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Suns struggle with shooting, officiating in loss to Thunder

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns entered Friday night’s game averaging 105.1
points per game. They scored 107.

Vince Carter entered the game scoring 15 points per game. He finished
with 33.

Neither were enough to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Suns fell to the Thunder 111-107 at the US Airways Center and cost
themselves a shot at the .500 mark in the process. After the game, though,
the only shots that were lamented by the team were the ones they did not
make in the fourth quarter.

“We also missed a bunch of shots that could have given us a little
separation or kept us right there in the game,” head coach Alvin Gentry
said of his team, noting the Suns cost themselves by misfiring so often in
the final frame.

Phoenix entered the fourth quarter with a seven point cushion, but not
surprisingly finishing with more fouls committed (7) than shots made (6)
came back to haunt them. Pleased with his team’s execution, Gentry said it
was just a matter of the shots not falling.

“I liked the shots that we got, we got good shots,” Gentry said. “We got
Vince [Carter] three wide open looks that we liked and we just didn’t get
them in.”

Carter, who made 10 of his first 14 shots, missed four in the game’s final
four minutes as the Thunder started to pull away.

Said Carter of his fourth quarter misses, “I was wide open, maybe they should have guarded me, then I might have made them.”

He didn’t, but teammate Channing Frye said those are shots the shooting guard has no problem with.

“He’s going to make those shots eight out of 10 times.”

Nobody would complain about the shot selection and nobody was ready to
call out the team’s effort. What did draw some ire were the technical fouls
assessed to Steve Nash and Grant Hill after Hill was whistled for a
questionable foul on Kevin Durant. The call came with 4:14 left and the
Suns up two; Durant sank two four free throws to tie it up, completing a
moment Jared Dudley said changed the game’s momentum.

“Right call, bad call, we’ve got to play through that,” he said. “We’ve got to
be able to play through that.

Nash, though, said it was a sequence that greatly affected the game.

“I thought Grant played great D and they put Durant on the line, they T’d
me up, I didn’t say anything,” he said, “and then they T’d Grant up for
saying I didn’t say anything.

“Four free throws at that point in the game for what could have been a
good defensive stop and a fast break was tough for us to overcome.”
The Suns were outscored 14-10 after the free throws.

“It was a big momentum changer for us, but we still had an opportunity to
win the game,” Dudley said.

Suns showing some fire

If it seems like the Suns are playing with more energy these days it is likely
because they are. Gentry, Frye and Nash all said while they did not get the
win Friday, it was not due to a lack of effort.

“I think we’re fighting, we’re playing with more competitiveness and
battling,” Nash said. “I think it’s very important for our team because we’re
not, you know, I don’t know if we’re as talented as we’ve been in the past,
so we’ve got to find a way to scrap.”

Scrapping for the Suns has also come with a bit of an attitude. Warranted or
not, Nash and Hill each earned their fourth technical fouls of the season,
leading the team.