Basketball, like all other team sports, is a two-way street. In order to win a competitive game teams have to play both ends of the floor to win and that is not something the Phoenix Suns did in their 94-81 loss to the Utah Jazz.
The loss drops them to 3-4 on the season after a two game winning streak. During their last two games the team has been outscored 66-35 in the first quarters putting themselves in a bit of a hole.
Coach Alvin Gentry is not sold that the team is coming out flat.
"I don't think we were flat. You got to get the ball in the basket number one. Our defense was pretty good like I said during that one stretch with seven straight stops and eight out of ten, but we didn't make up any ground because we didn't get didn't get the ball in the basket on the other end."
There has to be something to be said for the team's lack of drive coming out of the locker room to start those two games, but more of the issue, for maybe the first time ever in Phoenix, has been the offense. The team is 15th in the NBA in points per game as a team, scoring under 100 points in five of seven games this year.
Part of the problem on offense has been the inconsistency of the closing line-up for the Suns.
Last night the team went with the unit that was "hot" on the defensive end of Sebastian Telfair, Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, P.J. Tucker, and Luis Scola. That unit forced turnovers at a high rate, but went through a spell where they made stops on eight of ten possessions, but went seven straight of their own without a basket to show for it.
The Jazz had 24 possessions in the fourth where they committed five turnovers converting only 33.3% of those possessions into points.
Sure, the Suns did a great job creating those turnovers to get back in the game, but they struggled to score as well with 20 points on 30 possessions (30.0%) as a team in the fourth. Part of that can be attributed to not having a closing type scorer on the court in the fourth quarter. Shannon Brown played just 1:44, Michael Beasley 2:51, and Marcin Gortat didn't see any fourth quarter action. Those three struggled all game with their shot going a combined 4-24, but when you need points late it should not matter that Brown was 1-9 especially after the way he has played this season.
"We didn't play very good really," said Gentry after the game about just that. "We just didn't play well. You know we can put any spin we want to, but we didn't play well and we have to do a better job."
One has to applaud a coach that sticks to his guns and Gentry has said from Day One that he will play the hot hand or hot unit despite the name on the back of the jersey. He has been doing that this year, but I cannot remember many games in the run to the Western Conference Finals in 2010 where Nash, Hill, Stoudemire, Richardson, Frye, or Barbosa weren't on the floor in the fourth quarter of a close game.
If they weren't then it was likely a similar outcome as last nights.
Gortat is not Stoudemire, Dragic is not Nash, and Brown is not Richardson, but those three names need to be treated the same as their predecessors in order for this team to make a play for the playoffs, or to be over .500 in general.