The struggling Phoenix Suns (7-12) win against the struggling Memphis Grizzlies (10-9) 86-84 as both teams looked to break losing streaks. This win for the Phoenix Suns is only their 2nd quality win of the season meaning it's only their 2nd win against a team with a winning record.
The Suns came out of the gate and controlled the game after a slow start and by halftime the Suns were ahead by 16 points on 46.5% shooting while the Grizzlies were shooting a paltry 34.2% from the field. Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins said after their loss in L.A. against the Clippers, "Our perimeter people did not shoot the ball very well" and indeed tonight their was almost ZERO perimeter scoring for the Grizzlies - everything was inside, diving to the hoop or short to barely mid-range.
On the night - the Grizzlies only attempted 3 3-point attempts, one of which was the final game winning attempt hoisted by PG Mike Conley that fell well short. The game was ugly in that the same Gorilla on the Suns' back reared it's head again tonight (extended shooting/offensive droughts) as the Suns 16 point lead at the half was erased by a Memphis surge late in the 3rd quarter and into the 4th - but the game was exciting none-the-less as Phoenix made free-throws when it was critical and secured key rebounds and made defensive stops when it counted to win the game.
Tonight was a good night and there is no shame in feeling good about the win tonight - Alvin Gentry shook up the rotation and the starting line-up for the second time this season and the Suns responded in a very positive fashion after thoroughly "getting their head kicked in" as Nash would say last night in Portland. Phoenix looked like the team fresh and waiting for tonight's game - not the team that had been blown out by nearly 40 points the night before.
Hit the jump and we'll take a look at the changes Alvin Gentry made and how they panned out.
New Rotation and New Starting 5
Or is it the old starting 5?
Nash, Dudley, Hill, Frye and Gortat got the starting nod as Alvin Gentry went back to the original starting 5 that began the season. All but one of these starters came out with fire in their eyes and we'll talk about Channing Frye in a second. But it was another double-double for Marcin Gortat (though he shot poorly from the field going 6-17, 35%), a season high 20 points for Jared Dudley, a 21 and 6 night for Steve Nash and Grant Hill was the BAMF we have yearning to see with his legs back and kept Rudy Gay in check as he only poured in 18 (7-15) which is well short of his usual 25 points he lights up against the Suns on average. With the scoring of Zach Randolph missing that was just enough to give the Suns a victory.
As far as the rotation goes - Gentry used an 11 man rotation that held Brown and Lopez to the bench with DNP's. It is obvious that Lopez is in the doghouse - Gentry was visibly upset with Lopez after he was ejected in Tuesday's game against the Raptors, the camera focused in on Gentry it his lips read "Stupid S***" as Lopez retreated to the locker room. Then before the game when asked if Lopez would see time behind Gortat his body language and tone in responding "Yeah we'll see about his minutes" was not the kind that reads well for Lopez.
Here's how the rotation was shaken up.
First substitution - Telfair for Nash with 5 mins left in 1st. Many wondered if Nash was injured or why he was leaving the game so early - nope - this is one of the experiments of Gentry. The idea is to rest Nash earlier in the game so he can return early and share time with the 2nd unit in an attempt to bolster their offensive cohesion.
Morris substituted for Frye
In the 2nd quarter - it was a bench line-up of: Childress - Price - Telfair - Gortat - Morris then Warrick in for Gortat.
In the first half when Steve Nash left the game with 5 minutes remaining in the first quarter (about 5 minutes earlier than usual) the Suns were holding on to a 7 point lead. When he returned midway through the 2nd quarter the team still had their 7 point lead. As far as the rotation experiment in the first half, it was a smashing success.
But the 3rd quarter was a different story - Nash out with 4 minutes left in the 3rd - Suns up by 11 - Nash returns in the 4th with 10 minutes to go - Suns only up by 4 points. An experimental fail.
What happened was the all too familiar offensive drought we've seen become a habit with team. You couple that with the predictable "surge" that good teams (like the Grizzlies) will have and the lead evaporated. Luckily - Steve Nash returned in the 4th and right away hit a 3-point shot and began commanding the offense to be productive.
Something I found interesting: At the half - Suns shot 46.5% to the Grizzlies 34.2% but the most surprising number? Only 5 3-point shot attempts, lots of shots in the paint and moving to the basket. Buuuut - at the end of the game is was the Grizzlies who brought their percentage up over 40 to 43.4% while the Suns dropped theirs to a poopy 36.4%. A lot of that bad percentage had to do with Nash forcing the offense to Channing Frye in the 2nd half in an attempt to get his shooting our of the slump... again we'll visit Channing's night in a second.
The push or "surge" by the Grizzlies late in the 3rd prompted Alvin Gentry to put Michael Redd into the lineup in an attempt to find some offense. Redd came in and contributed 2 free throws with a minute to go in the 3rd after the Grizzlies made a run to cut the lead to 5 by using a temporary zone defense to freeze and stagnate the Suns 2nd unit offense.
A side note with this 2nd unit offense - Eddie Johnson brought up a good point during the 3rd period that the Suns aren't entering into their offense early enough in the shot-clock. They spend the majority of the time passing the ball around the perimeter until it is too late to run a play and find an open shot that isn't rushed. Is this a fail of play-call? Does the burden to start the offense solely depend on Telfair? I'm not exactly sure - but I'm slow to place the blame on Bassy given that each teammate seems content to pass around the perimeter and look peripherally for a teammate to pass to instead of looking straight ahead for a lane to the hoop.
Frye's Woes Continue -
Everyone in the starting line-up came in with energy and contributed in ways that helped the Suns jump out to a lead by the half and to close out the game in the final minutes. Channing Frye? Not so much. He put up and ugly breadstick (meaning a number 1) as he shot 1-9 from the field missing badly on most of his shots.
Channing hasn't made more than 3 FG's in a game since January 13 vs. New Jersey when he shot 6-10 and totaled 15 points. That's 8 games with only 1 or 2 made field goals. In his last 8 games he's shooting 21.8%.
It's pretty self-explanatory.
An exciting game to watch. I was very happy to see the team respond in such a positive manner with energy, hustle and focus after being embarrassed last night. Hopefully they can smell the sweetness of victory and seek to continue bathing in it. We'll see if this line-up Gentry used tonight sticks. I have a feeling we'll see more fluidity with regards to the rotation.
What say ye?
Next up - Bring on the Mavs. Again.