Newsroom Notes: Suns Start Strong, Fall to Mavs

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: March 27, 2011

The stars weren’t aligning with the Suns coming into Sunday’s contest. With the Mavs on a three-game winning streak and Phoenix dropping a tough decision to the Hornets on Friday night, the Suns needed to mix things up a bit.

Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry started Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley with the hope that it would give Phoenix a jolt. It did, but it wasn’t enough against the best road team in the NBA as the Suns fell 91-83 at home to Dallas.

“We just couldn’t come up with big baskets when we needed it,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “It’s tough to get a basket down the stretch when you don’t have a guy like Dirk (Nowitzki) to go to.”

Holding the Mavs to 20-percent shooting and outscoring the Mavs 20-4 in the paint the first period, the Suns raced out to nine-point lead heading into the second. Phoenix would never trail again until the fourth quarter, but clutch shooting down the stretch by Dallas’ Jason Kidd and Nowitzki were too much for the Suns to overcome.

“To win a game like that, we’re going to need the whole team to bring energy and bring toughness,” Suns center Marcin Gortat said. “And a lot of guys today didn’t have really good nights, so we just got to play through it. We were competing for 35 to 40 minutes and the last couple minutes we actually were not able to score enough and we gave up a couple of easy possessions on defense. ”

On paper, the Suns did everything right to win. They held the Mavs to 38-percent shooting from the floor, essentially matched them on the boards, outscored them by 21 in the paint and outscored them by 10 on the break. However, the Suns shot an ice-cold 1-for 16 from behind the arc, giving up nine more treys to Dallas.

“1-for-16 – that’s just not who we are,” Gentry said. “And contrary to popular belief, I don’t think you can defend the three-point line. We just missed shots.”

Dudley and Gortat led the Suns in scoring with 20 apiece, with Gortat also hauling down 15 boards. Josh Childress was the only other Suns player in double figures with 12 points off the bench. Steve Nash added 10 assists, while Channing Frye chipped in 10 rebounds.

Although Grant Hill only contributed eight points, he continued his push for the NBA All-Defensive Team by limiting Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki to 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Dallas put five players in double figures, with Kidd tying two others for the team lead with 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from downtown.

The Mavs improved to 12-1 against the Pacific Division this season, with no one in the division defeating them away from Dallas. The Suns dropped their fourth straight to Dallas, and fell to 43-6 when holding their opposition under 100 points.

The Suns visit the Kings in Sacramento on Tuesday.

Those Are the Breaks

After catching a huge break when he was traded to Phoenix earlier this season, Suns Center Marcin Gortat experienced an actual break during a game last Friday. With four minutes remaining in the third quarter of the Suns’ home contest against the Hornets, Gortat suffered a nasal fracture when he collided with the back of Nash's head.

Gortat’s nose was manipulated back into place Saturday morning at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. Despite the injury, he suited up Sunday, doing so without a mask.

“I was obviously praying and hoping that nobody was going to hit me because I’d be out for the season,” Gortat said. “But I didn’t have any problems breathing. I only had a problem in the fourth quarter when the tape starting coming off because of the sweat.”

It was the first time he has broken his nose or played through an injury of this kind in his career. Ironically his father, Janusz, was a two-time Olympic bronze medalist in boxing, also competed in the ring despite a variety of injuries, including a broken jaw.

When he talked to his father about his broken nose, the elder Gortat told his son, “Take it like a man and just keep playing.”

Like father, like son, the younger Gortat is taking it all in stride.

"My modeling gig may not be over yet,” he said.

Lineup Change

Despite going 19-11 with a starting lineup of Nash, Carter, Hill, Frye and Lopez, Coach Gentry decided he wanted to mix up the lineup a little bit. In Carter’s place, Gentry inserted Dudley, while filling Lopez’s spot with Gortat.

Gortat has scored in double figures every games since the All-Star break, making him the lone Sun to do so. His 18-game double-figures streak is the longest of his career and the longest by a Suns player all season.

“We just want to be able to give Marcin a break at the beginning of that second quarter,” Gentry said. “Even though he played a lot tonight, starting him gives us an opportunity to not play him consecutive minutes.”

The “Polish Hammer” came into tonight averaging 15.5 points and 10.4 rebounds since the All-Star break.

“It’s not a big difference,” Gortat said of the start. “The only difference is that I’m with Steve a little bit more than when I’m with the second unit. Obviously, playing with Steve, he can make a blind guy a scorer.”

Dudley moved into Carter’s spot after averaging 12 points a game in his last nine games. The Boston College grad is averaging a career-high 9.7 points a game and ranks 21st in the league in three-point field goal percentage.

“JD has been pretty good lately,” Gentry said. “It’s always nice to start and I wanted to give him the opportunity to do that tonight.”

Based on Gortat and Dudley’s production, Gentry said fans can expect the duo to start against the Kings on Tuesday.

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