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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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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Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat said after last Wednesday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers that “it can’t get worse.” The brutally honest statement could be challenged after...

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Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) gets a shot off and is fouled by Phoenix Suns' Jared Dudley (3) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Thearon Henderson)

More photos » Thearon Henderson - AP

7 days ago: Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) gets a shot off and is fouled by Phoenix Suns' Jared Dudley (3) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Thearon Henderson)

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Coming into the game it was the Sacramento Kings who had the reputation of being a young team who has trouble closing out games in the final 5 minutes.  But tonight, to start out the new year - the Suns decided to trade places with the Kings and mount a collapse of monumental proportions.

Defense?  Yeah they played pretty good defense for about 3 quarters - and yes the Suns held the Kings to under 99 points, but I think if I go to Jack in the Box to get my free tacos, I might very well barf them up after what I saw tonight.

So what happened?  DeMarcus Cousins happened.  Poo-Jeter Happened. Kings rebounding happened.  Suns sucking happened.  If you really want to torture yourself and relive this game with me... Jump it fools.

Ride this Roller-Coaster with Me.

1st Quarter

The Suns defense was really good in the first quarter.   The Suns for the second game in a row held an opponent to under 20 points (14 to Detroit, then only 17 to Sacramento).   Everyone was active, rotating quickly, communicating, and filling the lanes with flailing arms and sliding bodies.  The one negative was the foul disparity.  After one quarter, the Suns had 4 guys with 2 fouls each.  The whistle was being blown loud and often.  Both Robin, Hill, Carter got into early foul trouble - then Dudley came in and picked up 2 quick ones - which lead Alvin to put Childress in for some PT (see it's not a horrible problem to have too many wings, especially when the Sacramento freaking Kings are being treated like the Los Angeles Lakers by the Refs).  The Suns led 27-17 after 12 minutes of play - things were looking really good.

2nd Quarter

And then the 2nd quarter and the 2nd unit happened.  The Kings started the 2nd quarter on a 18-4 run, and the defense didn't look so good.  As much as the defense was looking lost - the Suns offense looked worse.  They started 1 for 10, the only bucket coming from Vince Carter who was sent back in by Alvin Gentry after a frustration time-out.  The whistles continued to blow.  I guess since there was extra air in the arena (a lot of empty seats) the refs where still feeling the holiday spirit and wanted to gift the Kings some free-throws.  Half-way through the quarter it looked like I was going to have a mood swing and start to hate life and having to write this recap.  But then guess what - Nash, Hill and Pietrus came back into the line-up and immediately the defense and offense picked up.  As Paul Coro put it,

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OUCH.  Oh the ups-and-downs of inconsistency.  After having a great game against the Pistons and playing extended minutes, the heart of the bench mob (Goran, Frye, Dudley) couldn't make a first half appearance.  We've talked about it before, especially with Goran and Channing - they are pretty emotional players, when they get rattled it shows.  With that being said I don't doubt some of their 1st half 'no-show' stems from their frustration with the ticky-tacky fouls they were being called for left and right.  Add to that Frye is a streaky shooter by nature and clanked 0-4 and his confidence just wasn't there.

On the positive - Nash was your first half MVP - he totaled 10 points and 8 assists and was the obvious reason the Suns were able to counter the early 2nd quarter run by the Kings.  The timing, spacing and chemistry between Gortat and Nash is improving rapidly - they ran the pick and roll with ease to end the half and quickly Gortat had 11 points and added yet another double-digit scoring effort to his Suns resume.

Despite a short scare to start the 2nd, the Suns regained the lead, the command of the game, held the Kings to under 30% shooting and overall had a good defensive showing.

HALFTIME

So I was all like, aight - aight we got this.  Feeling good about the Nash and Gortat Pick and Roll and about the Suns defense, I was enjoying the game thread and reading my Suns Twitter feed when all of a sudden I saw this pop up,

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I was confused.  Hey Scott - there's a Suns game on FYI.  Hey Scott, keep the football Twit-fodder to a minimum during the basketball game. kthxbye.

3rd Quarter

Here we go again - I feel like I've written this kind of recap before.  Deja vu? This time it was the starters turn to take a break on defense.  Take a break they did indeed.  The Kings came out of the Half-time tea-party with fire and cut deeply into the lead while the Suns struggled to score.  The same pick and roll that Nash was having success with to end the first half came up empty time after time again. Why?  Because his roll partner was Robin Lopez.  And?  Robin Lopez forgot how to roll.  He settled for rise-up jump shots and fade-aways and he couldn't hit anything. 

So wait, you're telling me that when Nash and Gortat run the pick and roll,  Gortat actually rolls to the basket - gets the ball and either gets fouled or scores?

Yeah man.  That's how the pick and roll usually works. Earth to Robin - if you're not gonna roll you better make sure you're hitting that jumper, cause if not - you're going to get yanked quick.  Again (which happened).  On another Robin note - he played the first half with naked legs, then coming into the 3rd quarter he all of a sudden had a brace on his left knee.   That kind of evidences our health suspicion with him - maybe he really is feeling hurt and that's why he's not rolling hard to the basket and elevating for nasty dunks.

Needless to say - with Gortat in, the Kings defense was forced to collapse (or foul) which opened the floor for everyone and the Suns once again took control of the game.

Goran never returned in the 3rd and through 3 Nash had already logged 30 minutes of playing time.  THAT = NO BUENO.  But hey, Nash played limited minutes in the last game right? Or maybe like Tom Leander suggested, he was showing off for his girls?

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REALITY CHECK - no, the answer is no - Goran needs to play better.  The Bench needs to play better. 

4th Quarter

Goran Dragic: "Hey Eutychus, you want for me to play the ball better?  No problem."

Bam, ask and ye shall receive.   

The Suns came out in the fourth quarter with a line-up of:

Dragic - Carter - Dudley - Frye - Gortat

Their defensive intensity was high and they forced 2 quick turnovers but only scored once off those TO's on a Double D's fast break (Dragic to Dudley).  The spacing was improved and Goran and Gortat were able to run the pick and roll for what seems like the first time for minimum success. Nothing too flashy or impressive from Dragic - but definitely an improvement from the first half.

Nash returned with a 10 point lead and Alvin Gentry wanted the team to go for the jugular. The 'hit-team' was basically all the starters minus Robin Lopez, add Marcin Gortat.

Tony 'Two-time' :  "So uh, Euty - how'd it go eh?  You know?  The job? Did they wack 'em good"

Um, well you see Tony... not really.  Actually the Kings went on a huge run after Paul Westphal went against reason and benched the reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans and inserted the high powered suppository and offensive laxative in poo-Jeter.  He pushed the pace and eventually the Kings destroyed the lead.  All of a sudden - it looked like it was the Suns who had the reputation of not being able to finish the game in the last 5 minutes (that was the Kings' scouting report). Here's how it went down...

Depression

With 25 seconds to go - the game still tied, Dragic_is_Magic's 2nd tier love aura entered into her TV - traveled through the inter-time-space-continuum - catapulted through an electrical outlet in the ARCO arena in Sacramento and filled the flowing hair of one Omri Casspi who cold-bloodedly nailed a three-pointer.  Kings up 3.  The arena exploded with energy and suddenly the 54 fans who were in attendance sounded like a super-bowl stadium.  The Kings defensive energy intensified.  The Suns looked like they were in shock.   We had a shot though - all we needed was a sure-fire bucket or last resort, a good look at a three to tie it up.  Commence the in-bound... Witness the FAIL.

The Suns shamefully collapsed.  The Kings 4th quarter resurgence and intensified crowd participation launched the confidence of the young squad through the roof.  Behind DeMarcus Cousins' 28 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, the Kings mounted a 19-2 run to end the game.   I'm figuratively crying as I write this.  I can't think of anything Bright-side-ish to spin the end of this game with... maybe give me some time and I'll conjure up some sort of excuse. 

It will be impossible for the Suns to win a game if we can't get consistent production from role players and if we let the opposing team pretty much DOUBLE our rebounding total.  The Kings ended the game with 60 rebounds, while the Suns only tallied 32.  And 40% from the field... a Phoenix Suns team?  That's pretty pathetic for a team that usually totes the league's best offense.  Not tonight.  

While I might have been able to shoot my pretend finger-guns at the referees and blame them for some of the discombobulation in the first half - there is no excuse for how the Suns defensive and offensive lapses in the 2nd half cost them the game. It was a pressure, or a 'clutch-time' failure.   We should have won this game. #realtalk.

I hate you poo-Jeter.

Since I was planning on releasing the 2nd edition of the Eutychus weekly recap rap tomorrow - I think I might delay it's release by a couple days (don't worry - it will come), because all I want to do right now is hop on my XBOX, pop in some Call of Duty and shoot as many people in the face as I can until my eyes are heavy and sleep is the only other option for my frazzled brain.


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