Suns News

Newsroom Notes: Suns Can't Slow Kings Down the Stretch

Gortat was a perfect 8-of-8 from the line against the Kings.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: Feb. 13, 2011

On Star Wars: The Clone Wars Night at US Airways Center on Sunday, the “force” didn’t appear to be with the Suns. After several games of playing stifling defense, the Suns gave up seven more second-chance points and 35 points in the fourth period as they suffered a 113-108 home decision to the Kings.

Although Phoenix kept Sacramento to 41-percent shooting in the first half, it was unable to keep it up, allowing the Kings to shoot 51 percent in the second half.

Not that it was the "Rebellion" vs. the "Empire" or anything, but it was a close battle the entire evening, with neither team leading by more than 10. After heading into the fourth period with a three-point lead, the Suns reserves were on the wrong end of a 15-2 run by Sacramento to give the Kings a 10-point lead with 6:03 left in the game.

The Suns wouldn’t get any closer than five the rest of the way as they dropped just their second contest in eight games.

“We didn’t get any stops,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “That’s a tough thing to do." You don’t have any chance of coming back if you’re exchanging baskets.”

Seven-time All-Star Steve Nash engineered the attack as usual, racking up 22 points and 18 assists, while Marcin Gortat came off the bench to total 20 points and 12 boards. In all, the Suns put five players in double figures, with Channing Frye (15 points), Jared Dudley (13 points) and Grant Hill (13 points) all contributing offensively.

“We have been playing so well that we can say that we were going to trip,” Gortat said. “We have to live with it and get better defensively, I think our offense is great and we don’t have to change anything.”

The loss snapped a three-game Suns winning streak, as well as their 11-game, home winning streak over the Kings. With the defeat, the Suns slid back to an even .500.

The Suns host the Jazz, the team they just beat Friday, on Tuesday.

Star Wars on Planet Orange

Some say the sequel isn’t as popular as the original. Like with the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, that certainly wasn’t the case with the second-annual Star Wars: The Clone Wars Night on Sunday.

For the special night, the Suns created an exclusive ticket offer that allowed purchasers of the deal to receive photo opportunities with Star Wars characters throughout US Airways Center, access to participate in a costume contest to win Star Wars merchandise and an "ORNG2-D2" t-shirt.

During the game the Suns Dancers dressed in Princess Leia costumes, while a new Star Wars-themed video game was introduced in the Gorilla's Greenhouse. However, none of those aspects of the night were what received the most fanfare from the players.

“Although I liked (in-arena MC) Cedric Ceballos dressed up with the Darth Vader mask,” Suns center Robin Lopez said. “the best part was the player introduction video that had the different names for the players.”

Channing Frye was “Channikan Skywalker” and Lopez was everyone’s favorite: Lobacca (for Chewbacca).

The rest of the players were portrayed as other Star Wars characters, seen with lightsabers or dressed liked Jedis.

Defense on the Rise

After four consecutive losses in late December, Coach Gentry put the Suns through a now infamous three-hour practice that concentrated primarily on defensive principles. The hard work seems to have paid off a bit for Phoenix.

In the last seven games leading up to Sunday, the Suns held their opponents to 40.7-percent shooting and just 89 points a game. Meanwhile, in the first 30 games of the season, the Suns were allowing 110 points and 49-percent shooting from opponents.

Coming into Sunday’s contest, the Suns had held three-straight opponents to 92 points or fewer for the first time since January of 2008. Unfortunately against the Kings, the Suns couldn’t keep their defense rolling for both halves.

“They don’t really have an offense so they freestyle a lot,” Dudley said. “Their penetration kind of broke us down a little bit and every time they shot the ball they charged the basket, pushing our bigs underneath and getting the rebound. We didn’t make them pay in transition and suffered because of the offensive put-backs.”

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