On Friday night, the Phoenix ended their homestand playing without veteran starters Steve Nash and Grant Hill. While early on in the game versus the New Jersey Nets it looked like the Suns could survive, they could not contain point guard Deron Williams or three-point shoot in general. The Nets hit 15 three-pointers and Williams lit up the Phoenix backcourt for 35 points (six three-pointers) and 14 assists, beating the Suns 110-103. It was Phoenix's third straight loss.
Hill was experiencing some soreness above his right knee and Nash had a sore quadriceps, the result of a "charley horse" he suffered against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With a five-game road trip starting on Sunday, the team felt that it made to give them both an extra day's rest in this condensed 66-game season.
Starting in their places were Ronnie Price and Shannon Brown.
The Suns started out decently and had a 25-22 lead after the first quarter, but the Nets outscored Phoenix each of the final three quarters. New Jersey had a three-point lead at the half and a six-point lead after three quarters.
What did Phoenix in was their defense, which has been a stronger point this season. It was the first game in this young season in which the Suns scored at least 100 points but lost.
With the game within reach for three quarters, they got cold in the fourth quarter and New Jersey built up a 12-point lead. The Suns were able to pull within three, 102-99, but couldn't get any more key stops.
For Phoenix, Marcin Gortat had a solid game, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Channing Frye scored 15, hitting a pair of threes. He also pulled down six boards and had a career-high seven assists. Ronnie Price, starting in place of Steve Nash, held his own. He had 18 points with eight assists on 7-11 shooting.
Jared Dudley scored 18 and Shannon Brown added 13 points.
New Jersey was paced by Williams' 35 points, but also got solid contributions from Marshon Brooks and Anthony Morrow. Brooks scored 20 and Morrow hit four threes, adding 16 points.
The two teams each had 35 rebounds and Phoenix had one more offensive board than the Nets.
Coach Alvin Gentry was pleased after the game with the offensive effort, but was obviously disappointed by the outcome. He gave a lot of credit to the Nets shooters, who made big shots. However, he was surprisingly upbeat about how the team played.
With the loss, the Suns fall to 4-7, while the Nets improve to 3-9. The Suns next play on Sunday in San Antonio.
The Phoenix Suns (4-6) were disappointed with their performance on Thursday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now they will try and bounce back with no rest against the New Jersey Nets (2-9). The Nets are having their own issues this season, not the least of which is the broken foot of center Brook Lopez. The Suns, on paper, have the advantage in talent but the aging Steve Nash played over 35 minutes on Thursday and Grant Hill is questionable due to knee soreness.
In other words, there's plenty of reasons to think the Phoenix Suns won't win this game. Then again, there's no reason to think they won't. Or something like that.
The Nets have the great Deron Williams and then there's the most hated player in the NBA (according to fans of reality TV) Kris Humphries. Then it gets sketchy fast.
The last two games that the Suns have lost they have also lost the rebounding battle, and if they are hoping to change things tonight I believe it will start on the glass. Aside from Kris Humphries who has been playing very well in his post-Kardashian career, the Nets don't have another player averaging more than 5 rebounds a game.
The Nets are averaging 39.8 rebounds a game while the Suns are averaging 42.1. While this certainly isn't a huge advantage, it shows that the Suns are more than capable of winning in this category tonight.
The Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers represent two mediocre NBA teams. One is older and average (at best) and the other is younger and average (at best). On Thursday night in the battle of mediocrity, the younger team won.
The Suns played flat as if they had a game the previous night instead of the next night. They were consistently beat to loose balls and were slow and unenergetic on defense. The Cavs won the rebounding battle 47-39 and had 20 second-chance points.
"The game was on the boards and we did a poor job on the boards and that's something we've got to take care of," Alvin Gentry said. "I told the guys that here's a team that shoots 43 percent against us and finds a way to win the game and that shouldn't be the case."
The Suns PR staff described the key stats in the loss:
A combination of SUNS TURNOVERS (16 for 19 Cavs points) and CAVALIERS OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS (15 for 20 second-chance points) gave Cleveland 14 more field goal attempts than Phoenix and allowed the Cavaliers to win despite shooting just 43.8 percent from the field, including only 41.4 percent from TWO-point range.
During a stretch of the second quarter, the Suns gave up a 14-2 run that allowed the Cavs to go from down six to up eight. Rookie Kyrie Irving scored 12 of those points as the Suns time and again went under screens and gave him wide open shots.
Irving finished with 26 points and six assists while Antawn Jamison added 23 points and when 3-5 from three.
Irving said it was an honor to play against Steve Nash, "I have been watching him for so long so to finally get to play against him it was a little surreal. But once you're out there in the game, I am a competitor and so is he and it just show you he is still doing the things he has done for his whole entire career."
After Irving's run in the second quarter, the Suns never were back in the game. They never got too far behind but weren't ever able to close the gap either.
The debut of Michael Redd couldn't have gone better although coach Alvin Gentry will surely caution patience and urge us not to jump to conclusions. Redd hit his first two shots as a Sun, both open corner threes, and finished with 12 points on 4-9 shooting.
Grant Hill, 0-2 in seven minutes, did not return for the second half due to "soreness in the quad tendon of the right knee". Hill said he was sore before the game and tried to go.
He hopes to play Friday when the Suns face the Nets but it will depend on how the knee feels. It's the same knee he had surgery on in September but it's not the same part of the knee that's now giving him problems.