Game Notes: Hornets at Suns
The Suns cleared up the traffic.
by Dennis Tarwood
Al Gore was the best floor leader in downtown Phoenix tonight, Paul vs. Nash be damned. His appearance at Greenbuild Expo at nearby Chase Field sent evening traffic in balmy Phoenix into gridlock as pedestrians jammed side streets while Suns fans attempted to score parking for their Wednesday night national game against the New Orleans Hornets.
If Phoenix police wanted a lesson on keeping traffic moving smoothly, they should have called in renowned expert Steve Nash. His 7 assists in 10 first-quarter minutes set the Hornets back 11 on their way to a 19-point halftime shutdown. That effort also encouraged smooth traffic by emptying US Airways Center of its 16,517 attendees in an early and orderly fashion. No idling, no waste. Take that, Al Gore.
Before the game, Suns coach Alvin Gentry reflected as much as he ever will on the subject of his Suns. “We’ve done a good job holding our own (on rebounding).” When asked what he expects out of Channing Frye (the nominal center) in the rebounding column since he’s the designated recipient of the drive ‘n dish three, Gentry replied that he’s asking the team in general to tackle defensive rebounds and not worry about offensive rebounding as much. Briefly, stop their fast break and start our own. “What we do is really simplified.”
The Hornets found it downright baffling as the Suns rarely let the ball mar the hardwood on their way to a 55 percent field goal percentage and eight players in double-figures but none more than 21 (Amar’e). Chris Paul couldn’t help but look like a point guard in the headlights post-game despite a 25/0/6 night with 4 steals and only 2 turnovers.
“We didn’t make shots.” “We gonna have to go back to the drawing board.” “This is tough.” Lather, rinse, repeat.
On the other hand, even Goran Dragic looked steady and cocksure during the game despite some rather obvious mistakes. (Dribbling off one’s own foot would wound a lesser man’s ego.) He pulled Channing Frye aside for advice during a time out, shouted instructions to a confused garbage time team, and grumbled in one or two languages when the orders went awry.
Still, the change is noticeable for the previously lost second-year man. Said Nash of Dragic: “It’s so important for him to be confident because he’s got a lot of tools…. We just want him to feel good about himself and realize he’s a good player. When he goes out there with that attitude, he does good things.”
Contrast that with Hornets rookie second-rounder Marcus Thornton, who represents as good of an option at the 2 as any in New Orleans. But he brooded quietly while glaring at the floor after picking up a quick second foul and responded with more effort where better effort would have sufficed. Two incomplete fast breaks later in the game were unsuccessful as he flung himself at the basket instead of driving for two points.
It’s understandable Byron Scott has limited confidence in the young man. If the 2009 edition of Peja Stojakovic (0-8, 0-4 from 3, multiple glares from Chris Paul) is your answer, however, you’re asking the wrong question.
Your intrepid Game Notes-taker attempted to credit the Suns’ success to a Euro-like soccer approach taken especially by Grant Hill and Steve Nash through their tosses over the defense on the fast break and soft angles around lulled defenders. After all, there’s plenty of international cities throwing out their street signs and lights in the name of less congestion.
After the game, Grant Hill patiently explained that it was no different than encouraging Jason Richardson to run to the hoop on a fast break when a smaller man is on him instead of making a bee-line to the corner. “You just learn and pick your spots, like he and LB (Leandro Barbosa) have that backdoor from the corner.”
And before the game, Gentry broke into laughter and said, “You lost me on the soccer analogy.” Imagine if he’d heard the traffic one.
– Grant Hill crashed into the ESPN announcers’ table with seven minutes left in the 2nd quarter. This represented the first stop Mark Jackson has made in a decade.
– David West sprained his right knee in the first minute of the game closing out on defense. He went to the locker room but returned shortly thereafter. He didn’t play much in the second half, but few starters did.
– Before the game, expectations were set for the unknown by Suns coach Alvin Gentry: “There’s 41 home games and 41 away games and we don’t have any control [over the schedule].” How… Zen.
– Alando Tucker missed a three-pointer while playing nearly three minutes at game’s end. You may cancel the Amber Alert.