The Suns starters began the game sloppy but finished strong to earn the victory in the second to last game of a long and frustrating Suns season.
"We were just a little out of rhythm. We had a long trip and certainly we had some disappointments on the trip with that Dallas game," explained Suns veteran Grant Hill about the Suns slow start. "Maybe not practicing yesterday, I don't know what it was but physically we just struggled early. No excuses. We were just out of sync there early. Go figure."
Phoenix had 12 of a total 16 turnovers in the first quarter but still managed to take a 32 - 25 lead behind 55% shooting. Grant during his post game locker room interview also explain one of more bizarre plays we've seen this season.
He dribbled the ball towards the sideline where Alvin Gentry was standing seemingly to call a time out. The Grizzlies all thought so and stopped playing leaving Grant a clear path to the rim for two.
Both Hill and Gentry explained that this was an old Doug Collins "play" from back in the Detroit days. Sneaky for sure but also quite the slap in the face to Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins who was visibly peeved at the play and after the game said, "The Suns, because they're out of the playoffs have actually turned it into an exhibition game..."
Here's Coach and Hill post game:
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The rest of the game was pretty much a blur. The Suns were scoring at a respectable clip but couldn't manage to stop Rudy Gay or Hakim Warrick either.
The game was close until the 7 minute mark of the 4th quarter, when with a 3 point lead Gentry rotated in his entire starting line up.
The starting unit perhaps sensing it might be one of their last times playing together, closed strong behind Shaq and Nash. The two combined for 14 of the Suns 33 points and quite visibly willed the Suns over the finish line.
The bright spot off the bench tonight was none other then Robin Lopez. Robin at one point in the 3rd quarter lead the team with 14 points and finished with a strong 5 for 7 shooting and 4 from 4 from the line. He was active defensively and played aggressive but more under control then earlier in the season.
He said after the game, "I want to stay humble and not have a big head, but I think I've made some huge steps since before the All Star Game. I'm more comfortable, I think, and I know my role - especially on offense."
Robin said he plans to work on getting strong this summer and improve his pick and roll play.
I asked Robin who can be a bit prickly when talking about his brother, who he thought the Rookie of the Year is.
"My brother." After some chuckles, he continued, "No, no, I'm serious. He's second in rebounding, he's leading in blocks. He's up there in field goal percentage, he's top 5 in points, top 4 in free throws, so..."
A good, if meaningless win for the Suns. The Suns obviously wanted to close strong if for no other reason then pride.
In one moment of intense irony, Grant Hill had the ball out of bounds on the baseline with about 23 seconds left and a 7 point lead. The Grizzlies pressured the in-bounds pass and Hill called a 20 second time out which allowed the Suns to advance the ball to mid-court and run a proper in-bounds play to get the ball in Nash's hands.
If Hill had only called a timeout in a similar situation in Utah with the Suns leading late this team might very well be in the playoffs. In a season of "what ifs" this is the one play that might stand out the most. The fact that the ball was in Grant Hill's hands (who is about to play his 82nd game of the season on Wednesday) makes it only more painful.