornets built a 19-point lead like they were eating lunch - just all easy and quiet like.
Then P.J. Tucker and Jermaine O'Neal stepped onto the court. Everything changed.
The Suns became scrappier and played with a passion that had been missing. The energy ramped up noticeably and the Hornets lead was cut to a mere FOUR points by the end of the third, capped off by a three-pointer by none other than P.J. Tucker at the buzzer.
At the beginning of the fourth, the Suns tried something new - running a Hornet off the three-point line. It worked! Xavier Henry had to step in and missed the runner. Two possessions later, the Suns took the lead on a 3 by Dudley, and then a fast-break finish by Scola put the Suns up by three.
BAM! The flood gates had opened, much like they did in the other direction of the Orlando Magic game. The Suns quickly built an 11-point lead by making 1,000 shots in a row or something like that.
The only problem was that the Suns did this so quickly the Hornets still had more than 6 minutes of game time to get the lead back. And the guys who made all the plays got tired.
The Hornets made it close again, cutting the lead behind Greivis Vasquez and Ryan Anderson to three points. The timing of Marcin Gortat re-entering the game in place of Jermaine O'Neal might seem to be the difference, but the Hornets did their damage from the perimeter to cut that lead back.
But then Dragic made a runner, Robin Lopez clanked a shot off the top of the backboard and Dudley made another three. The lead was back to 8 and Suns fans were smiling again.
But then Ryan Anderson made another killer three, Lopez a two and Vasquez a fast-break three and the game was tied again. Dragic and Dudley missed difficult shots in between.
The Suns couldn't get off a quality shot, and the game went to overtime. All that work by the second unit was done-in by some unconscious play by Anderson and Vasquez. Entering overtime, Ryan Anderson had 32 points, going 8 for 12 on three-pointers. Crazy distance on some of those. Grievis Vasquez had 25 points and 14 assists.
In the end, it was like a pair of prizefighters on their last breaths. Neither team able to generate any offense. They scored only two points between them in the first four minutes of overtime.
Then Markieff Morris made a three-pointer to give the Suns a five-point lead with 49.9 seconds left. Ryan Anderson's head dropped to his chest. After all his hard work, the Hornets were finally going down after giving up a 19-point third quarter lead.
What a game, Suns fans.
What a game.
Player of the game: P.J. Tucker
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