Suns Strokes: Suns unable to overcome poor shooting in first half of loss to Nets
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns shot themselves into a hole they couldn’t climb out of Saturday night.
Phoenix (3-7) couldn’t overcome shooting 30.4 percent from the field and 3-of-18 from three-point range in the first half, falling to the Brooklyn Nets 122-104.
Some Suns players recovered in the second half, including Jared Dudley, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the third quarter.
Phoenix came roaring back in the second half, scoring 38 points in the third quarter and carrying that momentum over to the beginning of the fourth, when they made it a one-possession game three separate times.
The Nets (4-5) had an answer for every comeback, however, and the Suns offense fizzled, scoring six points over a six-minute stretch in the second half of the final quarter. Brooklyn closed the game on a 20-4 run before the reserves for both teams checked in with less than a minute to play.
Devin Booker and Brandon Knight were unable to get out of their scoring funk all game long, shooting a combined 7-for-31.
Eric Bledsoe flirted with a triple-double and showed real urgency at the start of the second half with the Suns down 11, but he had a disappointing night shooting the ball, going 1-of-8 despite having eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
Nets small forward and Arizona alum Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored a career-high 20 points and guard Sean Kilpatrick, starting in place of the injured Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead, added 19.
The Suns attempted 23 more shots than the Nets, but Brooklyn made 43.2 percent of their 37 three-point attempts to put a dent in the shot disparity.
– Marquese Chriss gave the Suns a jolt to start the second half. He had a nice drive-and-dish to Alex Len, and on the next possession the 19-year-old rookie hit an open three to cut the deficit to 10.
– Eric Bledsoe wasn’t going to be able to take over the game if it wasn’t within reach, so he turned it on right after Chriss did in the third quarter. In just over three minutes, Bledsoe had three points, one rebound and three assists to get the Suns within six.
– Another Jared Dudley scoring explosion. Dudley scored 12 points in the third quarter, including two much-needed threes to keep the Suns within seven heading into the final quarter.
– Alex Len was coming off his best game of the season against Detroit. He had an efficient 16 points on 10 shots, rarely forcing his offense and making the most of his impact in other areas. It was a welcome change instead of forcing the ball to Len as a primary offensive option. Despite the success with that, Len was heavily involved early and started 1-for-5 from the field less than five minutes into the game.
– Brandon Knight’s poor play to start the season has his minutes down, as he’s averaging only 19 minutes per game in the Suns’ last four games. The trouble for Knight has been shooting efficiently and taking care of the ball as the ball-handler off the bench. In the beginning of his shift off the bench, Knight had his best start to date, working very hard defensively, staying aggressive, attacking the basket and making the right decision nearly every time with the ball. If the Suns make their open shots, he would have had at least five assists. Unfortunately, some of those shots didn’t fall and he exited the 11-minute stint shooting 1-of-7 and a team low minus-nine.
STAT OF THE GAME
23: For the first time this season the Suns had over 20 assists in a game. They finished with 23 assists Saturday night.
HE SAID IT
“As a leader, I take full responsibility for our team not being prepared and ready, not being efficient. Our guys are young, they depend on us to lead (them).” – head coach Earl Watson after the game.
– Tyson Chandler was not with the team for the third straight game since his mother passed away on Tuesday.
– Both teams entered the night ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in pace, with the Suns averaging 104.37 possessions per 48 minutes and the Nets close behind with 103.56 possessions per 48 minutes.
– Despite having injuries and not much depth on paper, Brooklyn entered the night ranked second in bench points per game with 45.4 per game. They had 46 Saturday night.
– The Nets and Suns have different philosophies on three-point shooting. Both teams shoot it poorly, but there’s a substantial difference in how many they take a game. Brooklyn came into the game averaging 33.9 three-point attempts per game and only making 31.7 percent of them, while the Suns take just 20.6 threes a game and convert on 30.3 percent of the attempts, the third-worst percentage in the NBA.
– Tyler Ulis played in the third quarter, making it his first in-game action since Oct. 31.
The worst possible “up next” for the Suns would be if they are playing in Golden State the following night, and the Suns are indeed playing in Golden State Sunday.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes prior on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.
The two teams have met already in this young season and unsurprisingly it was the Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant show in the 106-100 Suns loss in Phoenix on Oct. 30. The superstar duo combined to score 65 points and both did it efficiently, shooting a combined 58 percent from the field.
Phoenix played some of their best basketball of the season in that game, going plus-four in turnovers and plus-nine on the glass. They thoroughly outworked the back-to-back Western Conference champions, but when a team has two superstars, they can afford to do that some nights and still come out on top.