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Final Play Autopsy: That time Jermaine O'Neal ended up taking a big shot

The Phoenix Suns had a couple of chances to put down the Grizzlies in regulation. Here's their final offensive play and where it went tragically wrong.

You (or at least I) always hate to blame the outcome of a game on a single play. After 47.5 minutes and like 90 different possessions which all count for the same amount on the scoreboard, it's a mistake to focus on a single attempt.

Let's focus on the Suns final attempt to win Tuesday's game in Memphis...and ignore the inability to defend Zach Randolph, the coaching decision not to double-team Z-bo, the inability to rebound (-18), and the lack of talent.

Before we get into the play itself, remind yourself that the Suns don't have a LeBron James (who failed in crunch time to beat the Wizards last night) or a Kobe Bryant (who's team got beat in the fourth quarter by Craig Smith and Toney Douglas).

In other words, winning on the final possession is always a crap shoot (horse dead and beaten) and for the Suns with this roster, the odds are never going to favorable.

Here's the play. When you watch it a few dozen times, it's pretty clear that getting O'Neal the ball for a fadeaway over Gasol wasn't the least we can hope it wasn't.

You can see here the Suns appear to be setting up for a high screen and roll but with a double screen using the combined beef of Jermaine O'Neal and Luis Scola to try and create some space for Goran to work.

On the execution front, the bigs probably set up for the double screen too soon which made the play too easy to read.


Mike Conley, a good defender who's 4th in the league in steals, reads the play (it wasn't exactly rocket science to see what's coming here) and hedges over to deny Dragic the opportunity to use the screens.

At this point, the play is now broken and we are in improv mode.


Goran takes the path open to him and drives down the sideline which forces Darrell Arthur to help off Scola and deny Dragic a path to the rim.

O' Neal reads the play and being the unguarded dude, breaks towards the rim.


Marc Gasol is forced to switch on to O'Neal and retreat down the lane. Scola, you can see below, sets up to rescreen Conley but Mike is quicker than Goran and cuts off that angle brilliantly and forces Dragic back.


By this point, Scola has flared off and pulled his man (Arthur) with him b/c he's still a threat to shoot and can't be ignored. Goran has Conley isolated but instead of trying to beat him, delivers the ball to O'Neal in the post with about four seconds on the clock.


At this point, J.O. is matched up with a big, strong and very good defender and has no real option other than the prayer he threw up.


One thing that jumps out when you watch all that was just described is how badly Dragic got stuffed by Conley. We have to give Mike credit, but you also would hope Goran would have found a way to be more aggressive and made something else happen.

You can just imagine the voice in his head saying "DONT TURN THE BALL OVER" and knowing Conley's reputation as a thief being afraid to try anything too fancy.

In other words, Goran Dragic is no Chris Paul, Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook.

Maybe after more experience in these kinds of situations he'll learn what he can and can't do or simply have the confidence to try and do what he is able to but in this case, didn't attempt. Or maybe, this is just his ceiling.

Before dumping all the blame on Goran, let's also take our eyes off the action near the ball and look at the weak side where Dudley and Beasley were about as helpful as you and I on the play.

When you go back and watch the action on the far side, what stands out is Dudley doing nothing. Beasley, when he sees Goran get denied the chance to use the screens and start moving baseline, at least takes a few steps and looks like might have wanted to screen Dudley's man.

Dudley, however, doesn't move an inch and Beasley gives up on the screen (if he ever really intended to set one).

In an alternate universe, Beasley sets a hard screen on Dudley's man and Jared flares to the open spot at the top of the key where he potentially could have received the pass from Goran and got off a better shot.

Or maybe, Beasley's man switches on to Dudley and denies that but then Beasley is able to cut baseline and get open for a quick pass from O'Neal.

Or maybe none of that works, but regardless, have some weak side action that at least opens the door to a different outcome once Goran is stuffed twice by Conley and denied the opportunity to run off those screens.


Have a nice day.

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