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Shooting an issue as Suns fall to Hornets

PHOENIX — Alvin Gentry walked into the media room and
began his post-game press conference. Three minutes and
six seconds later he was finished with his opening
monologue, in which he covered his team’s 85-84 loss, the
struggle to close out games and the impressive play from
his centers.

It was a lot to take in – for the coach and the Suns – as
they opened the season with a loss to a team that, quite
frankly, they probably should have beaten.

“Obviously, it was a tough one,” Gentry said. “We couldn’t
come up with a big basket when we needed it. I thought our
defense was fine, our defense was great.”

Defensively, the Suns were good. New Orleans shot just 44
percent on the night, and did not score more than 24
points
in any of the four quarters. However, offensively the Suns
were a mess, a far cry from the team that used to light up
NBA arenas on a nightly basis.

In all the Suns shot 39.5 percent, making just five of 25
threes. Just three players scored in double figures, with
center Robin Lopez’s 21 points pacing the team. That’s
very good and very bad, all at the same time.

Lopez was so good, in fact, that he played nearly 27
minutes off the bench, including the entire fourth
quarter.

“He played well, and anyone knows the way I coach, if
you’re out there and you’re playing well you deserve to
stay out there,” Gentry said. “He was on such a roll and
had done such a good job I just left him in there.”

Lopez’s strong night can be attributed to his return to
health, looking very much recovered from the various
injuries that plagued him last season. Once the guy Gentry
dubbed as the second most important player on the team, an
effective Lopez could pay big dividends for a squad
generally short on size up front.

Combine numbers like that with those Marcin Gortat will
likely produce, and the Suns will have a duo that will
control the paint on both ends of the court.

“Don’t get excited after one game,” Gortat cautioned.
“There are 65 more games to play. I’ve seen teams where we
dominate the paint like we are NBA champs, and the next
game we give up 130 points.”

That would be bad, especially if the offense continues to
struggle like it did Monday night.

“I think we counted nine wide-open shots, with no one
within five feet of them, we are going to have to make
some of those,” Gentry said.

One of the players who could actually hit the broad side
of a barn Monday, Steve Nash said he’s not worried about
the
team’s shooting.

“It will come,” he said. “Those are shots we normally
make, but it will come.”

It’s going to have to. As Gortat said, the Suns aren’t the
only team that had to deal with a short offseason, and a
slow start could spell doom for a team expected to be on
the playoff bubble.

But it’s still early, and while an 0-1 start isn’t ideal,
it’s not exactly the end of the team’s season, either.

“We showed that we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve
got to stay optimistic so we can cover that ground,” Nash
said.