Coming into the game it was the Sacramento Kings who had the reputation of being a young team who has trouble closing out games in the final 5 minutes. But tonight, to start out the new year - the Suns decided to trade places with the Kings and mount a collapse of monumental proportions.
Defense? Yeah they played pretty good defense for about 3 quarters - and yes the Suns held the Kings to under 99 points, but I think if I go to Jack in the Box to get my free tacos, I might very well barf them up after what I saw tonight.
So what happened? DeMarcus Cousins happened. Poo-Jeter Happened. Kings rebounding happened. Suns sucking happened. If you really want to torture yourself and relive this game with me... Jump it fools.
Ride this Roller-Coaster with Me.
The Suns defense was really good in the first quarter. The Suns for the second game in a row held an opponent to under 20 points (14 to Detroit, then only 17 to Sacramento). Everyone was active, rotating quickly, communicating, and filling the lanes with flailing arms and sliding bodies. The one negative was the foul disparity. After one quarter, the Suns had 4 guys with 2 fouls each. The whistle was being blown loud and often. Both Robin, Hill, Carter got into early foul trouble - then Dudley came in and picked up 2 quick ones - which lead Alvin to put Childress in for some PT (see it's not a horrible problem to have too many wings, especially when the Sacramento freaking Kings are being treated like the Los Angeles Lakers by the Refs). The Suns led 27-17 after 12 minutes of play - things were looking really good.
And then the 2nd quarter and the 2nd unit happened. The Kings started the 2nd quarter on a 18-4 run, and the defense didn't look so good. As much as the defense was looking lost - the Suns offense looked worse. They started 1 for 10, the only bucket coming from Vince Carter who was sent back in by Alvin Gentry after a frustration time-out. The whistles continued to blow. I guess since there was extra air in the arena (a lot of empty seats) the refs where still feeling the holiday spirit and wanted to gift the Kings some free-throws. Half-way through the quarter it looked like I was going to have a mood swing and start to hate life and having to write this recap. But then guess what - Nash, Hill and Pietrus came back into the line-up and immediately the defense and offense picked up. As Paul Coro put it,
OUCH. Oh the ups-and-downs of inconsistency. After having a great game against the Pistons and playing extended minutes, the heart of the bench mob (Goran, Frye, Dudley) couldn't make a first half appearance. We've talked about it before, especially with Goran and Channing - they are pretty emotional players, when they get rattled it shows. With that being said I don't doubt some of their 1st half 'no-show' stems from their frustration with the ticky-tacky fouls they were being called for left and right. Add to that Frye is a streaky shooter by nature and clanked 0-4 and his confidence just wasn't there.
On the positive - Nash was your first half MVP - he totaled 10 points and 8 assists and was the obvious reason the Suns were able to counter the early 2nd quarter run by the Kings. The timing, spacing and chemistry between Gortat and Nash is improving rapidly - they ran the pick and roll with ease to end the half and quickly Gortat had 11 points and added yet another double-digit scoring effort to his Suns resume.
Despite a short scare to start the 2nd, the Suns regained the lead, the command of the game, held the Kings to under 30% shooting and overall had a good defensive showing.
So I was all like, aight - aight we got this. Feeling good about the Nash and Gortat Pick and Roll and about the Suns defense, I was enjoying the game thread and reading my Suns Twitter feed when all of a sudden I saw this pop up,
I was confused. Hey Scott - there's a Suns game on FYI. Hey Scott, keep the football Twit-fodder to a minimum during the basketball game. kthxbye.
Here we go again - I feel like I've written this kind of recap before. Deja vu? This time it was the starters turn to take a break on defense. Take a break they did indeed. The Kings came out of the Half-time tea-party with fire and cut deeply into the lead while the Suns struggled to score. The same pick and roll that Nash was having success with to end the first half came up empty time after time again. Why? Because his roll partner was Robin Lopez. And? Robin Lopez forgot how to roll. He settled for rise-up jump shots and fade-aways and he couldn't hit anything.
So wait, you're telling me that when Nash and Gortat run the pick and roll, Gortat actually rolls to the basket - gets the ball and either gets fouled or scores?
Yeah man. That's how the pick and roll usually works. Earth to Robin - if you're not gonna roll you better make sure you're hitting that jumper, cause if not - you're going to get yanked quick. Again (which happened). On another Robin note - he played the first half with naked legs, then coming into the 3rd quarter he all of a sudden had a brace on his left knee. That kind of evidences our health suspicion with him - maybe he really is feeling hurt and that's why he's not rolling hard to the basket and elevating for nasty dunks.
Needless to say - with Gortat in, the Kings defense was forced to collapse (or foul) which opened the floor for everyone and the Suns once again took control of the game.
Goran never returned in the 3rd and through 3 Nash had already logged 30 minutes of playing time. THAT = NO BUENO. But hey, Nash played limited minutes in the last game right? Or maybe like Tom Leander suggested, he was showing off for his girls?
Goran Dragic: "Hey Eutychus, you want for me to play the ball better? No problem."
Bam, ask and ye shall receive.
The Suns came out in the fourth quarter with a line-up of:
Dragic - Carter - Dudley - Frye - Gortat
Their defensive intensity was high and they forced 2 quick turnovers but only scored once off those TO's on a Double D's fast break (Dragic to Dudley). The spacing was improved and Goran and Gortat were able to run the pick and roll for what seems like the first time for minimum success. Nothing too flashy or impressive from Dragic - but definitely an improvement from the first half.
Nash returned with a 10 point lead and Alvin Gentry wanted the team to go for the jugular. The 'hit-team' was basically all the starters minus Robin Lopez, add Marcin Gortat.
Tony 'Two-time' : "So uh, Euty - how'd it go eh? You know? The job? Did they wack 'em good"
Um, well you see Tony... not really. Actually the Kings went on a huge run after Paul Westphal went against reason and benched the reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans and inserted the high powered suppository and offensive laxative in poo-Jeter. He pushed the pace and eventually the Kings destroyed the lead. All of a sudden - it looked like it was the Suns who had the reputation of not being able to finish the game in the last 5 minutes (that was the Kings' scouting report). Here's how it went down...
With 25 seconds to go - the game still tied, Dragic_is_Magic's 2nd tier love aura entered into her TV - traveled through the inter-time-space-continuum - catapulted through an electrical outlet in the ARCO arena in Sacramento and filled the flowing hair of one Omri Casspi who cold-bloodedly nailed a three-pointer. Kings up 3. The arena exploded with energy and suddenly the 54 fans who were in attendance sounded like a super-bowl stadium. The Kings defensive energy intensified. The Suns looked like they were in shock. We had a shot though - all we needed was a sure-fire bucket or last resort, a good look at a three to tie it up. Commence the in-bound... Witness the FAIL.
The Suns shamefully collapsed. The Kings 4th quarter resurgence and intensified crowd participation launched the confidence of the young squad through the roof. Behind DeMarcus Cousins' 28 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, the Kings mounted a 19-2 run to end the game. I'm figuratively crying as I write this. I can't think of anything Bright-side-ish to spin the end of this game with... maybe give me some time and I'll conjure up some sort of excuse.
It will be impossible for the Suns to win a game if we can't get consistent production from role players and if we let the opposing team pretty much DOUBLE our rebounding total. The Kings ended the game with 60 rebounds, while the Suns only tallied 32. And 40% from the field... a Phoenix Suns team? That's pretty pathetic for a team that usually totes the league's best offense. Not tonight.
While I might have been able to shoot my pretend finger-guns at the referees and blame them for some of the discombobulation in the first half - there is no excuse for how the Suns defensive and offensive lapses in the 2nd half cost them the game. It was a pressure, or a 'clutch-time' failure. We should have won this game. #realtalk.
I hate you poo-Jeter.
Since I was planning on releasing the 2nd edition of the Eutychus weekly recap rap tomorrow - I think I might delay it's release by a couple days (don't worry - it will come), because all I want to do right now is hop on my XBOX, pop in some Call of Duty and shoot as many people in the face as I can until my eyes are heavy and sleep is the only other option for my frazzled brain.