The Suns are who we thought they were. Ok, maybe a little worse than we originally thought, but this is just the first game of a long 82-game season. One game is only one game, but what the Warriors did was make the Suns look a lot of different things including old (at times), talent deprived, slow, very raw, and honestly like just another average team in the NBA.
Just like with the Los Angeles Lakers being 0-2 there is no reason to panic and jump ship just yet, but some of the obvious issues the team had coming into the season were highlighted.
For this game the team pulled out all the stops normally seen on All-Star Weekend with smoke, fire, fancy intro's for all the players and coaches, but it was too bad nobody came to see it. The U.S. Airways arena can fit nearly 20 thousand screaming fans, but the recorded attendance was 15,678. After scanning the crowd during the game that number feels a little embellished as you could hear a pin drop at times during the game. For a home opener.
Now this particular home opener happened on Halloween night, but against a familiar opponent that normally delivers an entertaining game, but this was not a classic Suns-Warriors game that we have grown accustom to with combined scores between 200-220 points. Rather it was a defensive struggle with bad shooting across the board.
Over the past two seasons the Suns were 5-2 against the Warriors with an average final score of 105.16 to 97.67 where in every game someone scored at least 100 points. Instead each team battled to establish a new identity around defense and just shot the ball poorly.
The poor shooting highlighted the primary issue the team had all pre-season in group rebounding as a whole. Time after time Marcin Gortat (among others) would blindly run at the rim after a long jumper was shot up not taking into account getting their body on an opponent giving them the angle to grab long rebounds. That is the recipe for giving up 17 offensive rebounds to a Warriors team that was 29th in the league on that end last year.
"Am I disappointed we lost, yeah. Do I think we are going to get better, hell yeah," stated Gentry after the game.
Rebounding was an issue, but it was not all about the negatives in this loss. Sure, the team has a lot to work on, but so do the Warriors in that regard. Each team shot the ball poorly, turned the ball over, gave up big leads, and didn't look like teams that have everything figured out.
In the end this game was more about the great play of Goran Dragic.
Dragic, at times, spread his wings and took over the game with dynamic plays creating for himself and for his teammates. He had little problem getting into the lane no matter who was defending, but the issue was consistency.
After the game Gentry said it was the growing pains of becoming the best player on a team when you are not used to being in that role, "it is not something that is going to happen overnight. We are still trying to figure out where guys are going to be when he drives and the avenues he has to pass." For the Suns to win these types of games Dragic needs to continue to put up 17 points 8 assists and six rebounds a night where more than 1 point and 1 assist come in the fourth and final period.
He is coming into his own as a play-maker in general it is going to come down to hunting for his shot when the team is in a tailspin. When the Suns were down 15 points Dragic made some plays, but the consistency wasn't there as Luis Scola spearheaded that run. Then when the team was squandering a near double-digit lead in the fourth quarter he passively set the offense.
Defensively there is little question to the impact Dragic can have on a game and tonight he proved it. He pressured Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack into five fourth quarter turnovers that allowed the Suns to be in the game.
Team defense on the perimeter was a positive from Alvin Gentry after the game, especially that of his star point guard. "We have to complete defensive possessions with rebounds, we had a lot of good defensive possessions that we didn't close out," said Gentry.
The final play of regulation was a rat race, but it was telling in the light that Dragic did not look up at the game clock once. When he got to about the 30-35 foot mark on the floor instead of gathering himself for his own attempt for the win he turned and passed the ball with 0.2 seconds left. Passing is not the problem there, it is the decision-making as a point guard of when his team needs him to pass and when they need him to shoot.
These growing pains will not be solved for game two of the season against the Detroit Pistons because they are growing pains. Just like when someone grows 3-4 inches overnight and all of the sudden cannot walk straight or move normally, the same thing is happening for Dragic as he grew as a player over the past year and now needs to get more coordinated, as the teams star.