Newsroom Notes: Suns Cool Off Blazers
Posted: Jan. 7, 2012
Since Steve Nash returned to Phoenix in 2004, a few truths have always remained constant. The Suns have shot a high percentage and have scored a boatload of points.
While the Suns’ offense might have sputtered out of the gate this season, one knew that the Law of Averages would win out and Phoenix would find its stride. It happened Friday against the hottest team in the Western Conference when the Suns pulled out a 102-77 victory over the visiting Trail Blazers.
“I think we made some shots but we had a better rhythm,” the Suns point guard said. “The tempo of the game better suited us. We had a little bit of a better flow to it that was familiar to past teams, so I thought that allowed us to feel more comfort.”
Coming into the contest, the Suns were shooting a woeful 42 percent from the floor, good for 23rd in the league. In addition, the Suns have yet to muster a 30-point first quarter.
That all changed Friday when the Suns shot 54 percent from the field and poured in 30 first-quarter points behind 9 points and five assists from Nash and another nine points from Jared Dudley. Even more encouraging than the return of their offense was the stinginess of their defense.
Phoenix held Portland to 28-percent shooting in the first quarter and throughout most of the night, opening up a 20-point lead with 6:11 left in the third period. The Suns, who never led by more than 18 points over anyone this season, led by as many as 27 points during the night.
“I think more so than anything, we did a great job of defending,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “Because of that we were able to extend the lead.”
It was the fifth time in seven games that the Suns have held an opponent under 100 points. That is Phoenix’s best defensive start since the 2003-04 season.
The Trail Blazers, who came into the night with the best record in the Western Conference and the third most-potent offense in the NBA, shot a season-low 33 percent from the floor on the night and put up their lowest scoring total of the season. Now only Miami and Chicago remain in the league as teams with just one loss.
“We were running on missed shots so we had them a little bit on their heels, rather than them going back and having their defense set,” Gentry said. “So that was a real key to us getting us off to a good start.”
Nash finished with 17 points and nine assists on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting, earning the luxury of sitting out the entire fourth period to rest. Dudley led the way with 18 points, while his backup, Shannon Brown, added 14. Markieff Morris (13 points), Hakim Warrick (12) and Marcin Gortat rounded out the other Suns in double figures.
Gortat Splits on the Splint
For the first time since the season began, Suns center Marcin Gortat played unencumbered by a splint on his right thumb. Upon fracturing the thumb on his shooting hand even before the season started, “The Polish Machine” has been forced to play with a splint so he can protect it.
It was obvious that the splint was affecting his play, decreasing his comfort with catching, ballhandling and shooting. In his last game against Dallas that saw him score 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting, even Gortat claimed that he did most of that damage with his left hand.
“Let’s not get excited about Wednesday night,” Gortat said. “People fed me very well and I was able to finish.”
The Suns big man said he has full range of motion and that the thumb is just a little swollen.
“I feel a little pain when the ball hits it, but it’s not the type of pain that I can’t play thorugh,” he said.
On Friday, Gortat 6-of-8 from the floor, displaying the accuracy on a few mid-range jumpers.
Yesterday at practice, Suns co-captain Grant Hill was used as a “guinea pig” by the NBA and the league’s new live microphone technology. In the past, fans may have heard games where players had mics hidden in their jerseys so TV could cut to a quick segment featuring their on-court chatter.
However, the players complained because the mics weren’t comfortably stitched into the jersey, so if the player fell on wherever the mic was located, it would cause discomfort. Also, just in general, the players were conscious of the mic being on them while they were playing.
So the NBA went back to the lab and has attempted to improve the technology. After Suns equipment manager Jay Gaspar had the jersey fitted with the new mic, Hill gave it a whirl at practice Thursday. He said he didn’t even know it was there.
In the past, Hill recalled having a belt and a strap with the mic attached to that. Now, a small pad was sewn into the side of the uniform and goes undetected to the player.
After producing a documentary last year about legendary Duke track coach Al Buehler, Hill is back on the cinematic bandwagon again, this time producing the "Duke '91 & '92" documentary on the Duke men’s basketball team that captured back-to-back NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992.
Hill, along with former teammate Christian Laettner, are the executive producers of the project. The Suns small forward also re-teamed with Amy Unell, who also directed the documentary on Coach Buehler.
The trio has joined forces with Turner Sports, who is premiering the film on Sunday, March 11 on TruTV. The doc is still in its edited stage, with Hill currently taking a look at the rough-cut at his house.
From the chalkboard of the Suns’ locker room: "Whether you think you can or you can't, either way you're right." - Henry Ford
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