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Slovenian Sun Rises Over Defeated Warriors

With Leandro Barbosa electing to have surgery on his wrist to remove a cyst, Goran Dragic stepped into the role of bench scorer and brought an added measure of defense as well. (Photo by Max Simbron)
With Leandro Barbosa electing to have surgery on his wrist to remove a cyst, Goran Dragic stepped into the role of bench scorer and brought an added measure of defense as well. (Photo by Max Simbron)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Goran Freaking Dragic. 18 points in the fourth quarter on a night when Steve Nash's 36 year old body once again wasn't able to deliver the MVP caliber goods.

Goran and his benchmates, Lou Amundson, Jared Dudley and even Earl Clark were the difference in the game according to coach Gentry, "I thought that the unit that we had in was really kind of the one that got us over the hump. We had Goran, JD and Lou, Chaning and Earl; those guys really did a good job for us. I was really happy with Earl and the defense that he played on the court and I thought he had some good open shots that eventually he'll make."

That unit, lead by Goran, turned a 1 point deficit into a 6 point lead in the first four minutes of the final quarter. The Warriors fought back and closed it to 1 but Gentry left them in until just under four minutes to play when Nash and Amare returned to close it out.

At that point, Lou hit two fourth quarter free throws, a certain cause for celebration, and then came the play of the game.

In an eerie repeat of Rose's dunk on Dragic last night, CJ Watson steals the ball on a bad pass from Nash and races up the court for a break away dunk.Nelson1_medium

Dragic chases him down this time gets the block on Watson. Dragic was pumped. The Suns were pumped. And the crowd was definitely pumped.

Don Nelson however nearly needed to have his chest pumped as he exploded in rage that foul wasn't called. That earned him a T as well as being the subject of this great photo. (I need to see the replay to say if Nellie had a legit gripe. I am guessing he did.)

Nash hits the Technical and instead of a 1 point Suns lead it's a 5 point lead as the Suns score off Goran's block.

Goran Dragic had the Derrick Rose dunk play fresh in his mind and immediately brought it up when asked about this block, "Yesterday D. Rose got me on a poster and today I knew that Watson is not like Rose so he would not jump so high, so I just tried to block it and I made it." Goran3_medium 

From that point with about 3:14 to go, the Suns went on an 8-3 run and extended the lead to 10 points (their bigest lead of the game) with 23 seconds. During that stretch Dragic had a steal, a big rebound and hit the dagger three.

The Slovenian Prince finished the game with a career high 20 points along with 4 steals, 2 assists, 3 rebounds and that awesome blocked shot in only 26 minutes of play. Oh and that 20 points came on only 8 shots. That is how you say efficient in Slovenian.

How can you not love this kid? He knew his tired team needed him to step up and he did on both ends of the floor.

Master Nash was quite appreciative of the performance as well, "In particular Goran was great tonight. He made some big shots. He had that look in his eye, he was really aggressive. It was fun to see him make some key shots and big plays."

With Leandro now out for the next month, Goran will have plenty of more opportunities to step into that role of bench scorer on nights when the team needs a lift. LB however, doesn't bring the impact on the defensive end like Dragic can.

The Downside

Amare Stoudemire (15pts/5 rebounds) getting out-worked and out played by Anthony Tolliver (19 points/11 rebounds) wasn't a pretty sight nor was the Suns defense that gave up 49% shooting to the Warriors in the first half.

Out of the locker room Coach Gentry said he adjusted his defense to play up tighter on the shooters and as a result held the Warriors to 18 of 47 in the second half and gave up only 43 points in the final two quarters of play.

On other nights, the Suns gladly would have traded buckets with the Warriors in a high scoring affair but with the team still suffering from a collective shooting slump, it was the defense that came through against the high-powered (and short-handed) Warriors.

I am sure many fans will fret over how close the game was but as Alvin Gentry said, "It was a win and we'll take them any way we can get them right now."

If you can get past all the short-comings on the Suns' roster and the possible Amare trade looming large this was simply an entertaining and well fought game. Both teams played last night and yet both teams managed to deliver a high energy, competitive contest to the fans. I'll take it.

Other Guys

Robin had another very solid start. 30 minutes, 16 points on 4/6 and 8 for 8 from the line(!). I'm not even sure if his 9 rebounds or only 1 foul is more impressive especially since that one foul came about 45 seconds into the game.

Frye had a solid game off the bench. 17 minutes, 8 points. 2/4 from three. 4 rebounds and an amazing 4 blocks.

Lou played solid D and had 9 rebounds in only 15 minutes. Lou had this to say for himself, "We just needed to make sure they only got one shot so there was no offensive rebounds...Maggette is a 3 slash 4 so I was guarding him there for a bit. He's a tough guard but I think size is definitely something that hurts him a little bit."

Gentry was so impressed with Lou's play on Corey that he left him in the game to play the 3 along side Robin and Amare which is a lineup I've never seen before. That's what playing the Warriors will do to you.

Richardson unfortunately, didn't play well after looking like he might have been getting on a role in the 2nd quarter.

Dudley was Dudley and as Gentry said, Clark came in and at least played good defense. I still want to see him turn down some offensive opportunities and just focus on defense (which is exactly what I wrote about him during pre-season).

Must win, won

There's no question the Suns needed this one after losing at home to the Bulls on Friday.

"It was a big win. It would have been a devastating loss. It wasn't pretty but we had just enough toughness and depth tonight to pull through when we weren't really playing our best," Nash said before admitting that his body still isn't at full strength. "I didn't feel good actually but I felt a touch better than last night."

Post game audio

Game Links

Game Highlights (but they didn't include Goran's block!!!)




In-game Notes

1st Qtr

  • Nash looking very energetic to start game. Misses 3 then gets and 1 off Robin tip back
  • Sitting court side. Takes eyes time to adjust to the game from this angle
  • Pace high to start the game. Shocking huh
  • Suns being aggressive going to the rim. Warriors being aggressive taking quick shots. Warriors up 11-7
  • Grant Hill with some pretty pretty pretty moves
  • Nellie complaining about a delay of game...the things you hear
  • So what happens to Curry in the 4th qtr after he played 48 minutes yesterday and has to guard Nash and Dragic today?
  • Hill and Robin both contested that fadeway from Maggette. He mad it anyway
  • Dragic and Dudley checking in earlier than normal. About 3::45 mark. Hill and JRich out
  • Nash looks really happy to be playing at this pace
  • Whoa - CJ Waston in the game. He was on the injured list. That Nellie is such a trickster
  • Biedrins having a hard time getting up and down the court...Robin looks a bit gassed but Beins looks like Shaq
  • I really love watching Robin play in the paint
  • Both teams 9-23...that's odd
  • Ronny comes in an immediately blocks Amare's shot. Love that guy
  • Ref #68 looks like he's 12 years old
  • Suns down 28-25 after last second lucky toss up from CJ Watson

2nd Qtr

  • JRich got the ball and said - my turn. He called for a screen went right to the rim
  • Gentry pissed about the lack of defense from the Suns. Called a time out and jumped on his guys to get it going. Oh man, that was Deaven George that hit that three. No wonder Gentry was so pissed
  • When Lou glares at someone they know they've been glared at
  • Jason seems to be feeling it. Thinking he's going to at least 20
  • The Warriors are super aggressive. Whoever has the ball is going to take a shot. Suns D needs to help more and collapse on these guys. Make them pass. They don't want to pass
  • Warriors triple team Hill in the post and Suns still can't find an open shot when he passes out
  • Suns still giving wide open looks
  • Martin hit a contested's that kind of night
  • Lopez follow jam...yum. Crustables ftw
  • Amare iso'd on Tolliver should be an easy two points. That time it was
  • Warriors swinging the ball and getting open looks. Suns D is thoroughly confused at this point
  • Suns down 7 so obviously it is time to give up and blow apart the entire team. Obviously
  • Nash and Stoudemire just switched a pick and roll from Curry and Tolliver. Was that planned? Not sure but Curry hit Tolliver as he should and Robin quickly rotated over and Tolliver traveled. What does this play tell us?
  • Biedrins and Lopez both wear #15. What does that tell us?
  • Gentry and fans applaud Robin's effort grabbing that missed Hill FT
  • Nash hits a three at the buzzer and Gentry just shrugs his shoulders. He wanted the Suns to take a time out

3rd Qtr

  • Suns come out of the half...fired up?
  • Amare seemed a little pissed that J-Rich took that rebound from him
  • Hill is a lot more valuable when you watch him up close. He really controls things on the floor
  • And Suns take the lead 63-62
  • Nash and Amare played that really well and Curry still hit that shot
  • New defensive game plan. Leave George wide open and wait for him to miss
  • Nash and Amare connect on the obligatory undefended pick and roll slam. League rules mandate that happens at least once per game
  • Earl Clark getting minutes. Trying get energy off the bench?
  • Curry looks gassed. Can see it in his face
  • Clark with a J!
  • Frye keeps ending up on Maggette which keeps ending up in Maggette scoring

4th Qtr

  • Dudley once again draws foul while shooting three as guy tries to close out on him
  • Dragic hits a three. Like to see him get aggressive here
  • Frye hits a three to make up for letting Maggette get an OReb and put back
  • Suns D a tiny bit better this half. Warriors down to 44% in the 3rd
  • Dragic with the fist pump after hitting a three
  • It really is a pleasure being able to see Gentry up close during a game
  • Clark playing pretty well...moving around good. Using his abilities to disrupt things. Still too aggressive on O. Chill, and let the game come to you
  • Goran Dragic is a touchy person. He's the kind of person that touches other people
  • Lou facing up at the elbow pretending to be Amare. Not good
  • Intensity way up in this game. Fun stuff
  • Dragic caught Curry with two elbows to his jaw as he swung through on that move and drew the foul. That will teach Curry to foul Goran with his face
  • Gentry left his bench in a long time in this quarter and they are delivering at least hustle and effort
  • Amare and Nash check in for Dudley and Clark. Leaving Goran on the floor to close the game. 4 min to go. Suns up 98 - 95.
  • Lou hit two FT's!
  • Goran makes up for getting dunked on by Rose last night by blocking Watson in transition!! Great play. Could have been a foul but...whatever. Nellie got the T making it a 3 point swing on one defensive play
  • Robin, Lou and Amare on the floor...never seen that before
  • It's working though
  • This is a fun game. Crowd is totally into it
  • Suns up 103-98 with 1:40 to go
  • Nash playing off the ball...not his best game. Got to think he's tired. Just missed two open three's to end the game. Instead Goran's D on the other end is the story
  • Remember when I said Richardson would get 20 in this game. I meant Goran
  • Curry is that kid. Want him on my team. I could see him and Goran in the back court together making me very happy....a boy can dream
  • Nice close out win for the Suns. Warriors played hard

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