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The Phoenix Suns absolutely can't afford to lose a home game to a 19-25 team who played in Sacramento the night before. They might not say it, but they certainly know how far they are out of contention and it shows up in the lack of extra effort and the inability to fight just a little bit harder than the other guy.
The Charlotte Bobcats won this game in the final few minutes and on the final few possessions and Alvin Gentry's frustration over that was evident in his postgame remarks.
"The bottom line is that there was 1:17 seconds to go and we never got possession of the ball on the three missed shots. We have to do a much better job finishing the game. We have to do a better job coming up with plays," the exasperated Suns' coach said.
The defense had shown some signs of improvement at times but as Jared Dudley pointed out, just because you are good defensively for one or two games doesn't mean you are a good defensive team. Lack of "mental toughness" was the term he used. Steve Nash was just as clear in placing the blame on the team's approach to the game.
"I just think it's concentration and discipline, I think we lack a little bit of that at times. We had a good stretch there and then we take a step back a little bit. We don't have the talent or efficiency to not win those battles, the 50-50 battles," Nash said.
"It's not really something you can practice. It's something you have to have the determination to go out there and finish plays. I think at times we lack that a little bit."
Nash finished the game with an impressive 27 points (11-15 shooting) and 15 assists and five rebounds. He did his part.
Grant Hill once again proved that how much this team relies on him which is a lot of pressure to put on his slender 38-year-old shoulders.
Hill had an off-shooting night (3-11) and wasn't able to help get stops late in the game either due to injury. In the third quarter, Hill said that Bobcats guard D.J. Augustine fell into his knee -- the same one injured in the Cleveland game on January 9 which caused him to miss three games. He tried to play through it but wasn't able to. After the game he said it was sore but he's hopeful he can play on Friday against the Celtics.
Vince Carter shot the ball well, 8-17 for 22 points, but once again wasn't able to attack and get to the free throw line for more than two attempts. He wasn't the only one. The Suns as a team only had 30 points in the paint and just 10 free throws for the game.
The lack of interior scoring options continues to plague the Suns and unfortunately, their best post players are Hill, Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick. Marcin Gortat did what he could, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven boards but all of his offense has to be created for him.
The Bobcats shot 50.6 percent for the game and were led by Stephen Jackson's 23 points.
The Suns will practice tomorrow and then play Friday night at home against the Boston Celtics.
The Phoenix Suns open a season-high 10-out-of-the-next-12-game home stand tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats (18-25). Normally, that would be cause for confidence on Planet Orange but this season and with this opponent there's a lot to be worried about.
The Suns have been a very good home team over the past five or so years but stand at just 11-9 at US Airways Center this season and that's just not going to work according to Alvin Gentry.
"Our record at home is one of the worst in the league, really. When you think about the number of games we've played and we're right at .500 and that's not good enough," Gentry said after a shootaround.
Gentry has often preached that the key to a 50-win season in the NBA is to win 30 games at home. That's going to be a tall order for the Suns now who would have to go 19-3 to reach that mark. I think we can safely call that "unlikely".
As for the Bobcats, they've beaten the Suns four out of their last five meetings including an embarrassing 123-105 game earlier this season. They are a difficult matchup for the Suns according to Steve Nash, who cites their versatile players and their rebounding ability. Vince Carter, who was on the Orlando Magic last year when they swept the Bobcats in the first round of the playoffs explained the key to beating them.
"You have to attack them early," Carter said, "You have to take their confidence immediately. If you don't and let them hang in there it can be a long night."
The Suns know all about long nights.
Today was Vince Carter's 34th birthday and the team presented him with a red velvet cake, his favorite. Asked if his mother made a good red velvet cake, Vince said she didn't but she knew were to find the best ones. He plugged "The Cake Man" in Brooklyn.
Vince reflected on his career saying, "When you come in the league, especially myself coming in the league as a high-flyer, a lot of landing, a lot of running and jumping and dunking, and the body's still holding up so I'm thankful for that."
Carter went on to talk about his sore left knee which he tweaked early in the game in Philadelphia when he landed after a dunk. He said the swelling has gone down and they were pleased it didn't swell more on the flight back to Phoenix. That was a sign that there's no structural damage. Vince seemed to accept that his knee is just going to be sore sometimes but admitted that it effected the lift on his jump shot causing him to hit the front of the rim.
"I expect to come out and produce for this team. That's what they brought me here and that's what I need to do, regardless," Carter said, adding that he's felt better today during practice.
The game tips at 7 p.m. local time and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona and Sports 620 KTAR radio. Fans can follow along with other Suns fans at the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.