For Jeff Hornacek, he finally got his 100th win for the Phoenix Suns.
When he reached 99 wins, his career coaching record was 99-93. That was December 18, 2015. Nearly three weeks ago. Eric Bledsoe was the starting point guard, and the Suns were 12-16 after beating Alvin Gentry's New Orleans Pelicans at home. They still had playoff aspirations.
Then the 9-game losing streak happened. And he lost his best player, and best assistants and nearly the whole team. The bottom (so far) was scoring just 22 points in the entire first half against the league's worst defensive team, the Los Angeles Lakers. That's a night after allowing the most points they'd allowed in 25 years - 142 points IN REGULATION to Sacramento.
Then they went bowling, and now all is right with the worl--
The Suns finally won a game against an okay team who was missing THREE of its starters by making 19-33 three point attempts. That's more threes than they've made in a game in about five years. Yeah, not sustainable.
The Suns were outscored in the paint, on second chance points and on fast breaks. They got out-stealed, out-rebounded, out-shotblocked and allowed nearly twice as many free throws as they attempted.
Yet the Suns won because Mirza Teletovic (5), Devin Booker (3), T.J. Warren (3), Brandon Knight (3), P.J. Tucker (2), Ronnie Price (2) and Jon Leuer (1) couldn't miss from distance.
Coach Hornacek sounded relieved in the post game presser.
Most of the time, you're hating that your team is jacking up threes like insults in the locker room rather than driving to the hole, but tonight Hornacek was just happy something went right.
"That's a hard thing as a coach. You're watching a quick shot and when they don't go in you're going, ‘oh man, why are you taking a quick shot?'," he said of the Suns players shooting threes at every point in the shot clock. "But then they take a quick shot and they make a three."
He explained that sometimes an early three is good, while a lot of times its not and its just a panic reaction to get some points on the board.
"So, you know, it's a tough one. It's that time and score thing that you want to be alert of. If the other team just scored a couple times, that's not the time you want to come down and jack a quick one or take it one-on-one. Or conversely, if all of a sudden you got the lead at 9 or 10, and you just scored two or three times, then go ahead and execute and run your stuff and build it up that way. Guys are learning that. It's get to a point at times when you're kind of telling them, ‘that was the wrong time to shoot that one.'"
In this game, the Suns did not force any of their threes. Charlotte was packing the paint and allowing the threes and the Suns just kept taking them. It helps when your spot up shooter is Mirza Teletovic.
Hornacek summed it up for this game though.
"They played to win, they didn't play not to lose and that was great."
It took a while to get players going for interviews, so Jon Leuer was kind enough to just throw on a sweatshirt and answer some questions while we waited for the stars of the game to get out of showers. He's such a good dude and was very open on some of his answers.
I thought he was done then, but he kept talking. The end of this one is great because Ronnie Price makes a cameo to give me crap about bringing up the awful weekend games.
By the way, Ronnie Price (off camera) said he's still struggling with his toe injury. He was noticeably limping on it. Says he's waiting for test results (MRI?) to see what's really wrong. There's not a lot of swelling - just pain.
Price started the game ahead of rookie Devin Booker, probably as a show of respect from Hornacek who wanted to set the stage from the outset on the energy level he wanted to see. Ronnie gives all the effort. And despite hobbling from the toe, Price was still one of the most active players on the floor.
He made two threes - one a REALLY BIG ONE to get the crowd going - and fully acquitted himself in the starting lineup for a game. He had 9 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in 24 minutes. Nice game, Ronnie.
By the way, Ronnie had NO idea that the music the Suns play when he makes a shot is the Price is Right music. He didn't totally pan the pick, but also didn't endorse it. He laughed and said he's so focused on the game he has no idea they even play music after makes.
We also asked Devin Booker if he knew they played 'Hotline Bling' after his makes and he was unaware also. But then he hummed and sang Hotline Bling off and on while he dressed, before his interview with media.
Warren was great off the bench, scoring 17 points and grabbing 3 rebounds. He made three of his five attempts from three-point land, taking what the defense was giving.
The rookie had his first career double double - 17 points and 10 rebounds - coming off the bench to play extremely efficiently in his 31 minutes. I saw online that the only other teenage guard to ever get a double-double with points and rebounds was Tracy McGrady, but I have not taken the time to confirm that.
Love this kid. I see a great future for Book in the NBA.
"I'm just trying to do what I have to do to make the team win," Booker said of his 10 rebounds. "We went with the small lineup when we put P.J. (Tucker) at the four, so I knew I'd have to be more active on the glass and that's what I did."
As the reporters asked him about those rebounds, I hope you can hear P.J. Tucker yelling "stealing my rebounds!" a few times from across the room. It was hilarious. Unfortunately, Booker didn't seem to hear P.J. as the interview went on.
Mirza is always a great interview. Unfortunately, I found myself stuck behind everyone else in the scrum. I'd thought he slipped out while Book was talking, so I didn't even realize he'd started talking until too late. Sorry guys and gals.
He credited defense for getting the team going.
"You feel confident once you defend," he said. "Everybody was sharing the ball and then the confidence just goes up and then you make those shots, easy."
Mirza had 5 threes in the game and could have had 10 with the way he was being left open time and again. If you didn't know, Mirza leads all NBA players with three-pointers off the bench.
He's never seen a shot he didn't like!
In response to my later question on why he thought he was so open all game, he credited Brandon Knight's aggressiveness at driving the paint and seeing him for spot-ups after the defense collapsed. Coach talked about that being a key to their success - to get the right kick out off a drive into the teeth of the D - and Knight did that.
Tucker was the last to talk, and also the most entertaining. Listen to the interview - both parts - to get a feel for how relieved he looks after the Suns finally won a game. He denied feeling relief, but it was evident in how the guys carried themselves in the locker room.
And here's the rest. Sorry I lost some of the feed. Those amber alerts came in and killed by recording. It took me a while to realize that.
The end of this P.J. interview is great as he jokes about how BAD Alex Len is at bowling. "They don't have that in the Ukraine!"
Tucker himself said he usually bowls in the 180s and up, but he didn't have his ball or his shoes so he only got in the 150-160 range. He joked he'd have to start carrying those around so he wouldn't be surprised next time.
Clearly, these guys enjoyed the relief of a win!
On Friday, the Heat come to town with Goran Dragic, Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire among their ranks.
Thank the stars there isn't a 10-game losing streak to discuss. It's bad enough already.