Newsroom Notes: Dudley's Career High Can't Help Suns Stifle Heat

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: Dec. 23, 2010

When the Suns found out that Heat guard Dwyane Wade wasn’t playing Thursday, they must’ve thought that their holiday wishes were answered. After leaping out to an early 11-point lead in the first quarter, they may have been certain of it.

However, Miami would play the role of the Grinch, reeling off a 17-3 run that would catapault the Heat into the lead early in the second period. From that point on, Miami would never look back or trail again, dealing the Suns a 95-83 home loss and spoiling what was a festive atmosphere inside of US Airways Center.

“Early in the game we really had a chance to be up big but before you know it, we were down going into halftime,” Suns guard Steve Nash said. “They were doubling me so guys were wide-open but we only shot 40 percent. We had good looks so if we shot what we normally shoot (48, 49, 50 percent), I think we'd score 100 points.”

In his second-straight start, Jared Dudley erupted for a career-high 33 points and a season-high 12 boards on 11-of-16 shooting from the floor and 7-of-10 shooting from behind the arc. It was the first time he’s scored 20 points or more in consecutive games in his career and the second-straight game he’s surpassed his career high in points.

“Early on I got a couple shots at the wing,” Dudley said. “LeBron (James) was guarding me and I tried to get a couple of offensive rebounds, which got me going, and then after that it’s getting stops in transition and nobody is really thinking about me. (They were) thinking about Steve, Grant (Hill) and guys like that, so if I can keep hitting shots like that, it will be big for us.”

Nash, who only attempted four field goals on the night, racked up 18 assists, while Channing Frye (14 points and six rebounds) and Robin Lopez (12 points and five rebounds) combined for 26 points and 11 rebounds. After starting off a red-hot 3-for-3 from downtown and knocking down 62 percent of their shots from the field in the first quarter, the Suns lost their rhythm, finishing the first shooting only 42 percent.

While the Suns couldn’t keep their momentum on the offensive end, they couldn’t find an answer for James on the defensive end. The 6-8 superstar was getting to the rack at will, scoring 20 of his game-high 36 points in the first half.

Playing without the injured Wade (sore knee), James went to work against the Suns, shooting 13-of-22 from the floor to go along with his six rebounds and four assists. Chris Bosh also fared well, posting 23 points and 11 rebounds.

“The second unit has been very good and then we fluctuate back to struggling,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “In some kind of way we’ve got to get to the point where we’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s going to happen when I take Steve out of the game. I can’t have Steve be a 45 minute guy—that’s not going to work out for us.”

Phoenix’s newest center, Marcin Gortat, collected four points and four rebounds in his Valley debut, while Mickael Pietrus only scored two. Shooting guard Vince Carter missed the game with an injured left knee and is hoping to make his debut against the Clippers on Sunday.

“There is a lot of talent on this team but there is also a lot of room to improve,” Gortat said. “I think that there is a positive side to this. In a few weeks, we should be pretty good.”

Lost in Translation

Since Goran Dragic is from Slovenia and Marcin Gortat is from Poland, they share common language roots. Both Polish and Slovenian have Slovak roots, which allow them to recognize what each other are saying, much like Spanish and Portuguese.

A bonus is that Dragic speaks Serbian, and surprisingly enough, so does Gortat. Gortat’s former teammate and coach, Sasa Obradovic, was Serbian and helped the 6-11 center learn the language.

Although they’ve played one game together, the third-year guard remains uncertain whether they’ll speak in English or Serbian on the floor. However, he said that on pick-and-rolls, it could be a nice tool to be able to communicate to each other in Serbian so that their opponents don’t know what they’re doing.

Ironically, when Shaquille O’Neal played in Phoenix, Shaq learned to say “switch” and “fight over” in Serbian so he could secretly talk with Dragic. The first time he said something in Serbian, he completely shocked Dragic, who had no idea anyone knew Serbian on his team, let alone Shaq.

What Dragic didn't know was that Shaq had solicited the language expertise of Suns assistant coach and Serbian Igor Kokoskov so he could surprise Dragic. However, Dragic will not be surprised this time.

Unless, of course, Gortat also speaks Spanish.

Season's Greetings

So what did the Suns get from the NBA this holiday season? Well, just about the toughest schedule in the league.

Against Miami, the Suns faced their fourth-straight team with 20 wins or more, which would seem difficult enough. But when you consider that there are just seven 20-win teams in the NBA, it adds a dash of salt into their wound.

For the season, 14 of Phoenix’s 27 games have been against teams that won 50 or more games a season ago and don’t currently reside in Cleveland. In contrast, the Heat have only faced three 20-win teams all season and are a paltry 1-5 in those contests.

Only 10 of their games have been against teams that won 50 or more games in 2009-10 (that also don’t reside in Cleveland). Although they came into Thursday’s game winners of 12 out of their last 13, seven of those games were played against teams that have 18 or more losses.

Get Carter

Although two of the “Three Amigos” (Gortat and Pietrus) were able to suit up for their debut against the Heat, one amigo remained in street clothes for the occasion. Vince Carter, who is nursing a sore left knee, opted to sit out his first official game with the organization.

Although his the swelling in knee is greatly reduced from landing awkwardly against the Spurs on November 22, Carter and the Suns' training staff wanted to give it a couple more days to heal.

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