It was another tough, grind it out performance that was epitomized by P.J. Tucker leaping into the third row after a steal that Goran Dragic created in the third quarter. There is no understatement there, Tucker leaped over two rows of chairs, about six people, and landed on the stairs. That is hustle.
The toughness of the Suns was on full display as Dragic (18 points 11 assists), Tucker (10 points 10 rebounds), and Luis Scola (11 points 5 rebounds) were going all out in this one. Those three played tough despite the deficit helping them grind it out and cut the Wizards lead to four points with under 8 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Grinding and playing tough basketball is quality every team currently in the lottery should exhibit, at the bare minimum at this level, and the Suns did just that. It was not enough to get the win, but showed heart on the court. Something that has been sporadic at best all season.
The Wizards closed out the game with a 88-79 win dropping the Suns to 23-46 on the season.
Tonight the Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets, and the Wizards all won, meaning in a round about way the Suns actually won tonight. They get another full game of separation on Washington and own the opposite of a tie-breaker on them in case of a tie. That is a good thing.
Every win by the Phoenix Suns (23-45) is detrimental in their mission of getting the best possible pick in this years draft. That is the carrot that has been dangled all season in-front of the fans with the poor play on the court and accelerated drop in the standings.
Hosting the Washington Wizards (23-43) gives the Suns a peek at a team a few steps further along in the rebuilding process and a chance to move a little higher in the lottery standings.
(Recent) History Lesson
In their first meeting either the Wizards coaching staff did an exemplary job scouting the Suns porous three-point defense, or they just didn't guard Martell Webster. His seven made threes tied a career-high and was the fourth time this season he has hit 5+ threes in a game. The game was over early in the second half as the Wizards came out on fire and the Suns didn't.
Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)
Suns: 111 PPG (5 wins)
Wizards: 99.8 PPG (1 wins)
Make no mistake, before this season's blowout in Washington the Suns owned the Wizards. As of late they were able to get over 100+ points in every game torching the defense. Those were Nash-led offenses, hence the dramatic change this season.
John Wall vs. Suns: 12.5 PPG 4.3 RPG 10.8 APG 2.45 SPG 42.8 FG% (4 games)
Jermaine O'Neal vs. Wizards: 15.4 PPG 8.4 RPG 1.6 APG 2.0 BPG 42.6 FG% (36 games)
Wall averages 10+ assists per game against five teams and the Suns are No. 2 on that personal list for the potential star point guard. He picks apart the Suns, but does not score at a high rate despite the clear athletic advantage for him against the previous regime. O'Neal has a lot of experience against the Wizards in his career from his days in Indiana, Miami, and Boston.
PG - Goran Dragic v. John Wall
SG - Wesley Johnson v. Garrett Temple
SF - Marcus Morris v. Martell Webster
PF - Markieff Morris v. Nene Hilaro
Potential Suns Inactives: Marcin Gortat (Foot)
If Markieff is engaged on the offensive end his defense has struggled this year. Taking Nene out of the game is important in beating this team as he is their only offensive threat in the paint. This season Markieff has not been able to put together strings of good games, but off the heels of his solid offensive performance against the Lakers this is a chance to build on one good game. Last time out Markieff got the better of Nene in points, rebounds, and shooting.
Interesting Stat: 0-4
This season the Suns have lost by 20+ a total of 11 times overall. Seven of those occurrences have come on the road, giving the team some level of motivation in the return match-up, but that has not manifested into one win this year. When the team gets leveled on the road they are 0-4 with the chance at some level of redemption losing by an average of 13.7 in those return games.
Meaningless Stat: 10+
Before the loss earlier this season the Suns typically have taken out the whipping sticks on the Wizards to a tune of 10 straight wins, the last seven by 10+ points per game. There is that.
The lucky numbers this week will be the score of the Suns/Timberwolves game Friday 3/22 and the points scored by Nikola Pekovic. Here's the skinny on this weeks contest, which is open to registered members of Brightside of the Sun.
Guess the score (and winner) of the Suns/Timberwolves game this Friday (3/22), e.g. Suns 107, Timberwolves 101. Once someone has picked a score the same score cannot be picked by another contestant.
Guess Nikola Pekovic's points. This will be used as a tiebreaker. For example, if the score is 107-101 and one person guesses 109-103 and another guesses 105-99 they will both be off by four points. In that event it will go to the tiebreaker.
Your entry should be in the form of a comment below. Example entry: Suns 107, Timberwolves 101 Nikola Pekovic 21 points
This week's prize is a Brightside of the Sun t-shirt (shipping included). The winner will be declared in the comments and notified by email to arrange for delivery of the prize.
Keep checking in as we will continue to have more contests like this (with various prizes) moving forward! Thank you all for listening, reading and participating. You guys rock. Good luck!
Here are the full legal terms and conditions for the contest: Contest Rules.
And here is this week's show: Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 14