PHOENIX - DECEMBER 08: Goran Dragic #2 of the Phoenix Suns drives to the basket against the Memphis Grizzlies during the NBA game at US Airways Center on December 8 2010 in Phoenix Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
1 Total Update since December 8, 2010
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
For the majority of this game, the Phoenix Suns looked like an old team that played a hard game the night before. Their legs were tired and open looks simply wouldn't fall. The energy was poor and the life was gone. This game had all the markings of a blowout home loss, similar to the one the Suns suffered at the hands of this same Memphis Grizzlies team last season in early January.
The difference tonight in the comeback that came within one free throw of stealing the win was the effort and energy of the Suns bench, led by Goran Dragic, who had a team-high 17 points in 35 minutes.
"First of all, after playing last night and getting back here at 3:30 in the morning, I thought the second unit found a lot of energy, found a way to come back, back from 15, had the game tied and even get three points up," Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said.
The Suns were horrible shooting the ball, including a ridiculous 1-11 from Jason Richardson, who leads the Suns in scoring this season. It was almost comical to watch all the easy looks bounce off the rim and it didn't matter if they were wide open Steve Nash threes or layup attempts. Nothing would go in. The Suns went 6-23 (26.1 percent) in the second quarter of the game and you really can't give much credit to the Grizzlies defense for that.
The tide shifted in the Suns' favor about halfway through the third period. Channing Frye committed a couple of hard fouls that seemed to amp up the adrenaline on both sides and Goran Dragic checked in to the game to play shooting guard alongside Nash for the first time this season.
The Suns chipped away at the lead from that point on, but really started to make headway in the fourth quarter when the bench unit of Dragic, Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and Jared Dudley found the kind of aggressive, energetic and smart pressure defense they've been searching for all season.
"Finally, huh," Dragic said when asked about the bench unit finally clicking
"We were just aggressive in defense and everybody was in the right spot. We were rotating great and after that we went to transition and scored some easy baskets. I think so if every game we play like that it would be much easier for us."
Goran said it helped to come into the game sooner and play a bit with the starters. He was able to get into a rhythm whereas normally when he comes in from the bench, he's not warm and doesn't have time to find a groove.
In that fourth quarter, the bench defense forced four turnovers leading to seven points, out-rebounded Grizzlies 14-9, and held Memphis to 6-20 shooting after they were hitting 53.3 percent up to that point in the game. It was team effort, but special notice should go to Hedo Turkoglu for his aggressive rebounding against the much bigger Zach Randolph. The Suns won that quarter 28-14.
Randolph finished with 34 points and 17 rebounds for the game, but only had two points and three rebounds in the fourth. It was a remarkable effort and of course the Grizzlies don't quite look at the Suns comeback the same way we do here in Phoenix.
"We got a little frazzled with our second unit and then when the starters came back in, they weren't as focused. They were a little loose and they wound up coming back on us. I thank God they played last night and didn't get in till late," Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins said about his team giving up a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The game came down to execution late. Hedo Turkoglu hit a huge three-point shot to take a three-point lead with just 6.2 seconds to go. It was the first Suns lead in the game since the first quarter.
On the ensuing Grizzlies possession, the Suns -- up three -- intentionally fouled and sent Conley to the line. He missed the second shot and Frye was fouled on the rebound.
If Channing makes both, the Suns would have been up four points, but he missed one, which gave the Grizzlies 2.8 seconds to tie the game. The Suns missed ten free throws on the night, but that one cost the Suns the game.
Rudy Gay got open off a Randolph screen and hit a corner three to send the game to overtime where the Grizzlies were able to pull away and get the win.
Alvin Gentry spoke about the final sequence of plays.
"We made the foul you're supposed to make, but just didn't knock down the second free throw. You've got to find a way to not give up a corner three. You can't give up a corner three. We didn't switch out on it, we didn't quite get out on it and you have to give him credit -- he knocked down the shot."
Overall, there was both positives and negatives from the game, but Coach Gentry finished his post game press conference on an upbeat note.
"I'm convinced we're going to be a really good team. We're searching. We're searching right now (but) we're in every game that we play. It's not an easy thing. We've got guys trying to adjust to different positions and things. I know it sounds like a broken record (but) it will all come together. If we keep working like that, like we played tonight, and play with that kind of effort, I'm convinced that we'll be a good team."
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
In yet another back-to-back for the Phoenix Suns, the Memphis Grizzlies come into town, cold on a four-game losing streak. The Suns are hoping to push that to five and erase the fourth quarter collapse last night against the Portland Trailblazers.
Phoenix emerged (barely) victorious from the first meeting with the Grizz back on November 5, in an epic double-overtime contest featuring a made free throw -- that Rudy Gay intended to miss -- that led to Jason Richardson's improbable in-bounds tip-in with .4 seconds left in regulation that sent the game into extra time. The Suns eventually won 123-118 against a clearly exhausted and demoralized Memphis team. The second match-up was a relatively innocuous Suns loss three days later.
The Grizzlies will be looking to right things after a disappointing first quarter of the season that finds them at 8-14 and regressing from last year's promising squad. O.J. Mayo, in particular, has struggled to find his shot and his place in the rotation after being moved to the bench in hopes of providing a spark to an otherwise ineffective second unit.
The Suns also find themselves uncomfortable with the situation of their non-starters. After last season's spectacular bench play, this year's team hasn't been able to count on the reserves to extend leads or even hold serve while Steve Nash, Richardson and the other starters rest.
Of course, the team's rotations have been drastically different this year. In the 2009-10 campaign, Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Lou Amundson, and Channing Frye could be counted on to play the same role and relative minutes night in and night out. With Robin Lopez's injury and a number of offseason changes, "Planet Purple," as the bench had been called, has been in constant flux. Frye has spent significant time in the starting lineup; Hedo Turkoglu has been benched and given some playmaking responsibility, perhaps disrupting Dragic's rhythm; and Josh Childress has been mostly disappointing as a Sun.
Particularly against Memphis -- a team that is very shallow, with starters often playing 40+ minutes -- the bench will be enormously important, doubly so given that this is the second night of a back-to-back (much like the Suns' previous game against the Grizz). The Suns are 2-3 in that situation.
The game starts at 7:00 p.m. Arizona time and will be televised locally on FSAZ in Phoenix, and on Sports 620 KTAR. Fans can follow along with the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.