Plenty of Good Signs in Suns' Romp Over Maccabi Haifa

Barry Gossage/NBAE

Head Coach Jeff Hornacek wanted the 2013-14 Suns to run. In their preseason home opener against Maccabi Haifa, they scored 130 points and at least 30 points in each quarter.

He wanted to see a backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic work. They combined for 38 points, nine assists, five rebounds and five steals.

He wanted to dole out as many chances as he could during the preseason. Monday night, all 16 active Suns played at least seven minutes, and 15 of them scored.

Hornacek saw a lot of what he wanted in the team’s 130-89 win, though it came with a caution pertaining to the competition.

“It’s tough. I think we’re probably just overall more athletic than most of those guys and we were able to get easy shots because of it,” he said.

Fair enough, though a 41-point win over the defending Israeli League champions is nothing to sneeze at. Neither is the way it happened. For one night, the Suns showed what they’re capable of doing when they execute on the break and in the half-court offense.

It started with Bledsoe and Dragic, with the former finding the latter leaking out in transition for four early free throws. The newer Suns’ guard then took over scoring duties, punishing Maccabi Haifa when they followed the big man and left Bledsoe alone on pick-and-rolls. By the time he was done, 10 of his 15 field goal attempts had found the bottom of the net.

Hornacek sees the duo’s chemistry as a natural process rather than a learned one.

“Good basketball players know how to play with other guys in terms of what works best,” he said. “One time it might be Goran. One time it might be Eric. They seem to have a pretty good little relationship already, which is kind of nice.”

After the starters jumped out to a 21-9 lead, Shannon Brown (nine points, four rebounds, two steals), Miles Plumlee (seven points, five rebounds, one block)and Marcus Morris (10 points, three assists, two rebounds) were the first reserves to check in. A brief let-up saw Maccabi Haifa score six straight, the Suns tightened their grip in the second half and didn’t let go.

With the lead ballooning to 40 points, other reserves saw their respective chances to make an impression in the preseason opener. Slava Kravtsov used his frame for deep positioning, finishing with 10 points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting. Recently signed guard James Nunally had three points, two assists and two rebounds in just under eight minutes of play.

“Good basketball players know how to play with other guys in terms of what works best. One time it might be Goran. One time it might be Eric. They seem to have a pretty good little relationship already, which is kind of nice.”

— Jeff Hornacek

“It was great to get everybody in,” Hornacek said. “First real game, I’m sure they had some nerves. They wanted to do well. Once they got settled in a little bit they didn’t force things.”

Perhaps most encouraging were the Suns’ first-round picks. Both Alex Len and Archie Goodwin suffered rough first stints on the floor before bouncing back strong in the fourth quarter.

Len, the No. 5 overall pick either established position deep and stayed active around the glass or used his height from midrange to pass or shoot, finishing with seven points, six rebounds and a block.

Goodwin caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his bench-high 13 points. A breakaway dunk, left-handed layup over a defender and backdoor cut finished with a contorting layup cemented his turnaround from earlier in the game.

“Alex made a nice pass, made a blocked shot and played good defense,” Hornacek said. “He’s long. He can get those boards. Archie does what he does. He continues to run and move and things open up. He had a nice backdoor cut [for a basket]. It was nice to see those guys come out in the latter part of the time they got and play well.”

Phoenix will travel to Portland for its next preseason game, scheduled to tip off on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Arizona time.