The Phoenix Suns held practice on Saturday after the previous night's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. While there were still some hard feelings about crucial calls that went against the Suns, there was also recognition that the team needs to get better looks late in games. Offensive rebounds allowed and a few missed opportunities for offensive rebounds for the Suns were also big late in that game.
The Suns have played good basketball recently according to Coach Alvin Gentry, but the team has struggled finishing games. He was pleased with the shots his team got down the stretch -- which included three wide open looks for Vince Carter -- and said they just need to, "jump up and put them in."
While he was happy with those three open shots, Gentry admits that he needs to find a way to get more looks in the paint with drives and post ups.
"We've got to find a way to generate some isolated situations where guys can drive and get us to the line or drive and create situations and he's (Carter) has got to be that guy for us.
"Everything we do at the end can't be screen and roll. It just creates too much of situation for Steve (Nash) to try and make every single play and if they're switching or trapping he has to give the ball up so we have to have guys that are capable of taking the ball and making plays with it."
Gentry went on to take responsibility for the team's offensive opportunities.
"We maybe got seduced into being a jump-shooting team a little bit...Me as a coach, I've got to make sure the ball is going inside some. We've got to have some threat in there via a big guy or Vince or Grant (Hill) or somebody posting up. I think we've got to be able to attack the basket some in order to get to the line."
Carter got to the line for seven free throw attempts in the first half of the game but didn't draw one shooting foul in the entire second half.
Gentry was also quick to point out that Kevin Durant was held to 25 points on 16 shots after averaging over 40 points in his last four games. He was also pleased with the defense Steve Nash played on Russell Westbrook, especially late in the game where he kept the speedy young guard out of the lane and forced him into tough pull-up jump shots...which Westbrook made.
Goran Dragic was able to put his injured left foot in a regular shoe today but still isn't able to run on the toe that he cut a week ago when he stepped on broken glass at his home. He rode the bike for cardio and did an upper body and core strength workout. He said the cut toe, which needed nine stitches, is healing fine and he is targeting next Thursday's home game against the Golden State Warriors for his return.
The time off the court has been frustrating and he's anxious to play. He expects to be well-rested when he returns and intends to utilize that extra energy.
"Probably I'm going to be more rested than the others. Maybe I'm going to like, how you say, be more aggressive. I can't wait to get back on the court. My wish is huge to get back. I think so I'm going to be like 120 percent on the court just running all over the place," Dragic said with a smile.
Zabian Dowdell, who has averaged four points and two assists and about 12 minutes per game in place of Dragic, is expected to be signed for the remainder of the season. Dowdell's second, ten-day contract is up on Monday and by league rules he either has to be signed or released.
The team is pleased with Dowdell's steady performance and will continue to use him in practice which allows Nash, who turns 37 on Monday, to rest more on non-game days.
"I think he's played unafraid and to me that's the big thing. Obviously, he's made a few mistakes here and there but I think overall he's done a good job for us and played well," Gentry said. "It makes sense to have him here."
Dowdell was selected to the D-league All-Star team but once he's signed by the Suns will be ineligible for that honor. He's not disappointed in the trade off.
Gortat And Lopez
Gentry compared his two centers and how they play the pick and roll. Gortat can catch and finish while going full speed while Lopez doesn't roll quite as hard and when he catches the ball he makes decisions not going full speed. They are different players according to Gentry but combined are giving the Suns solid work.
"I do like the fact that we are getting good production if you add the two together. That's important for us, at that position, to be able to say most nights we can get 20 to 25 points and 10 to 15 rebounds."
Gentry is pleased with Mickael Pietrus' minutes even though he's not been shooting the ball well and is expected to improve defensively. The important thing is to give Grant Hill more rest and not ask him to play extended stretches of the game.
"I like this defense and I like his aggressiveness and I do think when he's out there they do have to guard him even though he hasn't shot the ball well. They know that he's a capable shooter so they still guard him and he's been able to break defenses down some and drive. All of that stuff is good."
The Suns now head to Oakland to face the Warriors on Monday and then the same two teams play in Phoenix Thursday. Gentry expects a high-scoring track meet.