It is hard to describe the Rudy Gay Experience live, which is why I feel for the writers of the Toronto Raptors (6-12) and sense a collective sigh of relief from the Memphis media contingent.
Almost all by himself, Gay made this Phoenix Suns (11-9) come to life.
From his off-balance jumpers, to making every offensive possession harder than it needs to be, all the way to one, two, no count it, THREE missed easy shots at the rim. Lay-ups and dunks have to go down for athletes like Gay, right? They did not tonight. This season Gay has been particularly inefficient on the offensive end (coming into tonight) taking 320 field goals to score 333 points. Tonight he went 15 from the field for 17 points in the loss.
However, this was not the story of the game. Rudy Gay was one player that played his consistently inefficient brand of basketball, but the game was won in the paint.
Before the game Coach Jeff Hornacek talked about the offensive rebounds and paint play not only as a key, but the key to the game. When the dust settled the Suns won the battle inside from offensive rebounds (+7), to second chance points (+5), and free-throw attempts (+7) against a team that thrives inside.
Everybody went for them," Coach Hornacek on the rebounding dominance. "P.J. from the three spot pulls down 13 boards because he went after them. We boxed out. Again we are not a long team. Especially when Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee are not in the game."
It was a team effort on the offensive glass with seven players with at least one offensive rebound for the game.
The Suns played well inside and maintained the pressure on the Raptors there all night. Markieff Morris was the catalyst for the interior play scoring 25 points (11-14 shooting) with 11 rebounds (6 off.) for the night.
Those marks were one off his season high in rebounding and three off his season high in points.
All night the point guards were just feeding Markieff inside with good passes leading to even easier looks. That is good old fashion basketball. The guards break it down and the bigs hammer it home.
P.J. Tucker finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds to add a second double-double for the Suns and Eric Bledsoe (16 points 7 assists) made a big play late finishing at the rim to close it out. Neither performance on the offensive glass was a career achievement for Tucker or Markieff, which goes to show that this is a style the team could conceivably play with consistently.
This was not the prettiest performance of the season and one that will not make the highlight package at the end of the year banquet, but it was a win that keeps the Suns in the conversation.