Following Saturday night’s 97-88 loss to the defending champion Miami Heat, Suns coach Alvin Gentry made it clear that a change will be made in the starting lineup when Phoenix next takes the floor Wednesday against the Portland Trailblazers.
So far this season, the Suns have had the same starting lineup in all 11 games but stability hasn’t translated to the fourth quarter. Phoenix has yet to finish with the same five-man unit in consecutive games.
“We’ve got to stop having the starts we’ve been having, and the only way to really do that is to make a change in the lineup,” Gentry said. “Probably the next game we play it probably won’t be the lineup that you’ve seen.”
As has become the norm so far during the 2012-2013 season, the Suns’ starting five — Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat — came out flat against LeBron and Co., missing their first nine shots from the field. While the team battled back from an early nine-point deficit, a shooting slump to start the third quarter was too much to overcome in the second half against Miami.
“We can’t keep going down 9-0 and then start the third quarter 13-4,” said Gentry. “Then we put in another group of guys, and they fight their way back. We just can’t play like that.”
The Suns have trailed by double digits in 10 of 11 games this season, including all six at home. To make matters worse, Phoenix’s starters Saturday night combined for just 33 points, while a combination of Jermaine O’Neal, Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris accounted for 40 points off the bench.
“We have to do something,” said Gentry. “Take a look at another situation and keep trying to make adjustments and changes until we can find the group out there where we aren’t battling from behind.”
While Gentry didn’t show his hand Saturday night as to what changes will be made, Brown’s play off the bench certainly warrants more consideration for a starting nod.
This season, Brown is averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game (3rd-best on the team) and has scored 10 or more points in eight of 11 games.
Although Dudley, the team’s current starting shooting guard, has improved his numbers of late (three games of double-digit scoring in his last five), during the majority of this season the five-year veteran has been outplayed by Brown.
The move wouldn’t be in Dudley’s worst interest, either. While the longest-tenured active Sun provides tremendous leadership to the starting lineup, he first made a name for himself in the Valley by providing a spark off the bench during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons.