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Phoenix Suns open season with poor shooting and good effort
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Phoenix Suns open season with poor shooting and good effort

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ first real game without Steve Nash in the lineup looked like most games without Number 13 over the prior eight seasons.

The team labored through 48 minutes of basketball, shooting just 40 percent from the field while committing 18 turnovers. The Suns looked decent some of the time, but a little lost most of the time in a 87-85 loss to Golden State Wednesday night at the U.S. Airways Center.

In fact, the only thing that may have been even more dysfunctional was Suns coach Alvin Gentry’s postgame press conference, which lasted nearly 10 minutes and was interrupted twice by ringing cell phones — the latter of which was a somewhat apropos Benny Hill theme.

The on-court issues are more important than the press conference problems, though Gentry believes the former won’t be an issue for too long.

“We looked like a team that just had nine new players,” Gentry said. “I really feel that we’re going to become a good team.

“I really feel that.”

There were some positives to take away from the game – if you ignore how the Suns shot the basketball.

In his first game as Nash’s replacement, point guard Goran Dragic scored 17 points while dishing out eight assists and collecting six rebounds. He also stole the ball three times and shot 10 free throws.

Luis Scola, acquired via an amnesty claim in the off-season, posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. He also blocked three shots.

And Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley were each solid, with Dudley contributing 11 points and Gortat posting a line of 10 points with nine rebounds.

But in the end it was not enough to overcome a poor shooting night and a bench that struggled for much of its time on the court.

“We had a chance to win the game,” Suns guard Jared Dudley said, noting that neither team shot the ball particularly well. The Suns did hold the Warriors to a 38 percent shooting clip on the evening.

“But this game’s about making plays in the fourth; we had multiple looks, good looks at the basket and we didn’t knock them down.”

The Suns’ largest deficit of the night was 17 and they were up by as much as eight in the fourth quarter. They showed heart in rallying back, but also a lack of experience, familiarity and maybe ability with an inability to close the Warriors out.

It’s only one game — of at least 82 — so the season is far from over. The Suns showed some good and some bad, and where they go from here will determine where they go this season.

There’s plenty of room to grow and time for improvement.

“It’s just not something that’s going to happen overnight, and being together for a month in training camp is good, but the only way you’re really going to be able to figure it out is to be in games and play and the experience of actual games,” Gentry said. “We’ll continue to do that, but to me, am I disappointed, yeah. I think there were a lot of good things, yes I do. Do I think we’ll get better? Hell yeah, I think we’ll get much better.”