Alvin Gentry was either unsure or being coy (or perhaps both) when he was asked today about playing a bigger lineup against the Monsters of the La-La Land when the Phoenix Suns invite the traveling circus / Phil Jackson - Kobe Bryant Show / Los Angeles Lakers into town tomorrow. Perhaps fittingly, the USAC hosted a WWE event last night so the arena is totally prepared for the Lakers song and dance on Wednesday.

"I do think there's a possibility we could go with a bigger lineup," Gentry allowed, but...there's always a but...

Asked specifically about playing Gortat and Lopez together and how they would clog things up, Gentry said there would be a lot of screeners out there.

I guess you could see those guys running a "Horns High" set with both Gortat and Lopez stationed at either side of the free throw line giving the ball handler the option of using either screen. The Suns ran that set with Amare and Robin a lot last year but of course back then if Nash used the Lopez screen and Amare's man helped off to protect the roll, Amare could float out and get an open 17 footer. Can Lopez or Gortat hit an open 17 footer? Right, I don't know either.

The point is that while Lopez and Gortat would be a nice rebounding pair (or at least the best rebounding pair the Suns can put on the court), you can only sacrifice so much offense.

"We want to get better rebounding, we want to get better defensively but the bottom line is that I've not seen a team yet win zero-zero. So you're going to have to put the ball in the basket at some stage and we need to be able to spread the floor in order to be able to do that."

See, there it is again. Spreading the floor which is why Channing Frye is still the most important Suns player right now outside of Nash. Comforting, huh.

On the Vince Carter front, I was curious to see how he thought about the end of game break downs against the Kings. Here's the full exchange:

Me: It's a little bit of old news, but yesterday Coach talked about the final five minutes of the Sacramento game and the defensive break downs. 

Vince: Yeah, that's old news, man. Let's not talk about old news. (chuckles all around)

Me: Any thoughts, anything you take away from that, anything you'd do differently next time?

VC: First and foremost of course, you get a few rebounds, you limit them a few offensive rebounds, we hit a few shots, I think that helps. Because of the shots we missed, regardless if they hit 12 of 14, scored 12 of 14 possessions, if we're scoring as well, we still have a lead. You see what I'm saying?

It was a little bit of both. I think we lost our composure, lost our defensive edge, and they just took advantage of it. A team like that, particularly a young team, if you give them confidence and they believe, in the fourth quarter, they're like, 'hey, we're right there,' anything can happen. I think that's what happened. We were trying our best, we were still fighting but you can see it in the way they were playing in that last stretch, in particular the last two minutes. They were just scrapping, fighting for loose balls, hitting and-1 shots falling down, I mean it was all going against us after awhile.

Me: Is this a team that culturally when you sit down and watch that film, are guys getting called out by name?

VC: No. My opinion you don't accomplish anything like that. It's like, 'what we didn't do.' It's not one play or anything like that.

For myself, I kick my self, I was a step or two off of Casspi on that three. Yeah, he shot it from a couple feet behind (the line) but if I'm a little closer then maybe he doesn't shoot that shot and if he did, maybe he doesn't make it because of my hand is a little closer in his face or what not. 

We had defensive break downs but all in all we still have to defend, we still have to rebound, and I think the offensive rebounds more than anything is what killed us because they were getting second opportunities if they did miss on top of us going down there and not making any shots. I think we scored two points in the last five minutes if I'm not mistaken.  So there again, a 17-2 run, not that I'm a coach and know these things, but 17-2 in the last five minutes you're not going to win many games unless you're up 25, which we weren't.

That's the full discussion on that. Make you own judgment. 

Vince is a confident guy. No questioning that. He's not afraid to fail as he said when asked about being a "go-to" guy in response to Gentry's comment's yesterday

"I'm not afraid to fail. I think that's the biggest thing being in that position when a coach has the confidence in you and the team has confidence in you. You can't be afraid to fail. You can't be afraid to take the shot," Carter said.

There's a lot more talk from Vince about staying positive and the overall attitude of the Suns staying positive even after the tough loss. He kind of went on a little mini-motivator speech about the power of positivity. 

Here's the full audio. It's kind of long with the motivation speech part coming in the final few minutes.

Audio: Vince Carter practice 010411


The Phoenix Suns may have a new and improved defense to toy with, but one thing hasn’t changed — they still can’t perform late in games. So many times this season the Suns have...

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Heading into the season, Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry believed his 2010-11 team possessed the defensive talent and intelligence to play a more complex scheme than in years past. The thought...

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Get that junk outta hereski!

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There's so much to talk about with this Suns team this season. There's hardly been a stretch of more than a couple of games where you felt like things were falling into a predictable pattern and you could guess with a lot of accuracy how the team would perform in certain situations.

That lack of consistency in all things Suns hasn't helped the team find it's way to a winning record. But on the bright side, it leaves plenty of fodder for us to talk and write about. So there's that. 

The consensus from Grant Hill and Alvin Gentry after today's practice -- another fairly long one by Suns' standards -- was an overall sense of satisfaction with the first 43 minutes of the Kings game and disappointment in the final five minutes.

There wasn't nearly the consternation with the small line up that us arm chair experts seemed to have. That could be because they know better than us (as if), but it also could be because they know all the other options are even worse so they have to put on a brave face. 

Either way, here's what Grant had to say about playing power forward, " I enjoy the idea of playing the four."

Hill said he needed to make some adjustments such as finding someone else to inbound the ball after made baskets so he could still leak out and create havoc early in the offense but overall he was pleased...with the lineup anyway.

"It worked against Detroit but didn't work last night. Obviously, the rebounding thing was disappointing. Just losing period. It's getting old. That was a tough one."

Gentry said that Hill did a great job on Jason Thompson and even tough Carl Landry had 12 rebounds, the Kings power forwards combined to only go 7-21. Hill wasn't sure if the Suns would start small against the Lakers big, skilled front Gasol/Bynum court but he was sure that group would be on the floor together at some point.

Gentry did suggest that one reason for the small lineup is the lack of consistent scoring from Channing Frye.

Frye's three-point shooting has fallen from 44% last season 35% this season. He is still taking exactly 4.8 threes per game in both years and his made threes have only fallen from 2.1 to 1.7 per game. The percentages can be a bit misleading.

"He still creates space on the floor, but we would like to have more production from him. It helps our offense tremendously when he's making shots," Gentry said. 

And as we all now know, when Fyre scores 15 or more points, the Suns are 6-1.

The other big topic was confidence and staying positive.

Phoenix Suns Struggling To Plug Holes And Stay Confident - SB Nation Arizona
The Phoenix Suns have lost to three teams with a combined winning percentage of .306. The team is understandably frustrated and is trying to remain positive and regain their confidence.

And here's an interesting admission from Gentry.

Phoenix Suns Still Searching For Go-To Scoring Option, Gentry Says - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
"We have to have someone we can throw the ball to in the post area that we can count on either getting us a basket or getting to the foul line," Gentry said.

More Notes and Quotes

Gentry

  • "I know it's an old cliche, but you really do have to play 48 minutes. I thought that we were really good for the 43 minutes."
  • These are the type of games you have to win and when you don't win it's put pressure on you to find wins in other places. 
  • They made 12 out of their last 14 shots and still finished in the low 40's. Did everything needed to defensively. Just didn't put ball in basket in last five minutes of the game.
  • "(Steve) knows he should have been (more aggressive) but they were double-teaming him on the screen and rolls and he was doing what he was supposed to. He was getting the ball to open guys. We've got to make the shots. We've got to knock them down."
  • "Our offensive execution was good, but it's only good if you put it in the basket. You can have great shots but if they don't go in, I don't know if I would call that great offensive execution."
  • "Garcia, we didn't box out and he got two offensive rebounds. Casspi, you know the one thing on the scouting report that we said about is you can never ever be  far enough that he can catch it and shoot it. We had two breakdowns in the last couple of minutes where he made two threes. Those are the things that can be easily corrected. The rebounding thing has been kind of an Achilles Heal for us the whole season, we have to get much better in that area right there if we're going to be a playoff team. That's just the bottom line, really."
  • "We still have 50 games and it's not a lost season yet by any stretch of the imagination but we have to get this turned."
  • "Nobody's going to help us or feel sorry for us. If we're going to do it, we're going to do it ourselves and we're working towards that. We had a nice spirited practice today."
  • Done a good job defensively in the last two games controlling dribble penetration.
  • "We just got to find a way to keep our spirits up and try to put together a winning streak. That's the bottom line. We can sit here and talk about it but in order for us to get back in the race that's what's going to have to happen."
  • "We have to continue to play with confidence. I think that's a big thing for us too. We have to play with confidence and feel like we're a good team and feel like we can get over the hump."
  • "It's tough, it's tough. That's the thing about the NBA, your confidence, it can fluctuate so easily. You win a couple of games like we did early in the season, we beat Denver and L.A. or something like that and you're feeling good but then you can also lose to Philly and Sacramento, Philly at home in a game that you've got to win to stay in the playoff race especially in the West, and then you go to Sacramento...I would say we're not the most confident team right now."
  • Moral victories don't apply. They either put it in the right column or the left column and right now we've got too many in the right column.

Grant Hill

  • Came in and watched the last five minutes of the game.
  • Execute better on both ends. Had the game under control. Tough loss.
  • "We try to look at it like a learning day, look at that experience as an opportunity to get better and it just goes to show, you've got to play for all 48 minutes."
  • Tough to sleep but sun shines in the morning when you wake up.
  • Last five minutes: Gave up offensive rebounds. Didn't front the post. We didn't continue what we were doing earlier. 
  • "Sometimes you just have to look forward and not look back and I think we'll do that."
  • Don't mind playing the four. Don't think that's reason for loss. Don't know game plan for Wednesday.
  • One adjustment is taking the ball out all the time instead of getting out and running. If in that situation will do a better job.
  • Does going small play to your strengths? "We're trying to figure that out right now."
  • Will see that line up more whether starting or not.
  • "Haven't faired well against teams we're supposed to beat so maybe we'll fair better against the teams we're not supposed to beat."
  • Will be up for games versus Lakers and Knicks
  • "It would be awesome if we could get those wins. That would be really nice."

It should be noted that Robert Sarver, Lance Blanks and Lon Babby were all at Suns practice today. It should also be noted that WWE is in town and were setting up for their show tonight.

I can't say there's a connection between those two things, but I can't say there isn't.


 


You might be asking yourself how exactly did the Suns blow a 12-point lead to the Kings in under six minutes. Who screwed up? How bad was it? Here's your quick answer: Vince Carter screwed up three defensive plays and missed two open shots; Pietrus missed two open shots and failed to box out; Gortat scored the only bucket for the Suns and had a great block but also made a bad foul. Hill missed two open shots as well.

For the Kings, the real star was Francisco Garcia. He had two big offensive rebounds that led to four second chance points and he hit an open jump shot. He also drew a foul on Carter and got to the line but missed both shots. That's six points Garcia was responsible for. Omri Casspi hit two open threes for another six points. Cousins had the three-point play and a nice assist as well. Finally, Pooh Jeter hit two shots but he also missed two.

For the most part the Suns offense wasn't bad, they just missed very open shots and the Kings did a good job taking the ball out of Nash's hands and packing the lane. This wasn't like the Bulls or the Blazers games where the Suns had turnovers and were completely baffled on offense. They just missed shots.

Defensively, the Suns did an OK job with the exception of Carter's blown play on the final dagger three from Casspi and the failure of Carter and Pietrus to box out Garcia on two separate occasions which lead to an extra four points for the Kings. The Kings hit all their shots and the Suns hit none.

For those who thought Vince Carter could replace Jason Richardson, he's done a good job in this one game by both blowing a key defensive assignment and also failing to box out at a critical point. Well done.

Because I was up anyway, here's a break down of all the plays with pictures.

We will pick things up at about the 5:30 mark with the Suns up 12 (87-75).

1) Nash is playing off the speedy Pooh Jeter and gives up the kind of pull up jump shot that most guards can take against him. To be fair, Jeter hadn't played in the game at all until the 4th quarter and hadn't yet hit a shot before nailing this one. 87-77, Suns.

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2) The Suns come down and run a Nash / Gortat pick and roll that had been pretty effective most of the game. The Kings rotated well and walled off a lane to the hoop so Marcin stopped and tried a little shot in the lane. He was open but missed. 87-77, Suns

3) The Kings come down and Garcia drives and instead of playing solid defense, Carter tries to get the charge but is too slow and fouls. Garcia misses both free throws. 87-77, Suns. 5:05.

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4) The Suns come back and get a wide open 8 foot shot for Grant Hill that misses. 87-77, Suns. 4:48.

5) Jeter tries another shot but misses. Garcia beats Pietrus to the ball and grabs the offensive rebound and gets the easy put back. 87-79, Suns.

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6) The Suns get an open three-point shot for Carter in the corner. Miss. 87-79, Suns. 4:15.

7) The Kings work the ball inside and Cousins kicks out to Casspi in the corner for an open three. He makes it. 87-82, Suns. 4:04.

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8) The Suns get Pietrus an even more open corner three but he misses. 87-82, Suns. 3:44.

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9) The Kings advance the ball quickly and the Suns defense isn't set. Garcia gets and hits an open 16 foot shot with just a few seconds off the clock. 87-84, Suns. 3:37.

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10) Out of a time out, Carter drives the lane and finds Gortat for a little baseline shot. This will be the only Suns basket in the final 5 minutes. 89-84, Suns. 3:18. 

11) Jeter takes another pull up shot that misses. On this picture look at the top of the screen and notice Vince Carter guarding Francisco Garcia.

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12) Garcia comes all the way across the lane and when the ball bounces out after Gortat and Cousins fight for it he's there for the rebound. Look where Carter is.

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13) After the Garcia rebound, Jeter takes another shot, this time he makes it from 17 feet. 89-86, Suns. 2:34.

14) Grant Hill gets a wide open 18 foot shot but misses. 89-86, Suns. 2:07.

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15) Gortat makes a great play on Cousins and blocks the ball out of bounds. He then comes back on the next play and leaves his feet too soon and fouls Cousins who somehow makes the shot while falling down. He hits the free throw as well. 89-89, tie. 1:48.

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16) Here the Kings play great defense and the Suns end up with a shot clock violation. At one point Nash has Cousins switched on him but passes up the shot and then late in the clock Gortat passes to Nash instead of taking the shot at the buzzer. This was the only really bad Suns offensive possession. 89-89, tie. 

17) Jeter takes and misses another shot and the Suns rebound. Phoenix gets Carter an open three and he misses. 89-89, tie. :42.

18) On the key defensive play of the game, Vince Carter is caught not paying attention and he's sagged off Casspi. He doesn't see the pass going to Casspi until it's too late to close out and effectively contest the shot. Casspi nails it to give the Kings the lead. 92-89, Kings. :25.

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And finally, Gentry giving Carter the WTH look after the shot goes in.

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19) On the final play, the Suns try to get Nash open but the Kings switch the screen. Nash drives and kicks to Pietrus but Casspi recovers and chases him off the shot. Pietrus decides not to drive and get an open two and instead sidesteps and takes a three but Casspi has recovered and Pietrus is forced to shoot the ball high to avoid getting blocked and it sails over the rim. Ball game.

Perhaps Nash should have gone to the rim instead of kicking out and Pietrus certainly shouldn't have forced another three but it never should have come to that final shot.

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