Newsroom Notes: Suns Start Strong, Fall Late to Thunder
Posted: April 18, 2012
As a Suns fan, if you don’t handle excitement and unpredictability well, the finish of this NBA season probably doesn’t bode well for you.
With five teams beginning the night within three games of each other for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, the standings changed throughout the night as scores began to trickle in. The Suns, who started the night in the eighth position, fell to the No. 9 seed after dropping a 109-97 home decision to the Thunder.
Keeping with the theme of the night, the only thing predictable about the game was its unpredictability. The Suns started off electric, racing out to a 21-8 run over the second-place Thunder.
However, Oklahoma City responded, pulling out to a four-point lead at the end of the quarter. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair all night until the Thunder pulled away with the win in the final six minutes.
“The most disturbing thing is that we never came up with any loose balls,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “They seemed to come up with all of them.”
Suns swingman Jared Dudley led all Suns with 21 points, while Channing Frye (13 points), Steve Nash (12 points) and Robin Lopez (11) rounded out the rest of the Suns players in double figures.
Phoenix was undone by its 41-percent shooting and its defense of former ASU star James Harden, who erupted for a career-high 40 points on 12-of-17 shooting.
“We let him get to the basket to easily,” Gentry said. “We have to have better rim protection. I didn’t think we had a presence offensively or defensively from our bigs tonight.”
With the loss, the Suns fell into a tie for ninth place with Houston. With a win in Portland tonight, the Jazz leapfrogged both the Suns and the Rockets into the final playoff spot.
The Suns get a chance to bounce back against the Clippers, who defeated the Nuggets tonight, on Thursday at home on TNT.
MacLeod Inducted Into Ring of Honor
The Suns’ all-time winningest coach, John Macleod, became the 13th Sun to be enshrined into the Ring of Honor on Wednesday during a ceremony at halftime of the Suns-Thunder game. Suns broadcaster Al McCoy hosted the event, which included speeches by Ring of Honor members Paul Westphal and Alvan Adams.
Westphal, who played for five coaches in his NBA career, four of which are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, said of MacLeod, “I would put him in the same category as any of those guys. He’s one of the best coaches to ever coach this game.”
The Big S
Steve Nash’s legacy continues to grow. The two-time MVP is now just 10 assists shy of passing Oscar Robertson for fifth on the NBA’s all-time assist list.
Once Nash passes Robertson, he will sit behind only all-time leader John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson in NBA history.
“Passing Oscar Robertson is a pretty amazing thing,” Gentry said. “That guy epitomized the position of the point guard with the rebounding part, the scoring part and the assist part. That’s why I think it’s comical when they talk about a guy having his 11th triple-double of the season, and here is a guy that averaged a triple-double for the whole season. “
Earlier this season, Nash became the Suns’ all-time assist leader after passing Kevin Johnson’s franchise record on February 1. For Nash, the historic nature of surpassing the “Big O” isn’t lost on him.
“I remember just seeing the old videos, history-of-the-game-type stuff, and knowing what a great player he was,” the Suns playmaker said. “I definitely never thought I’d ever be associated with him on any list of any sort. It’s amazing to look back and see what hard work can do.”
Nash is only about 250 assists shy of Magic Johnson, who would be next for him to pass on the all-time list.
Hill Sits Out
Suns small forward Grant Hill sat out of Wednesday’s game due to soreness in his right knee. After returning to action against the Rockets and Spurs, Hill sat out of Monday’s rout of the Trail Blazers, as well.
Amazing in and of itself that he’s been able to recover from surgery on torn meniscus in his right knee in such a brief amount of time, Gentry said that the reasoning behind sitting out Hill was a precautionary one.
“I don’t think that he’s quite ready, to be honest with you,” Gentry said. “He could play, but I don’t want to stick him out there unless I know he’s ok. I know when he’s not right, and he’s not right.”
However, Gentry did say that there was a possibility that he may play tomorrow.
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