The upstart Phoenix Suns got schooled by a veteran Brooklyn Nets squad. The Nets never blinked in the face of multiple Suns' attempts to make it a competitive game after Brooklyn firmly seized control of the game in the first quarter. Phoenix's defensive woes continued as they allowed Brooklyn to shoot 58.6% from the field.
Paul Pierce (10 points) and Mason Plumlee (14 points, 11 rebounds) did the damage early for the Nets and Deron Williams (28 points) and Joe Johnson (19 points) did it all game long, scoring seemingly whenever they wanted. For Phoenix, Gerald Green (17 points) and Markieff Morris (18 points) carried the ramshackle offense. Goran Dragić (13 points, again saddle with early foul trouble struggled to make an impact. The other half of the Slash Bros., Eric Bledsoe (10 points on 4-10 shooting), fared poorly as well. Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee were non-factors, combining for a double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds). If there were any positives to be taken from this game, it would be Archie Goodwin's strong fourth quarter play on both ends of the court.
It may be premature, but if the Phoenix Suns doesn't make the playoffs, the coffin nails started getting hammered in Brooklyn. This is a good young team in a tough tough conference. They certainly seem to be playing with effort every night but the consistency that comes with experience isn't there yet. It might be too late to make the playoffs this season (barring a Memphis Grizzlies or Dallas Mavericks collapse), but there's still plenty to be excited about in Phoenix.
There's a breakdown below, but here's all you need to know about the Suns' defense in the first half: Brooklyn scored 44 of their 62 points in the paint and shot 67.5% from the field. They pretty much had their way with the Suns. Credit their defense for creating some of those easy buckets with 8 first half steals on the way to forcing 11 Phoenix turnovers.
The Brooklyn Nets small ball line-up gave the Phoenix Suns' starters trouble early. Channing Frye struggled to cover Paul Pierce, who had 7 quick points to get Brooklyn out to a 17-9 run. For the second game in a row, Goran Dragić found himself on the bench early in the first quarter after picking up 2 early fouls. The bench fared no better as Brooklyn extended their lead to 30-16 with :46 left to go in the first when a Gerald Green 3-pointer finally stopped the bleeding. Marcus Morris hit 1 of 2 free throws on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to 10 to end the quarter. The pace favored the Nets who got their 30 points on 70% shooting. It was an embarrassing defensive showing for the Suns who gave up open 3s, open transition jumpers and open drives to the hoop. Six first quarter turnovers did nothing to help either.
The Suns opened the second quarter by allowing Andrei Kirillenko a big dunk and giving up a couple of more buckets to fall behind by 14. Fortunately, they found their defensive pot o' gold and put together a 6-0 run to make it a 36-28 Net lead. Gerald Green took it upon himself to keep the Suns in the game, scoring 7 of the Suns' first 11 points of the period. After a pair of Dragić drives, Gerald Green put Mason Plumlee on a poster with a fearsome dunk to get Phoenix with in 6.
That was the high point of the second quarter as Brooklyn rattled off 8 straight points to turn the Phoenix insurgency back. Deron Williams and Mason Plumlee did most of the damage, scoring 8 and 7 points each in the quarter. The Suns trailed going into the half, 62-49.
Things got no better in the third quarter for Phoenix. Brooklyn went on a 9-2 run and threatened to put the game into blowout territory with a 20 point lead. Phoenix recognized their predicament and finally played with some urgency. A lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Goran Dragic, Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker took it to Brooklyn, cutting that lead to 9 (76-67) with 4 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. But as before, the Nets remained poised and scored 14 straight points to go up by 23 before the Suns scored the last 5 points of the 3rd period to make it 90-72.
Too little, too late is becoming a theme with this squad. Again, Phoenix came with an 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter and again, the Nets responded by cooling scoring 5 of their own, including a long 3-ball by Deron Williams to stem the tide. Phoenix never got closer than 11 in the fourth and Archie Goodwin, Dionte Christmas, Alex Len and Shavlik Randolph all saw minute down the stretch.