Finally, the Suns made a game-winning shot. They'd missed time after time this young season, but FINALLY HIT ONE.
It was Goran Dragic making the dispy-do layup surrounded by three defenders.
"You know, the last time I missed the easy layup against Dallas so this time I told myself," Dragic said of the play. "You have to make that one."
YES! The seven game losing streak is OVER!
"Great win for us," Dragic said with relief after the game. "It feels great."
Alvin Gentry was relieved as well.
"It was a much-needed win, obviously for us," Gentry said postgame, with a smile on his face for the first time in weeks when talking about his team. "I thought our defense was really, really good."
The Suns forced 17 turnovers against the Grizzlies, good for 19 much-needed points. For the game, the Suns won the points-in-the-paint 42-38, 2nd chance points 16-12 and fast-break points 14-13. That effort negated a great Grizzlies defense that contributed to the Suns woeful shooting in the half-court.
In the critical last two minutes, the Suns had terrible offensive possession after terrible offensive possession while Rudy Gay made a huge, contested fallaway two-pointer to tie the game and then - somehow - missed the game winner under heavy defensive pressure.
But the Grizzlies weren't doing much better.
"We were not running our plays," Grizzlies C Marc Gasol said after the game. "We are not moving the ball. There are a lot of reasons [we lost this game]."
Alvin Gentry talks constantly about ball movement. And when Shannon Brown went on one of this "frantic dribbling" runs, Gentry knew it was time to calm them down and run their sets.
But Brown wasn't all bad. He had 15 points and the Suns wing players showed up to rebound the ball tonight, a huge effort in a tight game. Dudley, Brown and Beasley combined for 22 rebounds, while Dragic grabbed 4 of his own.
Dudley scored 15 points to go along with his 9 hard-fought rebounds to be, in my opinion, the player of the game.
"It feels good, to be honest," Dudley said. "We lost every possible way you can: close games, blowouts, bad teams, good teams, different ways, different lineups, and sometimes you forget how to win."
"The way we lost to them in Memphis, to comeback, it shows you a little bit about the character of this team. For us, it's a good start."
Good start indeed. This the first Suns win of the season against a team currently sporting a winning record. And Memphis with a 14-4 record coming into tonight is definitely a good team to build confidence against.
The Suns started off the fourth quarter playing hard with the second unit but allowed the Grizzlies to score on more than half their possessions to keep the tenuous lead. Marc Gasol tried to play Zach Randolph but cooled off quickly. The Suns scrapped and clawed to keep the game within reach, trading 1-2 point leads through the first seven minutes of the fourth until most of the starters returned.
To start the second half, the Grizzly half-court defense came alive and forced the Suns into some ugly shots. But the Suns kept it close with good defense of their own resulting in THREE consecutive fast-break conversions (two by Dragic, one by Dudley) to take a 2-point lead after four minutes.
Dragic accounted for the first 11 Suns points of the second half to help the Suns take the 54-52 lead. But the game got to half-court again and the Suns offense struggled to find their footing. They scored only 2 points in the next 4 minutes. Combine that with a wake-up by Rudy Gay and you've got potential trouble. Even when they hustled and got second and third opportunities, the Suns could not convert.
But the Suns plugged away and played hard and kept the game within reach. With a minute left in the third, the Suns had made only 3 of 17 3-pointers - a low percentage even for them. Then Bassy hit a three to tie the game heading into the fourth.
First half notes:
It was not a good start for the Suns defense. Despite benching Michael Beasley and Markieff Morris, the Suns worst statistical defenders this season, the Suns only got one stop in the first 7 minutes of the game. By that time, the Grizzlies were up by 10 at 21-11. The Suns lacked energy, not something you'd expect in the opening minutes of a game trying to break a 7-game losing streak. Disheartening.
The Suns started to play a little better after that (or the Grizzlies lost some of their edge with the big lead and all) but still shot just 34% in the first quarter. It was fortunate they were only down 6 at 27-21, thanks to allowing only 6 more points to the Grizz in the last five minutes of the quarter.
Michael Beasley came in late in the first and missed just about everything from every distance. He took 11 shots in only ten minutes of play, making just two of them. But he played a bit of power forward for the first time all year, and pulled down 6 big rebounds in that span.
Maybe this is a sign of things to come? Frankly, if Beasley plays PF that means he is (a) guarding a bigger guy down low, (b) making Morris or Scola ride the bench. In this game, Morris came out totally flat so he wasn't missed in the minutes he wasn't on the court.
When the starters returned, for the most part, in the second quarter, they showed more hustle but did not have better results. Gortat got a big offensive rebound but then missed an open pick-and-roll layup. Dudley got a nice mismatch on Conley in the post but couldn't get the shot off before Conley fouled him. The Suns did not score. And when they finally got free throws, they missed.
But the Grizz had been lulled to sleep and the Suns kept themselves in the game by showing the hustle with which they should have started the game. Eventually, a couple layup and a three fell and the Suns found themselves within 3 points at halftime despite shooting 37% for the half.
(It could have only been a 1-point lead, but a missed fast-break layup, another Grizz offensive rebound on their own miss and then Dragic fouled the shooter with .3 left, who of course made both free throws. 4-point swing. Boom.)
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