It is hard to look at a 143 point performance and not be pleased but when comes on the back of 82 combined free throw attempts and a Grant Hill ejection it can only be described as ugly. That's right, Grant Hill got bounced about half way through the 3rd after arguing no-call on the previous play.
And the replacement official that was getting under Coach Gentry's skin all night and gave Grant the quick hook? WNBA officiating legend, Kurt Walker. I wish there were stats available for referees but trust me when I tell you what Suns (and Kings) fans saw from Mr. Walker tonight was par for the course and it made for an ugly game.
Kings guard Kevin Martin summed it up best, "It was just an ugly game. It was like the ball was deflated and we were stopping every second and that's all I'm going to say about that."
U.G.L.Y. You don't have no alibi you UGLY!
Even when you consider that the Suns came out ahead on the deal. The Kings had 36 fouls to the Suns 19 and 56 of those 82 attempts were for the home team (with Amare having 21 himself). Still ugly.
Combine 72 made free throws with 18 made three points and you end up with a 143-127 score. It's simple math my friends. It equals ugly.
Fortunately, it seems that this brief replacement official nightmare will be over soon. Then we can go back to hating on the old refs.
Ugly aside, this game was by far the closest we've seen to a regular rotation with Clark only getting 7 minutes and the rest of the bench guys like Tucker, Griffin, Powell and Dickau sitting this one out. In fact Powell and Dickau were released after the game according to Sports 620 KTAR's Craig Grilalou.
Amare and Frye both had 35 minutes and they both looked fantastic.
This was the best I've seen Amare look so far. He was aggressive on the offensive end and active defensively. The one advantage of the fans being so quiet is you can hear the players talk on the defensive end and Amare was talking all night.
Of course he only had 6 rebounds which is something that Coach Gentry did not overlook in his post game presser.
"There's nothing ever bad about a win. I just know that in order for us to be competitive and try and get to where we want to get to, we have to be much much better on the boards then we were," Gentry said.
But here's the funny part. The Kings only had 3 more total rebounds and 4 more offensive rebounds and the second chance points were an even 26 per. So I guess Gentry wasn't happy that he leading rebounders were Jason Richardson (10) and Goran Dragic (8).
Team's take on the personality of their Coach and while Gentry had the reputation as being a laid back player's Coach, what I've seen so far is anything but. He is fired up and not in the slightest bit willing to cut his guys any slack and the team is starting to reflect that. They've got a chip on their shoulder and a bit of an edge that we've not seen in Phoenix in a long time. I like it.
Channing Frye had 29 points on 9/12 and Amare had 27 points thanks to 17 free throws but the real hero of this game was none other than Goran Dragic.
When Steve Nash left the game in the 3rd period with a slightly sprained ankle (don't worry, he's just fine) it was Dragic who stepped up. In just under 26 minutes he had 21 points on 7/12 shooting, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and no turnovers.
Goran had this to say about his performance tonight, "Finally. The last two games, three games, I did not shoot well the ball...Today was a great game. I was feeling great on the court. I was active on defense, offense so it was totally different space then in last games."
Going into tonight Dragic was 13-43 in the preseason and it had definitely been weighing on his confidence, "Every time I was open for the shot I was thinking if ball is going in or out."
It's not all just mental though. Dragic said that most of the missed shots in previous games were falling short so he noticed that he wasn't using his legs enough on the jump shot. He stayed late at shoot around this morning and worked on that and it carried over into the game tonight.
Goran, like most young players is going to be up and down. Tonight at least he showed that the ability is there. His growth will come when he can play more consistently and I don't think that will happen until at some point in the future he convinces himself that he belongs at this level.
For now, he's still learning how to play through the poor shooting nights. Richardson for example was 0 for 8 on the night and couldn't buy a basket and I guarantee that in the next game he's not going to be wondering if the ball will go in or out when he's open for a shot.
Goran is always a great interview. Listen to the full sound below: