Suns News

Newsroom Notes: Bench Spurs Rally, But Suns Fall in OT

Dragic tied his season high with 17 points against the Grizzlies.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: Dec. 8, 2010

When it doubt, call in the reserves. The Suns’ bench did all that it could in a late-game rally against the Grizzlies, but came up just short in a 104-98 home overtime loss Wednesday.

While it was commonplace last season to have the Suns’ reserves save the day, the influx of new players and the uncertainty amongst them hasn’t yielded the same results this season. That would all change Wednesday.

Fatigued from a late game in Portland the night before, the Suns desperately needed a boost trailing by 14 heading into the fourth period. Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry started his lone hot-handed player, Goran Dragic, along with Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu and Jared Dudley, in hopes that those five could provide such a lift.

It did. That quintet completely changed the momentum of the game, reeling off a 13-2 run to begin the period and cut the lead to three with 5:53 left in the contest. The Suns would take their first lead since 8:13 left in the second period when Turkoglu drilled a clutch 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds remaining in regulation to put the Suns up three.

“We didn’t let the aggressiveness and the physicality of the game bother us during that stretch, “Gentry said. “We just found a way of coming up with stops and did a nice job of driving the ball to the basket.

"I don’t know how many, but I would say that most of our points were Hedo jump shots or point in the paint.”

Unfortunately for the Suns, Memphis’ Rudy Gay made up for a late-game snafu the previous time Memphis played in Phoenix and forced OT with an unbelievable three-bomb at the buzzer from the corner. It would’ve been the fourth time in six home wins that the Suns have overcome a double-digit deficit to win the game, but it just ended up being the third-consecutive game the Suns have put themselves in a double-digit hole against an opponent.

Despite falling short on the comeback, Gentry said that the reserves put together the best defensive stretch of the season. Dragic echoed his sentiments.

“We were just aggressive tonight on defense,” Dragic said. “Everybody was in the right spots and we were rotating great.

“After that we just went into transition and scored some easy baskets. If we play like that every game, it will be much easier for us.”

Despite outscoring the Grizzlies by 14 in the fourth period and racking up 54 points during regulation, the Suns’ reserves couldn’t hold on to that momentum in the extra period. Memphis’ size was too much, grabbing precious offensive rebounds at pivotal times.

The bright spot of the game was the inspired effort of Dragic. After eight games of scoring in single-digits and playing no more than 18 minutes during that span, Dragic tallied that many minutes through three quarters Wednesday.

The 6-3 guard received extended minutes because of his hot hand, Jason Richardson’s cold hand and because Nash played 39 minutes last night in Portland. Against the Blazers, Dragic only played nine minutes, while being 12 years Nash’s junior.

"Just before the game, I was talking with (assistant coach Dan Majerle) and he told me that I had to be ready because I was going to come into the game a bit sooner,” Dragic said. “It helped me get into a rhythm.”

Dragic responded with a season-high-tying 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor. He was instrumental during that fourth-quarter run, dishing out four of his five assists in the period.

It was his seventh double-digit scoring effort of the season, a mark he didn’t reach until the 30th game of last season. But it wasn’t just Dragic that got rolling, Turkoglu also made his presence felt.

The 6-10 forward was his vintage-self, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the fourth period, while also handing out five assists. It was the most comfortable the reserves looked as a unit all season.

“It’s tough trying to play 10 guys, but one of the advantages of having 10 guys that are pretty good players is that you can try to manufacture some kind of lineup that can help get you back into the game,” Gentry said. “You can try a guy and take him back out and you can put Goran as a 2. We just got to keep searching and see what we find.”

However, the Suns’ 23-percent shooting from downtown, missed 10 free throws and 33-percent shooting from the starting five were too much to overcome. Grant Hill (10 points), Channing Frye (11 points and seven rebounds) and Steve Nash (11 points and seven assists) also contributed offensively.

The Suns host the Blazers on Tweet-Up Night on Friday at 7.

The Grizzly Tamer

Suns forward Hakim Warrick, a former Grizzlies first-round pick, came into Wednesday averaging 15.5 points and 6.0 off the bench against his former team this season. The 6-9 forward spent four seasons with the Grizzlies before playing last season in Chicago and Milwaukee.

Knowing one’s opponent appears to be paying off for Warrick, who came into Wednesday shooting 73 percent against Memphis this season. His 15.5 points per game against the Grizzlies was 3.4 points a game higher than his regular-season average, while he’s also averaging 1.6 rebounds more against Memphis than everyone else.

Warrick started slowly Wednesday, but scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth period and overtime, including two huge dunks to ignite the crowd. The former Orangeman said knowing your opponent is half the battle.

“It’s pretty much the same system and you know the way they want to play both offensively and defensively,” Warrick said. “But at the same time, they know you, as well.”

To get around that, Warrick tried to play to his strengths.

“On the pick-and-rolls I tried to roll hard because they want to bump the big,” he said. “That way they had to bring in that second guy to rotate over. Sometimes when you do that, you give yourself a way for your teammate.”

New TV Show: The Hill

Or Thursday, December 9, NBA TV will be airing the show “24 Hours With Grant Hill.” A couple of weeks ago, NBA TV followed Hill around for a full 24 hours.

The crew drove with him from his house to practice, focused solely on him at practice and then monitored him as he went through his daily activities with his teammates and family. It’s an all-access, behind-the-scenes peek into one of the most interesting and sophisticated players in the NBA.

For those who want a teaser, Hill said that Suns fans will most be surprised by his cooking abilities. The show airs at 7:30 ET tomorrow.

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