Against the Charlotte Bobcats 30th-ranked defense, the Phoenix Suns looked like the juggernaut of old. They were willing, unselfish passers and Olympian shot makers. Threes were raining down from all over the court and dunks were thundering at the basket. Shannon Brown burst into flame with 15 points in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter. After that, the game was a rout. But not before the Bobcats fought back a bit to worry Gentry.
"It was a win," Gentry said, after the Bobcats cut the lead to 14 early in the fourth before the Suns stabilized. "I thought we started the game playing great. We have to do a better job of staying in the moment and finishing the job. I told you guys earlier, they are going to play. If it's a 48-minute game, they will play 48 minutes. I don't know if we understood that to the magnitude of what it really is."
After the second unit failed to show up in the fourth - allowing an 8-0 run within a couple minutes to cut the lead despite Gentry calling two timeouts to remind them to play hard - Gentry pulled the plug and re-inserted the starters. He was livid.
"We gave up three quick layups," he said. "I didn't think our rotations were great, and I thought we were leaking out rather than staying in and rebounding the basketball. I said [in the first two timeouts] let's play the right way.
"They didn't play the right way, so I made some substitutions."
This with a 15-point lead. The starting unit returned, and the Suns finished out the game cleanly. Was it a surprise to Goran Dragic that he returned in the fourth after ending the third with a 29-point lead?
"Yes," he said with a smile. All's good that ends good.
This was a good win for Suns fans. An early trip to bed for Bobcat fans.
To celebrate, the Suns have no practice tomorrow. Just a meeting and an outing at the bowling alley. To the winners go the spoils.
After Brown's 15-point burst, the game was a blowout. The Suns made shot shot after shot, with six three-pointers in the third quarter alone. They made their final 5 shots to end the third with a 29-point lead.
The Suns and Bobcats share a common theme - neither team has a top-end go-to talent. The Suns, though, have a big advantage in experience and the top-end talent of the Suns outshines the top-end talent of the Bobcats by a wide margin.
Charlotte is such a young team they make the Suns look veteran by comparison. They work harder but just can't finish or score or defend like they need to do to win games. Suns fans who want to go younger should watch the Bobcats and see what they their wish would get. Nice young talent but no idea how to win.
Shannon Brown just torched the Bobcats in the third as the Suns continued to pull away, turning an 18-point halftime lead to 27 in the opening minutes of the second half. Brown scored 15 points in only THREE minutes of play. Boom!
The Bobcats tried to make a Suns-ian comeback in the beginning of the fourth - never give up, never surrender! - but they just couldn't make the shots necessary to make it happen. But after a 8-0 run to start the fourth, Gentry decided he wasn't playing around and put all the starters back in to stem the tide.
That didn't quite work, the starters allowing a 11-5 run of their own, and the lead was suddenly down to 15. It's like the air had gone pffffffft right out of the Suns tires during this stretch. They got fat and happy with the big lead and let the other team back in. Ben Gordon went off for 1000 points of his own to match Brown's output in the third. In fact, it was Brown defending Gordon that whole time too.
"I know they've lost a lot of games," Gentry said before it started, "But I'm telling you they are a good basketball team. They are going to compete like crazy."
But the starters righted the ship and didn't let the game get any closer. They set a season-high with 17 three-point makes with Dragic (4/5), Telfair (3/4) and Brown (5/7) making 12 of 16 between them. Dudley was "only" 4 of 7.
Shows you the Suns have talent enough to execute these comebacks, and not every NBA team can say that.
The Bobcats came into the game on a 12-game losing streak but 7 of the first 8 losses were to winning teams before hitting the road. They scrap and claw the way Gentry can only wish the Suns would play.
The second quarter started well, with the bench unit putting up an 10-2 run before the first timeout. Tucker dove for a loose ball, slamming right into Gentry, who promptly dressed Tucker down right there on the court! Gentry was livid. But Gentry wasn't mad at Tucker for hitting him, he was made that Tucker dove for a ball last touched by a Bobcat.
The Bobcats started the quarter 0-8 from the field, their only points on two free throws. The Suns were playing good defense, combined with the Bobcats bad shooting. By mid-quarter, the Suns had a 17-point lead (50-33) and by the end it was a convincing 18-point lead.
The Suns outscored the Bobcats 39-19 in the second quarter, despite playing mostly their bench the whole time. But give it to Gentry - the Bobcats didn't stop playing hard despite their lack of talent.
The story of the first half? PJ Tucker out-Tuckered Gerald Henderson
The Suns started the game really tentative on offense but active on defense, forcing several turnovers and tough shots on the first few Charlotte possessions. But they couldn't put the ball in the hoop. Gortat missed his first five shots - all of them around the bucket - and the Bobcats scrapped to keep the game even.
Goran Dragic was the only one making shots early, going 5 for 6 from the field with the only miss being a wild hook on a broken play. He finished the first quarter with 11 points and 2 assists.
The Suns finally went on a nice 7-0 run toward the end of the quarter to take a 28-22 lead and force a Bobcats timeout. But the Bobcats wouldn't go down easy, scoring the last 5 points of a quarter to cut the lead to one. Byron dont-call-me-BJ Mullens finished the first quarter with 7 points and 5 rebounds somehow, after being outplayed I thought. Shows what I know.
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