Newsroom Notes: J-Rich Lifts Suns Over Grizzlies in Double-OT Thriller
Posted: Nov. 5, 2010
Sometimes birthday wishes actually do come true. On Friday night against the Grizzlies, Memphis’ Rudy Gay gave Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry a gift, allowing the Suns to sneak away with a 123-118 double-overtime victory over the Grizzlies, and granting Gentry his 56th birthday wish in the process.
When Gay stepped to the free throw line with 0.4 seconds left in regulation and his team up one, all he had to do was miss and the game would’ve been over. Instead, Gay swished the shot, giving the Suns one last opportunity to tie the game and force overtime.
Channeling the Duke version of himself, Grant Hill threw an incredible alley-oop from out-of-bounds at halfcourt that was brush-dunked by a gliding Jason Richardson as time expired.
“Well we knew we worked on that play at practice all the time,” Richardson said. “The end of the game situation and Grant threw a great pass. He threw one to Christian Laettner (at Duke) to win the game, so he threw a great pass up there and I almost missed the layup, but I’m glad it went in.”
After trailing much of the night, the Suns overcame an 18-point deficit and 28 turnovers to complete the comeback. Behind an effort of gritty defense by the second unit and timely three-point shooting by the starters, the Suns were able to fight themselves back into the game.
“If all of or games are going to be like that, I’m not going to see my next birthday,” Gentry joked.
The Suns trailed by 15 by the end of the first quarter, seeing centers Robin Lopez and Channing Frye relegated to the bench with early foul trouble. Luckily for them, Richardson started hot, shooting 7-of-10 from the field and 3-of-3 behind the arc in the first half to total 19 points.
For the game, the Suns shooting guard finished with 38 points on 14-of-29 shooting from the floor and 6-of-8 shooting from behind the arc. Hedo Turkoglu also began to feel it tonight, connecting on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor, including 5-of-10 from downtown to end up with 18 points.
In four games before tonight, Turkoglu had only scored in double figures once, totaling 13 points against Utah in the Suns’ lone win. It appears that he has at least temporarily lifted the monkey, if not the Gorilla off his back.
The Suns, who hadn’t held the lead since 11-9 in the first quarter, used timely three-point shooting and toughness against a bigger team on the boards to seal the victory. They outrebounded Memphis by seven and drilled eight more three-pointers on the night.
It was a positive sign for the Suns, who needed some good vibes after losing some tight games early this season. But the struggle continues for the Suns on Sundaywhen they face an undefeated Hawks team in Atlanta.
“I was telling one of the guys that you have to enjoy this because it doesn’t happen very often,” Nash said after racking up 25 points and nine assists. “More importantly, I feel like this was something that this team really needed. So it was important for us to get it.”
The Suns point guard was right. Phoenix hasn’t won an overtime game at home since January 9, 2008 against Indiana.
The bench was critical again, with reserves Hakim Warrick adding 15 points and seven rebounds and Goran Dragic scoring 13. Although Channing Frye scored only one point and was 0-of-6 from the field, he collected 11 rebounds, two steals, a block and a nice compliment from Gentry.
"Channing had his best game as a Sun," Gentry said. "I don't think we could've done a better job than we did on Zach (Randolph). I was just really proud with the way taht he competed."
The Suns starters only played 156 total minutes, while the Grizzlies’ starters accumulated 238 minutes. It was a must for Memphis because every time its starters came out, the Suns’ reserves would make a run.
Warrick Duels With Conley in Scrabble
There are few people that could scout the Grizzlies like Suns power forward Hakim Warrick. The 6-9 jumping jack, who spent four seasons in Memphis, played with much of the personnel that exists on the Grizzlies’ roster now.
In fact, while in Memphis, former Suns assistant Marc Iavoroni was Warrick’s head coach. Iavoroni took much of the Suns' offensive system with him to the Grizzlies.
“They’re just like us, you have to limit their offensive rebounds,” Warrick said. “They’re a really good duck-in team so we have to be aware in the post from letting them get duck-ins and getting to the line.”
Since departing Memphis, Warrick has been most impressed with the development of Mike Conley. The young point guard was Warrick’s partner-in-crime on the team plane, developing a fierce rivalry in Scrabble during their tenure together.
“He’s really come into his own and has become a leader,” Warrick said. “He pushed the pace both on the offensive end and the defensive end and has done a good job of distributing the ball to all of his scorers.”
Conley misses his pal too, both on and off the court.
“Hak’s a great teammate and he's my buddy,” he said. “We talk every day. He’s a great fit in Phoenix and a great compliment to Nash.”
Tonight, Warrick shot 6-of-9 from the floor to finish with 15 points and seven rebounds. He’s also currently leading the Suns in field goal percentage.
The former Syracuse Orangeman believed that the way to attack Memphis was by “exploiting their youth” and their bench.
“They’re still a fairly young team, so you want to always execute against them and follow the game plan,” he said. “They’re bench isn’t as good at scoring, so we wanted to increase the lead when their starters were resting.”
The Suns did just that, out-executing them in the clutch and using their stronger second unit to come away with the win. Although it’s one of 82 games, Warrick believes that playing against a former club isn’t just another game.
“You try to say it’s just another game but when you spend the first four years of your career somewhere, you want to have a good showing, especially when you play against your friends.” he said. “When you see them, you want to have the bragging rights.”
And due to Memphis’ familiarity with Warrick, he said he had to keep his patented jab-step move in the drawer tonight. But one thing he won’t keep in the drawer is the trash talk between he and Conley.
Conley can expect his phone to blow up with teasing tweets and texts from Warrick; at least when it comes to hoops, maybe not Scrabble.
“The series right now is 3-2 and I’m winning,” Conley said about their Scrabble battles. “He’s feeding lies right now. I’ve got the record written down.”
In addition to having his birthday wish granted with the win tonight, Coach Gentry also received some well-wishes from his Suns family. In honor of Gentry turning 56, the Suns presented him with a elaborate strawberry Tammie Co cake.
But one wish that definitely didn’t come true was the rookies’ decision to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Gani Lawal, Matt Janning and Garret Siler joined together to serenade their head coach, who wasn’t impressed.
“They’d be unable to get passed the first round of American Idol,” he joked.
Although Gentry contends that most birthdays after 35 go uncounted, his 50th was his most memorable.
“My wife surprised me on my 50th when we were playing in Philadelphia,” he recalled. “She flew my whole family up, including my dad and my sisters, and got me a nice Rolex watch.”
Growing up, Garret Siler idolized Tim Duncan. He admired the San Antonio big man so much that he even ended up donning No. 21 in college.
Ironically, when Siler made his NBA debut Wednesday, his first assignment on defense was none other than Duncan. Siler became aware that after Robin Lopez picked up his third foul and Channing Frye had also recorded two fouls that his debut might be coming.
It did. Siler was so excited that he forgot to tie his short strings, which almost caused him to make even a grander debut.
Disaster averted with the shorts, Siler managed to bother Duncan on the defensive end, racking up two blocks and a rebound during his time on the court.
However, because Siler doesn’t expect to play regulary, he’s one of the last players to leave the court after shootaround, getting extra work in with the coaching staff. That’s all well and good, but once it became time for Siler to see action in the game, the 6-11, 300-lb center was gassed after a few minutes from all of that extra training.
“With 55 minutes on the clock (before the game) I’m running on the treadmill,” he said. “I might have to stop that now.”
The usually expressionless Duncan even engaged Siler in conversation. The Suns center, whose neighbors in his home in Augusta, Georgia, are from St. Croix.
His neighbors knew Duncan from their time living in the Virgin Islands. Besides discussing common friends, Duncan asked Siler how he liked Phoenix.
“He was a good dude,” Siler remarked.
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