Against the Charlotte Bobcats 30th-ranked defense, the Phoenix Suns looked like the juggernaut of old. They were willing, unselfish passers and Olympian shot makers. Threes were raining down from all over the court and dunks were thundering at the basket. Shannon Brown burst into flame with 15 points in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter. After that, the game was a rout. But not before the Bobcats fought back a bit to worry Gentry.
"It was a win," Gentry said, after the Bobcats cut the lead to 14 early in the fourth before the Suns stabilized. "I thought we started the game playing great. We have to do a better job of staying in the moment and finishing the job. I told you guys earlier, they are going to play. If it's a 48-minute game, they will play 48 minutes. I don't know if we understood that to the magnitude of what it really is."
After the second unit failed to show up in the fourth - allowing an 8-0 run within a couple minutes to cut the lead despite Gentry calling two timeouts to remind them to play hard - Gentry pulled the plug and re-inserted the starters. He was livid.
"We gave up three quick layups," he said. "I didn't think our rotations were great, and I thought we were leaking out rather than staying in and rebounding the basketball. I said [in the first two timeouts] let's play the right way.
"They didn't play the right way, so I made some substitutions."
This with a 15-point lead. The starting unit returned, and the Suns finished out the game cleanly. Was it a surprise to Goran Dragic that he returned in the fourth after ending the third with a 29-point lead?
"Yes," he said with a smile. All's good that ends good.
This was a good win for Suns fans. An early trip to bed for Bobcat fans.
To celebrate, the Suns have no practice tomorrow. Just a meeting and an outing at the bowling alley. To the winners go the spoils.
After Brown's 15-point burst, the game was a blowout. The Suns made shot shot after shot, with six three-pointers in the third quarter alone. They made their final 5 shots to end the third with a 29-point lead.
The Suns and Bobcats share a common theme - neither team has a top-end go-to talent. The Suns, though, have a big advantage in experience and the top-end talent of the Suns outshines the top-end talent of the Bobcats by a wide margin.
Charlotte is such a young team they make the Suns look veteran by comparison. They work harder but just can't finish or score or defend like they need to do to win games. Suns fans who want to go younger should watch the Bobcats and see what they their wish would get. Nice young talent but no idea how to win.
Shannon Brown just torched the Bobcats in the third as the Suns continued to pull away, turning an 18-point halftime lead to 27 in the opening minutes of the second half. Brown scored 15 points in only THREE minutes of play. Boom!
The Bobcats tried to make a Suns-ian comeback in the beginning of the fourth - never give up, never surrender! - but they just couldn't make the shots necessary to make it happen. But after a 8-0 run to start the fourth, Gentry decided he wasn't playing around and put all the starters back in to stem the tide.
That didn't quite work, the starters allowing a 11-5 run of their own, and the lead was suddenly down to 15. It's like the air had gone pffffffft right out of the Suns tires during this stretch. They got fat and happy with the big lead and let the other team back in. Ben Gordon went off for 1000 points of his own to match Brown's output in the third. In fact, it was Brown defending Gordon that whole time too.
"I know they've lost a lot of games," Gentry said before it started, "But I'm telling you they are a good basketball team. They are going to compete like crazy."
But the starters righted the ship and didn't let the game get any closer. They set a season-high with 17 three-point makes with Dragic (4/5), Telfair (3/4) and Brown (5/7) making 12 of 16 between them. Dudley was "only" 4 of 7.
Shows you the Suns have talent enough to execute these comebacks, and not every NBA team can say that.
The Bobcats came into the game on a 12-game losing streak but 7 of the first 8 losses were to winning teams before hitting the road. They scrap and claw the way Gentry can only wish the Suns would play.
The second quarter started well, with the bench unit putting up an 10-2 run before the first timeout. Tucker dove for a loose ball, slamming right into Gentry, who promptly dressed Tucker down right there on the court! Gentry was livid. But Gentry wasn't mad at Tucker for hitting him, he was made that Tucker dove for a ball last touched by a Bobcat.
The Bobcats started the quarter 0-8 from the field, their only points on two free throws. The Suns were playing good defense, combined with the Bobcats bad shooting. By mid-quarter, the Suns had a 17-point lead (50-33) and by the end it was a convincing 18-point lead.
The Suns outscored the Bobcats 39-19 in the second quarter, despite playing mostly their bench the whole time. But give it to Gentry - the Bobcats didn't stop playing hard despite their lack of talent.
The story of the first half? PJ Tucker out-Tuckered Gerald Henderson
The Suns started the game really tentative on offense but active on defense, forcing several turnovers and tough shots on the first few Charlotte possessions. But they couldn't put the ball in the hoop. Gortat missed his first five shots - all of them around the bucket - and the Bobcats scrapped to keep the game even.
Goran Dragic was the only one making shots early, going 5 for 6 from the field with the only miss being a wild hook on a broken play. He finished the first quarter with 11 points and 2 assists.
The Suns finally went on a nice 7-0 run toward the end of the quarter to take a 28-22 lead and force a Bobcats timeout. But the Bobcats wouldn't go down easy, scoring the last 5 points of a quarter to cut the lead to one. Byron dont-call-me-BJ Mullens finished the first quarter with 7 points and 5 rebounds somehow, after being outplayed I thought. Shows what I know.
|Final - 12.19.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
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The rising Phoenix Suns face the struggling Bobcats in their fifth straight home game (3-1 so far) after a season-long 6-game roadie that sapped the life out of the club (0-6 on that trip).
For the second game in a row, the Phoenix Suns are facing a road-weary team that's pretty bad on the road regardless of whether they are weary or not.
The Charlotte Bobcats just lost to the Los Angeles Lakers last night in a tight battle, and now must face a Phoenix Suns team that is rested and feeling good about themselves. Charlotte led for most of the game against a Laker team that can't figure out how to play Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard at the same time (they were alternating minutes last night while Metta World Peace took minutes at the 4-spot), but ended up losing by being unable to sink a shot in the closing seconds.
On this home stand, the Suns just beat two teams with winning records (Memphis and Utah) and then overcame a lazy 19-point deficit to beat the struggling Sacramento Kings. Their defense has come alive, allowing 80, 84 and 90 points on 40% shooting in those games.
The Charlotte Bobcats enjoyed 15 of their first 24 games at home but have been unable to take advantage of the early home schedule, losing their last 12 consecutive games after starting the season as good as 7-5.
One of those first early losses came at the hands of the Suns when Shannon Brown dropped 6 threes in the fourth and the Suns won one of their two road games on the season, 117-110. Brown had 24 points, but he wasn't the best player that night.
Michael Beasley had 21 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and a steal. Easily still his best all-around game of the season. By far. He may not have tallied 15 rebounds in all the games since, but I'd have to check on that. Marcin Gortat tallied 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks - a career high. Goran Dragic had a good game as well, with 16 points and 8 assists to go with 3 rebounds.
Since then, Charlotte has gotten worse and worse. Even worse than the Suns at their worst - to the tune of 12 consecutive losses (7 of those at home).
Kemba Walker is by far their best player at 18.1 points per game and 6.1 assists, along with 2 steals. He is explosive, having eight games of at least 20 points and has been game-high scorer four times. He scored 28 against the Lakers last night.
Gerald Henderson is back from injury to man the shooting guard spot. He averages about 14 points and 3.5 rebounds per night, dropped a huge dunk on Howard's head last night while scoring 19 with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Henderson did not play in the teams' first meeting last month.
Ben Gordon can still be a microwave as well, with five games of at least 19 points (and three over 25 points). His season averages are pedestrian (ie. Suns-ian) though at 13.4 points per game. He is much more likely to score few points than he is to go off.
Their only other serious threat (besides Mullens going off on 3s) is backup PG Ramon Sessions. Sessions gets to the line nearly three times per game (5.8 FTAs per game). He averages 14.4 points and 4.2 assists. Against the Suns earlier this season, he had 17 points and 9 assists off the bench.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, two of those best players don't even start for them. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has struggled, and the Bobcat bigs are nothing to blog about (unless you're a Bobcats blogger).
Neither offense is very prolific. The Bobcats have topped 100 points only thrice in the last 13 games, while the Suns have topped 100 only once in their last 11.
Charlotte has the league's 25th ranked offense in terms of points-per-100-possessions (98.5). The Suns have vacillated between 15th and 20th in efficiency, currently sitting at 15th (101.1).
One thing the Suns did really well against the Bobcats in their first meeting was to pull down an astounding 22 offensive rebounds, and convert that to 18 second-chance points. The Suns need to do that again to make life easier on themselves.
Worried about the Suns defense this season? Well, Charlotte can only dream of being as good.
While the Suns are only 26th in the league in defensive efficiency (105.2), the Bobcats are a solid 30th (107.3). Dead last. Does that mean the Bobcats will give up 107 points to the Suns? Heck no. It just means that they usually give up that many, or more, in a game.
While the Suns have won three in a row after losing seven straight, the Bobcats are still mired in the muck. They have lost twelve consecutive games and counting.
Let's hope it's 13.
Hey, Hakim Warrick is on the Bobcats! Think he'll take the court tonight against the Suns? He has appeared in 10 games this season, so it might happen. If he does step out there, cheer for him to do well (just not well enough to beat our home team, of course).
Check out Rufus on Fire for exclusive Bobcats coverage on SB Nation.
Today's theme across the SB Nation Network:
Woo hoo! Let the rosterbation begin! With the dawn of December 15, most of the league is available in trade. And since 25% of the season is in the books, most teams know exactly how big their warts are. For instance, Mike D'Antoni can't figure out how to play Gasol and Howard at the same time.
While NBA GMs are a bit more hesitant, bloggers have identified lots of trade scenarios already for poor Paul and Dwight.
Let's look at the Suns, and then look at some proposed trades.
Difficult to say. The front office believes this team has more talent than last year's group that wasn't eliminated from the playoffs until the next to last game of the season, but they also know there are no guarantees. When the team was struggling with a 7-game losing streak, it appeared time to blow it up. But now after beating two playoff teams in the West, the team may be less inclined to do a knee-jerk trade.
If by late January the Suns are still in the hunt, the team may just be a buyer looking to improve this year's team. But if they are mired at the bottom of the West at that point, you just might see a fire sale.
If the Suns want to make the playoffs this season, they need to trade multiple role players for a star that plays any position. But if they want to brighten their future at the expense of today, then their needs are first round draft picks and young talent with potential (again, at any position). Otherwise, it's just treading water. Or re-arranging decks chairs.
Everyone is available but Luis Scola, who is beholden to the Suns until July 1, 2013 at the least. The Suns could trade anyone on the roster at this point and the fan base won't bat an eye. But the return has to be better than the outlay, in terms of current production or future potential, otherwise the fans WILL revolt. Already, the Suns are experiencing their lowest attendance since opening the arena twenty years ago.
I honestly have no idea what trades to propose. You guys know I'm not good at this.
Looking specifically at Utah (Millsap) and Atlanta (Smith), I don't see a match that doesn't require either Gortat or Dragic going back in the trade. Which again means the Suns are rebooting if they did that. Other than Dragic, what could the Suns offer Utah that they would WANT in place of Millsap, who is not a contractual albatross and is not a malcontent? Same question on Smith.
Each of those guys is expiring next summer but they are playing on winning teams, so those teams would want too much talent for a 4-month rental and a prayer. Is even more cap space more important than winning this season? Not likely.
On a small scale, the Suns could try to acquire J.J. Reddick or a Gerald Henderson for a future #1 if the Magic or Bobcats are really ready to move on. But I have no idea what either would want for them. Reddick has one year left at $6 mill after this (making the Suns interest drop) while Henderson will be a restricted free agent.
I may not be good at this, but that's why we have a huge SB Nation network!
Today is theme day, so let's take a look at what other blogs have proposed in Suns trades and drool or laugh at your leisure.
Houston's Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris could be brought in on the cheap. Ditto for Morris' twin brother, Markieff, in Phoenix. Even though they're not super-talented, any of them would balance out the roster by providing shooting and defensive rebounding at the four.
If Washington decides to be a little bolder, they could always see if Phoenix would be willing to bribe them to take Michael Beasley off their hands. Yes, he's a space cadet, but Beasley fits the current roster like a glove, and a deal of Beasley and Sebastian Telfair for Trevor Ariza works for both teams. Washington gets a stretch four and a backup point guard on an expiring deal while Phoenix gets a decent wing with only a year and a half left on his deal.
Is there a way to thread this needle? I don't know. I certainly would entertain big-package deals with someone like Cleveland (Varejao and Gee) or Denver (McGee and Iggy), but I'd be much more willing to see them try and tinker with a smaller Williams-based proposal for someone like Jimmy Butler, Alonzo Gee, JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, or Luke Babbitt (or someone along those lines) while waiting (and hoping) for a fully healthy top 8 of Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Luke/JJ, and Dante Cunningham. They have a lot of really good players on this team. They just need to be healthy and they need to replace the minutes of Williams and Stiemsma. That's the bit. As I have often said, this isn't rocket science.
The only way that happens (and is a plus move for MIN)
is a Williams/Pek for Gortat/Dudley trade.
I would NOT do Pek for Gortat straight up, but I would do the above trade in a heartbeat. I just don't think that salarywise there is anyway to get Gortat without giving up Pek.
by bbeeck on Dec 19, 2012 8:24 AM MST up reply actions
I could get 100% behind a simple Williams for Dudley deal
He has been a consistently good 3P shooter, can play 2 and 3, and look at his on/off #s at 82games:
"It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." -- Yogi Berra
by Wile E Coyote on Dec 19, 2012 8:25 AM MST up reply actions
As far as specific targets the Kings should go after, I wrote a piece a couple weeks ago about a few of my favorite potential trade targets. Easily at the top of my list in terms of non-star possibly available players is Jared Dudley, who I think would be a phenomenal fit for the Small Forward spot thanks to his good shooting touch and hustle on both ends of the court. He's one of the best value contracts in the league in my opinion, and just entering his prime.
DeMarcus Cousins, Francisco Garcia, and Aaron Brooks to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley and 2013 1st Round Pick from Minnesota: This is all about proclaiming the rebuild starting in earnest. Sacramento gives up the most exciting player in the deal in the talented but surly DeMarcus Cousins. They get a couple of starters in return as well as a pick.
Trade 2: Spencer Hawes and Sixers 2012 Second Rounder for Marcin Gortat
Gortat's pissed, Sarver is Sarver, Phoenix likes doing dumb things. I don't know how Gortat would love playing behind Bynum if he re-signs here, but he's only here a year after this anyhow. They'd depend on him quite a bit and he'd let Thad do more Thad things without getting killed on the glass.
I'm as thrilled as you are.
Why would Phoenix do this? Thus far, Wes Johnson and Kendall Marshall have been disappointing for Phoenix. Marshall is struggling in the D-League, and Wes Johnson hasn't cracked the rotation, playing only 14 minutes in the last 9 games. Phoenix would be bundling the two for a combined prospective value that would net a stud sixth man guard in return, something the team currently needs. Phoenix has Goran Dragic manning the point, Shannon Brown struggling at shooting guard and no one of consequence behind them in the depth chart. Stuckey could be plugged in for 36 minutes per game behind Dragic and Brown either leading the second act or shifting off-the-ball with the starters. He's currently doing that in Detroit, to the tune of 15 points and 6 assists per game in December. Phoenix could certainly use that off the bench in their back court.
Why would Detroit do this? They'd have a four-year commitment to an excellent passer who needs work transitioning to the pros. Detroit can carve a spot for Marshall, especially in the absence of Rodney Stuckey. This is the kind of talent Detroit can take a risk on, and it happens to fit Detroit's greatest position of need. It could fail, Marshall may not be able to handle the pros, but if he can work himself into even a reserve role, that's a step up for Detroit. As for Wes Johnson, this one-time top four pick has been a terrible bust. Draft expectations aside, however, this is a low-risk, high-reward addition. Detroit would have all spring to evaluate Johnson's talent and what kind of NBA role he could hold. If they decide to pass on him, he expires this summer and Detroit walks away saving $6.5 million of the salary they owed Rodney Stuckey for next season.
I LOL'd that Sixers dream scenario, but I've seen a lot more lopsided trades on BSotS over the years so who am I to judge.
Now it's your turn.