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"We are in a bad spot right now."

That's Gentry talking about the team's current state of affairs, losers of 8 of their last 9 games and 16 of 21 overall since a 7-8 start to the season.The team is now 12-23 on the season.

Gone are the days of the easiest schedule in the league, which was the case in the first 20 games of the year based on their opponents' current winning percentage on the season. The Phoenix Suns have beaten only one team that is still above .500 right now (the Memphis Grizzlies).

But they have beaten 6 teams that were above .500 at the time of the game. So there's that. And they've played nearly every game down to the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, only to lose at the end.

"We've got to play with a little more confidence," he said yesterday in reaction to Luis Scola's comment that the team is almost expecting the worst now. "Not looking for the bad thing that's going to happen. As coaches, management, and as players, it all starts with confidence."

But bad things do happen. Like after a first quarter on Friday night that Gentry deemed "the best they played (offensively) all season" when everything just fell apart and never came back.

The team came into the Grizzlies game lacking confidence again last night when they started the game 2-for-14 with 4 turnovers. That's not going to get it done.

The guys are starting to realize that the season is already way down a slippery slope, and they have to fight to keep it together.

"The road can bring you together," Jared Dudley said, trying to grasp at anything. "But I don't know the stats, but we've lost something like 8 or 9 in a row."

He said it starts with the team captains, him and Jermaine O'Neal, to keep the team from falling apart.

It starts with Goran Dragic too.

"Goran's the point guard, he's got to get everyone into it," he said. "When he does bad, we struggle. When he goes good, we have a chance. I don't know how he did statistically tonight, but I think overall there was a lack of ball movement, turnovers. They got a lot of easy layups and we didn't."

The guys on the court don't always turn to Dragic though when things start to go sour. They try to do too much on their own. Dudley had six turnovers on bad passes on Friday night, and couldn't get his shot off very well against the Grizzlies' Tony Allen on Sunday.

Rebound outlets too often go to someone else, who doesn't often get a good shot once they cross the time line.

"We don't have one-on-one players, period," Gentry said before the game. "It's detrimental to our team. We are a much better team when we have 3 or 4 passes."

Yet guys are jacking up shots anyway, or trying to make hero passes that just aren't there. Some of it is a broken down offense. Dragic is getting trapped more and more often, forcing him to give up the ball to someone else on the perimeter (ie. not in shooting position) to restart the play. But the ball isn't getting back to him.

As Gentry says, there are "a lot of young players on this team that are trying to carve out a reputation."

One of those is Shannon Brown. Brown knows he's basically on a one-year contract, and he's trying hard to show he's worth a long-term deal. Getting relegated to the bench is not helping his confidence.

"He really enjoys starting, it's important to him," Gentry said of Brown's recent poor play. "But we need firepower off the bench. He needs to understand that."

Ultimately, it's sink or swim time. There's no easy road to turn onto. The Suns face a schedule that won't favor them for a single win between now and the All-Star break. Welcome to the world of Sacramento, Charlotte and New Orleans.

"The easiest thing to do it to point fingers and go our separate ways," Gentry warns. "We have just got to believe in ourselves. We're not just going to play out the season."

PHOENIX — When the Phoenix Suns opened their season, it’s doubtful they expected many nights in which P.J. Tucker would lead them in scoring. Yet in their latest example of offensive...

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20121206_ajl_as8_110

Open shots, tough shots, fadeaways, layups, free throws... no matter that the Suns tried, they could not get that ball to fall through the net.

By halfway through the 4th, the Grizzlies had an easy 10-point lead and just coasted to the finish. Literally coasted. Marc Gasol walked back down the court on offense. The Grizzlies relaxed their defense enough to let the Suns finally score a bit.

Some interesting developments there in the 4th:

  • Gentry stayed with his lineup - that couldn't score - for several minutes. By the time most of the starters returned, it was a 10-point Grizz lead, despite the Grizz committing turnovers on 5 straight possessions. The Suns could not capitalize.
  • Jared Dudley did not play in the 4th, in lieu of Shannon Brown and P.J. Tucker.
  • Despite Memphis going with a 2-point guard offense to close the last 8 minutes - Conley and lil' Booz Bayless - the Suns did not play their once-loved 2-PG lineup of Dragic and Telfair.
  • So basically, Shannon Brown played ahead of both Telfair and Dudley in the 4th.
  • Brown shot 3-for-9 in 27 minutes of play, with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals

Goran Dragic had only 2 points and 5 assists through three quarters, after scoring 19 with 7 assists and 12 with 8 assists in the prior two games against Memphis. His counterpart, Mike Conley, had a forgettable game as well. Should we credit both defenses?

The first quarter started like the last three quarters of Friday night's game. The Suns started 2-14 with 4 turnovers on top of that. At least this time, it was thanks to the opponents defense as much as the Suns' offense. The Suns recovered while playing spirited defense and only trailed by 5 at the end of the first.

Gentry once again went with an all-sub unit in the second and they held their own against a Memphis second unit that's not very good either. But this time, Wesley Johnson got the call over Michael Beasley and (somewhat) delivered. Johnson made two 3-pointers and stuffed Rudy Gay on a fast break.

But still the Suns offense stayed in the old deep freeze. They only shot 32% in the first half, but only trailed by 3 by keeping the Grizzlies out of the hoop as well.

It was 41-38 Grizzlies at halftime, similar to the 42-40 halftime deficit the Suns faced on Friday night. No offensive rhythm for the Suns. Somehow staying close because the other team had no rhythm either.

The first team to get their act together on offense wins the game.

In the third, it was the Grizzlies. At least on fast-break releases by Rudy Gay and killer jump shots by Zach Randolph. But the Suns did not fold. They stayed close, keeping the game between 6-10 points for most of the quarter.

Goran Dragic had a terrible shooting night and the Grizzlies didn't allow the Suns to get their offense flowing on any level. But P.J. Tucker tried mightily to keep the Suns in the game with 11 of the Suns' 24 points in the period (15 for the game through 3).

After getting 19 and 7 and then 12 and 8 against Memphis in the first two meeting of the year, Dragic had a very bad game (for him) with only 2 points and 5 assists through 3 quarters of play.

Unfortunately, Memphis scored 30 of their own in the third to take a 71-62 lead into the final stanza.

Carlos Boozer... Jarryd Bayless led the Grizzlies into the 4th quarter, where the Suns managed to cut the lead to 6 before Memphis scored again after several bad possessions in a row by both teams.

But the Suns just could not find any offense with their second unit for the third game in a row, ironically since P.J. Tucker moved to the starting lineup.

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P.J. Tucker is starting, along with Dudley, Dragic, Scola and Gortat.

Will the Suns be a tough matchup once again for the Grizzlies?

Both coaches acknowledge these teams played two good games, but had no interest in saying the Suns are a tough matchup. Just happenstance.

Will the Suns play a clean, hard game? Or will they lose their confidence if something goes wrong? Tough to stay confident when you've lost 14 of 19 games.

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