Create your own caption... Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

I think I've discovered Channing's problem with rebounding ... Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight the Phoenix Suns have to bounce back from a tough loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder by beating the even hotter Los Angeles Clippers.

The best thing about the Clippers -- from the Suns' perspective -- is that they don't have James Harden on their roster. Harden, of the only-two-career-30-point-games-before-last-night's-40 Hardens. At the middle of the 4th, Harden had made 20-of-27 shots (9-of-13 3-pointers) and 20-of-21 free throws for 70 points in his last two games against the Suns. Ugh.

But enough about last night's game.

Tonight's opponent is no easier. Since scuffling a few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Clippers have righted their ship by winning 13 of their last 15 games to hold onto 4th place in the West, including a 92-77 win over the Thunder three nights ago (Harden was 1-of-11 in that game, by the way) and a 104-98 win over Denver last night. Chris Paul is possibly the best PG in the league, and Blake Griffin is a dunking, double-double, highlight machine.

But hey, Grant Hill might be back! And the Suns stars might be rested and ready for a big game. Steve Nash had only five assists in 28 minutes of action. Marcin Gortat has plenty of baskets saved up in his back pocket after going 2 for 13 against the Thunder. And the Suns as a whole did not waste a lot of energy against the Thunder, looking quite flat most of the night. No bruises or scrapes from laying out for the ball, no bruised wrists from dunking too hard or anything like that.

Tonight is different. Tonight HAS to be different. If the Suns don't play with all-out abandon against the Clippers tonight, then they will have a tough time making the playoffs.

This is the latest iteration of "it," Suns fans. After dropping back to 9th place last night, the Suns need to win three of their last four games, including a win over Utah, to comfortably win a playoff spot.

The Suns have not lost two games in a row since the last time they played the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back on March 28. But that was a road game, the Suns' sixth game in six different cities in eight nights.

This time the Suns are at home, where they have won 11 of their last 14.

They have beaten the Clippers two out of three times this year, the only loss on the aforementioned sixth game in six different cities in eight nights.

And on games with no rest (back end of B2B or B2B2B), the Suns have won 10 of their last 14, so there's no reason fatigue should be a factor either.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Blake Griffin 62 36.1 8.4 15.5 54.2 0.0 0.2 14.3 3.6 7.0 51.7 3.2 7.6 10.9 3.2 2.3 0.8 0.7 3.3 20.4
Chris Paul 57 36.2 7.0 14.6 48.1 1.3 3.5 37.3 4.0 4.6 85.3 0.7 2.8 3.5 9.0 2.1 2.5 0.1 2.3 19.4
Chauncey Billups 20 30.3 4.2 11.4 36.4 2.4 6.3 38.4 4.3 4.8 89.5 0.2 2.3 2.5 4.0 1.9 0.5 0.2 2.0 15.0
Nick Young 59 28.5 5.3 13.1 40.3 1.7 4.7 36.1 2.4 2.9 85.2 0.5 1.7 2.2 0.9 1.4 0.7 0.3 2.3 14.6
Mo Williams 48 28.5 5.2 12.0 43.4 1.9 4.7 39.6 1.4 1.6 89.6 0.5 1.5 2.0 3.1 1.6 1.0 0.1 2.0 13.7
Caron Butler 59 29.9 4.6 11.3 40.7 1.5 4.1 36.1 1.5 1.8 81.3 0.7 2.9 3.6 1.3 1.2 0.8 0.1 2.0 12.2
Randy Foye 61 25.5 3.9 9.8 39.5 1.9 4.9 38.1 1.1 1.2 85.5 0.4 1.7 2.1 2.2 1.2 0.7 0.4 2.0 10.6
DeAndre Jordan 62 27.3 3.2 5.1 63.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 2.2 53.3 3.2 5.2 8.4 0.3 1.1 0.4 2.1 2.9 7.6
Kenyon Martin 38 22.2 2.3 5.4 43.4 0.1 0.3 23.1 0.5 1.2 39.1 1.1 3.1 4.2 0.5 0.8 1.0 1.0 2.4 5.2
Eric Bledsoe 36 11.2 1.2 3.1 39.6 0.2 0.8 21.4 0.6 1.0 65.7 0.5 1.0 1.6 1.5 1.1 0.9 0.3 1.4 3.3
Bobby Simmons 26 15.0 1.0 3.1 32.1 0.7 2.1 35.2 0.1 0.2 60.0 0.6 1.4 2.0 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.1 1.4 2.8
Trey Thompkins 23 5.1 1.0 2.6 38.3 0.1 0.5 25.0 0.2 0.3 71.4 0.2 0.9 1.0 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.4 2.3
Ryan Gomes 32 13.3 1.0 3.0 32.6 0.1 0.9 13.8 0.3 0.3 72.7 0.4 1.5 1.9 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.0 1.1 2.3
Reggie Evans 54 14.0 0.6 1.3 46.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 1.3 50.7 1.8 3.1 4.9 0.3 0.8 0.6 0.1 2.1 1.9
Travis Leslie 10 4.5 0.5 1.4 35.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.9 44.4 0.6 0.3 0.9 0.5 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.4 1.4

Clippers vs Suns coverage

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You know what time it is, time to get clickin'. Catch up on all your Suns-relevant news right here and feel free to leave a comment about anything.

The Suns Twitter-front has been pretty silent in the wake of last night's game, the only one to tweet has been Jared Dudley.

Chalk this loss up and throw it away.. Have to come back tomorrow night and beat the Clippers..We still hold our own destiny! #playoffrun

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) April 19, 2012

Find the Links after the Jump!

Suns Vs. Thunder Video Highlights And Postgame Comments - Bright Side Of The Sun
Your best source for quality Phoenix Suns news, rumors, analysis, stats and scores from the fan perspective.

Suns Can't Stop Harden, Thunder Win 109-97 - Bright Side Of The Sun
Tough loss tonight. James Harden played like a superstar.

What Is Going On With Marcin Gortat? - Bright Side Of The Sun
A word of caution, however. Gortat has said he wants to dunk more, but do not expect to see him turn into Stoudemire or Griffin. He really is a finesse player and is very good at it. Gortat is so efficient in the pick-and-roll because he doesn't waste any time. He dives to the basket and gets it up on the glass, often without a dribble (always a good thing for a big man). He's so good at using angles and finishing on the move. We will still see plenty of that.

2012 NBA Mock Draft: Phoenix Suns Look To Upgrade Depth - SB Nation Arizona
The Phoenix Suns have one pick this year in the 2012 NBA Draft, but it is in the first round, and it's currently situated somewhere midway through the round. The Suns do have it in a good spot though, and they should be able to get a quality player who has a good chance of panning out.

Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Phoenix Suns 97 -- Playoff push Hardened
The Suns’ coach also was not pleased with the play of his bigs. His biggest gripe had to do with the ease through which Harden and Durant were able to knife through the Suns’ defense and get to the cup, but he was also talking about Marcin Gortat’s offensive performance. Gortat missed 10-of-12 shots, many of them bunnies right around the lane that just rolled off.

John MacLeod joins the Phoenix Suns' Ring of Honor
Westphal spoke to the crowd and said MacLeod’s "work ethic was unbelievable. He’s a tireless worker. His answer to everything is: ‘We’ve got to work harder.’ Everything was work and team play." Westphal added that the standard MacLeod set for teamwork and professionalism has carried over to future generations of Suns basketball.


"Phoenix came out and they’ve been playing good basketball, you have to give them a lot of credit. We knew we were going to be in for a tough game tonight, especially at the start of the game and they were going to give us some great effort. I thought that we did a better job when that second unit came in and really being physical and playing with more toughness and not allowing them to have open shots. We were fortunate they missed some shots."

Phoenix Suns suffer a hard loss to Oklahoma City Thunder
The Suns' most surly award goes to Steve Nash, who took the team lead in technical fouls this season with his fifth. At courtside, it was audible that Nash was colorfully telling official John Goble to not point at him while Nash debated a call. Suns coach Alvin Gentry came to Nash's defense immediately with official Jason Phillips with choice words about what Goble did and got another technical for it. The Suns got a temporary push-back fire out of it until Derek Fisher hit a buzzer-beating jumper at the end of the third quarter.

John MacLeod joins Ring of Honor as Phoenix Suns' winningest coach
"The 13 years plus that John MacLeod gave this franchise were extraordinary," Colangelo said. "We were in the early stages of the franchise. It brought stability when John came and put in his system. You did a great thing for this city and franchise." blogs - Coro's Orange Slices - PaulCoro - Suns might need to win out
"This is a big game," Nash said. "It’s an emotional game. I thought it was a simple call. Maybe I was a little loud. Then he got loud back at me. I asked him to not be demonstrative with me and he Ts me up.

Harden's Career High Leads Thunder To Win Over Suns - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |
Harden outscored the entire Phoenix bench who tallied 35 points. He finished with 12-of-17 shooting from the floor, 5-of-8 from 3-point range, 11-of-11 from the free throw line to go with seven rebounds, three assists and four steals. Harden's previous career high was 33 against Charlotte earlier this season.

James Harden scores a career-high for the second time this season against the Suns | ProBasketballTalk
Before the Suns faced the Thunder on Wednesday, Alvin Gentry had some high praise for Oklahoma City's James Harden. Phoenix's head coach said that he and his staff were talking about Harden in preparing for this matchup, and once they got past Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, they were hard-pressed to name a two-guard in the entire league who has played as well as Harden has this season.

Basketball Prospectus | Phoenix Health
Phoenix truly seems to be playing a different game than the rest of the league when it comes to injury prevention and management

BallinEurope, the European Basketball news site " Blog Archive " On the continued rise of The Dragon
When Lowry went down with an injury, it seemed the Rockets season and hopes for the playoffs were over. Instead, Dragic has led the way as the Rockets continue to battle for the final playoff position – how fitting that the battle be with Steve Nash’s Suns.

Hey Gortat? Would you mind actually challenging that shot? kthxbai

In last night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Suns center Marcin Gortat came up very small with one of his worst offensive performances of the season. To be blunt, he just plain sucked.

Some will point to his rebounding numbers, and while 12 is an impressive total, the Thunder did miss 44 FGs and three FTs, so there were plenty of opportunities. He rebounded well, but he didn't dominate the glass.

Some will also point to the fact that the OKC bigs only scored a combined 21 points, but that probably had more to do with the Thunder's big three perimeter players hoisting up a combined 53 shots and taking 23 free throws tahn Gortat's defense. The Thunder just don't ask their big men to score very much.

And while Harden, Durant and Westbrook were able to take their defenders off the dribble at will, there wasn't very much resistance for them to deal with at the rim either, something Gortat admitted to after the game.

"Bigs ... we didn't help enough on the pick-and-rolls and they were able to go to the basket, and you know, laid it in, and finished plays," Gortat said.

Gortat finished the game with only nine points, and made just two of his 13 field goal attempts. Many of his misses were layups and shots in the paint. And ultimately, his poor performance cost the team. There is no way the Suns are going to win when Gortat is that useless on offense.

"You know what? I don't have an explanation for that," Gortat said about his performance. "I just have to finish those plays. You know, usually I'm finishing; I'm not saying I'm dunking every time but at least I'm making layups. Today for some reason, I guess I was just relaxed too much."

But to look at it as any more than a bad game is a mistake.

Marcin Gortat is averaging 15.7 points and 9.9 rebounds this through 62 games this season. Those are pretty impressive numbers by most standards. But it isn't enough for Suns fans who are beginning to question the Polish Machine more and more. Accusations of being soft and and pining for the pre-All-Star Break Gortat are becoming more and more popular. While these feelings are not completely without reason, they are premature and over-reactionary.

Here is a table comparing Gortat's numbers before and after the the All-Star Break.


Based on these numbers, Gortat's production is a bit down from before the break. But not by much. His rebounding has suffered more than anything. But while Gortat has dipped a tiny bit, several of his teammates have picked up the slack and the Suns have played their best ball of the season. Gortat's 0.38 drop in points per game and 1.26 declin in rebounds per game does not seem to have hurt the team all that much.

But what about his finishing? The first thing that sticks out to me is just how efficient he has been all year long. He has only finished below 50 percent from the field in 15 of his 62 games this season. But what is equally impressive us that he has actually become more efficient since the All-Star Break.

"The good thing is that I don't have too many games like that (referring to his OKC performance) every year," Gortat said "So hopefully next game is going to be better."

He is absolutely right, something that is not always apparent to fans in the heat of the moment.

Digging deeper, Gortat is finishing on 47 percent of his attempts in the paint but not within the restricted zone. This includes a lot of his hook shots and the short jumpers he pulls up for when he can't get all the way to the basket in the pick-and-roll. 29.6 percent of his field goal attempts have come from this area.

But what is truly impressive is that he is finishing at a 71 percent clip on shots around the rim, the spot from where 50 percent of his total field goal attempts come. To compare, last season, Amar'e Stoudemire (who was considered an MVP candidate for much of the year) finished at a 44 percent rate around the rim, and this year Blake Griffin is at 70 percent.

So while Gortat is not nearly as flashy as those two players and doesn't make a habit of posterizing opposing defenders, he is just as effective, if not more so.

So what happened last night? Gortat himself had an interesting explanation. As he said above, he thinks he just relaxed too much.

"Sometimes when you have this feeling that, you know, you're catching the ball and you're like, 'All right, I've got an easy layup.' All of a sudden you relax too much and you're missing that easy layup," Gortat said. "I take a lot of the responsibility for that. I had great passes today, great looks, and I just got to make them."

Gortat also said his poor performance against San Antonio (3-12, six points), was a completely different situation.

"That was totally different," Gortat said "Against Spurs I was taking a lot of shots from outside and I was forcing offensively. Here, I was, you know, my teammates created great opportunities for me, I created great opportunities for myself, just running into the paint and getting great position inside. I just have to finish stronger."

That last point of his is music to many fans' ears, who aren't satisfied with his hooks an layups. As it turns out, Gortat isn't satisfied either.

"I just have to be a simple basketball player," Gortat said."Try and dunk the ball, not try to be a finesse player, you know, finish with the hooks, finish with the backboard. Just got to go in and dunk the basketball, that's it. Just be the simple basketball player."

It is great to hear that Gortat is looking to be more aggressive with his offense. We all want the Polish Hammer back. So where did he go?

"At some point when you feel really comfortable with the shooting, left hook and right hook and outside, then all of a sudden you just try to be finesse," Gortat said. "I just got to finish that."

A word of caution, however. Gortat has said he wants to dunk more, but do not expect to see him turn into Stoudemire or Griffin. He really is a finesse player and is very good at it. Gortat is so efficient in the pick-and-roll because he doesn't waste any time. He dives to the basket and gets it up on the glass, often without a dribble (always a good thing for a big man). He's so good at using angles and finishing on the move. We will still see plenty of that.

Gortat is not an explosive leaper and needs to gather himself to go up and throw it down.Often times, he has a crease for a split second and has to get the shot off. Gathering himself would allow the defene to recover an make finishing much more difficult.

But if Gortat holds true to his word -- and he said he's looking forward to taking on the Los Angeles Clippers shot-blockers (namely DeAndre Jordan and Kenyon Martin) and proving himself (again) -- fans can expect to see him go up strong when the opportunity presents itself and throw down one or two rim-rattling dunks tonight.

Phoenix Suns 93, Los Angeles Clippers 90 Last night, the Los Angeles Clippers did the Suns a favor by defeating the Denver Nuggets. Tonight, Phoenix will try to avoid a similar fate. Both the...

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