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Goran Dragic and Suns Bench Struggle To Score Against Blazers Zone

The Phoenix Suns struggled to put points on the board while Steve Nash was resting during Tuesday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Goran Dragic got much of the blame, but how much of it was really his fault? What really went down in Portland that took the Suns bench out of their game and led to Nash coming back in without his typical six minutes of rest in the fourth quarter?

I went back and looked at each offensive play by the Goran-led Suns bench and found the following:

  • In the first half, the bench was outscored 17-11 by the Blazers in about 7 minutes
  • The Blazers were in a zone defense almost the entire time (probably because they were afraid of Dragic penetrating)
  • The Suns zone offense wasn't horrible; they got open shots, but they didn't hit many of the looks they got and instead of trying to get open threes, they kept trying to flash to the middle of the lane around the free throw line and work from there with Hedo. But the baseline cuts were covered, so they didn't get much else
  • Childress was on the floor in the first half with the bench unit in the first half, Grant Hill in the second. Click here for the full look at who played with who, and when
  • In the first half, the plays Dragic did make were decent. No turnovers and he missed just one open jump shot and got blocked from behind by Camby (who hasn't)
  • In the second half, the Suns were outscored 8-4 in about 2:30 before Gentry pulled the plug on the bench
  • Dragic had two turnovers in that stretch: a travel call on the catch and dribble and the offensive foul on the fast break
  • Before getting yanked, Dragic was running a quick high screen-and-roll with Warrick to quickly break the Blazers zone. It was working well
So bottom line, the bench wasn't really prepared to deal with the zone in the first half and tried to run the offense through Hedo in the high post, which didn't work. In the second half, the attack plan was better because Goran was running a quick pick-and-roll with Warrick. It was working before Dragic committed the two turnovers.

I think it was mistake to pull him so fast.

The real issue was the defense of the bench unit. They gave up 25 points in 9:30 total thanks in large part to Patty Mills' attack off the screen-and-roll and Warrick doing a really poor job defending, which prompted Gentry to sub Barron back in after 1:37, which didn't help the offense, either. 

Here's the play-by-play break down of the offensive possessions from the Suns bench in the game:

1st half

1.       :30, 23-26. Blazers in zone. Frye flashes to high post trying to find Warrick on baseline but he's covered. Frye shots (miss) at end of the clock

2.       12:00, 23-29. Blazers in zone. Suns try and post Childress against Aldridge. Childress backs out, faces up and gets past LMA. Pryzbilla helps, Josh kicks to wide open Warrick for baseline 17ft shot (miss)

3.       11:19, 23-31. Dragic uses high Warrick screen, gets into the lane and draws help. Find Warrick at the front of the rim. Blazers foul to prevent dunk

4.       10:29, 25-31. Blazers in zone. Hedo flashes to middle, draws Pryzbilla, misses open step back 17ft  jump shot

5.       10:20, 27-31. Dragic strips Mills in the back court. Suns swing ball against unset defense. Dudley hits open three

6.       9:52, 30-34. Blazers in zone. Hedo flashes to middle, draws Pryzbilla, misses open step back 17ft  jump shot

7.       9:12, 30-37. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick. Blazers defenders get caught up going under screen. Dragic misses open 17 foot jump shot

8.       8:46, 30-39. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick, gets into lane and draws help. Nice bounce pass to Dudley cutting baseline, Cunningham with great rotation and block

9.       8:28, 30-39. Blazers in box and 1 zone. Warrick flashes to middle of lane, draws Pryzbilla, spins to attack rim and loses ball

10.   7:12, 32-41. Blazers zone. Childress cuts baseline, gets pass from Hedo for layup

11.   6:41, 34-43. Blazers zone. Hill finds seam to attack but steps out of bounds on initial move

12.   6:23, 34-43. Blazers zone. Dragic fakes pass to Hill open the corner and attacks Batum, gets into the lane for layup attempt. Camby blocks from behind

2nd half

1.       11:33, 75-69. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick and drives the lane. Help comes, Goran kicks to Dudley in the corner who hits an open three

2.       11:13, 78-72. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick. Blazers switch. Warrick dives to front of the rim. Dragic swings to Hedo for hi-lo pass to Warrick in paint. He's fouled by Aldridge who rotated over

3.       10:46, 79-75. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick. Mills fights over screen and fouls Dragic as he tries to turn the corner. It could have been an offensive foul on Dragic who didn't use the screen well enough to gain separation from Mills

4.       10:37, 79-75. Dragic uses high screen from Warrick. Blazers switch, Dragic drives the lane but Aldridge cuts him off without help. Dragic kicks out to Hedo iso against Batum, probes and goes nowhere and swings back to Dragic iso against Aldridge. Dragic travel on the catch / dribble

5.       10:10, 79-77.  Dragic pass to Barron (in for Warrick for defense). Barron hands off to Hill who gets to free throw line for open jump shot (miss).

6.       9:33, 79-77. Dragic on the fast break after Hill steal. Dragic offensive foul

There are plenty of other questions about this game like what happened to the Suns offense late in the game. Why was the Suns bench defense so poor. Why was the Suns strong side zone defense by the starters so good. Maybe we'll have time to answer those today. Maybe not. You just never know.

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