Dig a big hole, climb back out - What the players think

Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

Notes and quotes from the big comeback on Friday night, as the Suns defeated the Hornets in overtime, 111-108.

You've already seen the win that the bench pulled out of the loss column, or you've read the recap I posted immediately after the buzzer. And maybe you watched the videos that Seth put up this morning.

But you have not yet read what the players think about digging themselves yet another big hole, only to rise once again and play like they could beat anyone in the NBA.

The Suns went on a 39-9 run in a span of 12 minutes in a flurry of defensive stops and great shotmaking to take a 10-point lead that makes you wonder how they built a 19-point deficit in the first place.

"We got behind again which I wish we could avoid doing," Alvin Gentry said after the game. "But we have a tendency when we do to tighten up our defense and do a good job."

Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat "led" the starting unit to a terrible showing (Beasley was -18 for the game, Gortat was -26) against a Hornets lineup that played really well despite being on a 5-game losing streak and missing their two best players, Eric Gordon (lingering, undefined) and Anthony Davis (stress fracture in foot), and one of their best bench players, Jason Smith (eye injury less than a minute after entering the game).

"As for our starters, outside the turnovers, I thought they played about as good as they could have played tonight," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "I just didn't think our bench played with the kind of hunger that I saw from [P.J.] Tucker. I thought he and Sebastian Telfair kind of changed the game."

Tucker set a career high with 15 points, including 2-3 on three-pointers, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Sebastian Telfair had 5 assists and a three-pointer and Jermaine O'Neal dominated in the paint once again. O'Neal scored in double digits for the fourth straight time and got his first double-double of the season (13 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks).

"[Tucker] epitomizes what I want our entire team to be, really," Gentry said, pointing out that last game-closing offensive rebound while smiling and shaking his head. "That is a hard, grind-it-out worker that never quits on any play."

"He is aggressive," Goran Dragic said of Tucker's impact on the game. "When you see your teammate being aggressive you have to be the same. You have to cover his back and play as hard as him."

While many of the players who stayed to talk to the media were at least mildly excited about the win, one guy in particular was having none of it.

"I am discourgaged," Luis Scola said, about the ongoing deficits. "I know we are going to lose a lot more games than we are going to win if we put ourselves 15, 16, 18, 19 down. We are going to lose most of those games."

This was the 11th time in 13 games that the Suns have built at least a 10-point deficit. They have come back to win four of those, all at home, while losing the other seven. So far this season, there is an 84% chance the Suns will dig themselves a double-digit deficit and they have lost 7 of 11.

Alvin Gentry changed up the starting lineup the other day in an effort to mix and match and avoid lose deficits. It worked for one game, but that's it. Scola (+7) and Dudley (+13) were a big part of the comeback against the Hornets after being associated with the starting unit that dug those holes.

"it doesn't seem like that was the problem," Scola said of the lineup change. "I have been giving it a lot of thought, but I just can't figure out the reason. I'm being honest. I don't know why we put ourselves in that situation."

There are only three starters left who have contributed to each huge deficit and lackadaisical play early this season. Despite Markieff Morris (career high in scoring) and Shannon Brown playing as hard as they could, the Suns still found a way to appear slow and tentative as a unit until that third quarter turnaround.

But hey, that's what gets the blood flowing right? Despite sitting on press row and being expected to remain neutral along with everyone else, I couldn't help but hoot and holler during that amazing 39-9 run. The whole arena was rocking like it was 2010, with the crowd rising collectively on every three as it arced toward the net and cheering wildly as it found nothing but net.

Jermaine O'Neal was a +29, Tucker +25, Jared Dudley +13, Sebastian Telfair +13 and Luis Scola +7. The common thread on the second unit that plays so well is O'Neal/Tucker/Telfair. Those guys play with heart and effort like nothing I've seen in a long time.

O'Neal was ready for retirement, Tucker was in Europe and Telfair was on the street when the Suns found them, cleaned them up and threw them on the court. Got to give some credit to the Suns front office on these guys. They just might save the Suns' season.

The Suns now embark on a 6-game road trip, where you definitely cannot afford to dig a big deficit and hope to come back. The starting unit and bench units must match intensity and play with a purpose. Let's hope they find themselves on this trip.

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