Game Notes: Suns at Nets
The Suns spoil Deron Williams’ home debut despite their best efforts to lose.
by Russ Bengtson / @russbengtson
“Tie goes to the runner,” goes the old baseball saying, but sometimes it seems that an overtime win goes to neither. (incidentally, a Google search of “Phoenix Nets” brings up this.) The Suns managed to hold off the Nets last night thanks to a timely three-pointer from Channing Frye and a barely-not-in-timely tip from Kris Humphries, and all through the Prudential Center there were somber feelings. As Suns coach Alvin Gentry spoke quietly to the media afterward, I wrote down “LOSER QUOTES” in my notebook, because that’s exactly what they sounded like — “We’ve got to do a much better job down the stretch executing,” and “Hopefully we’ll learn from this and grow from it.” I didn’t go to the other side to hear what Avery said.
There’s lots of stretching happening in the Suns’ locker room – it’s full of balance balls and medicine balls and elastic bands and foam cylinders and players making use of most of them: Channing Frye has a band stretched tight around his waist as he does shooting drills sans ball, Aaron Brooks runs through a whole series of stretches and strides. Mickael Pietrus convinces a reporter (no, not this one) to sample an orange Red Bull-like energy drink. Steve Nash is in and out, very apologetic. He doesn’t speak before games. Nor does Grant Hill. Seeing it’s the Suns’ first visit to the Pru, they’re unsure of how to get to the court.
Vince Carter has two jerseys in his locker. He’s not around to explain.
Wander into the Nets’ locker room with 10 minutes of media time left to see whether Deron is around — it’s his home debut, after all – and there’s just Brandan Wright and Gadzooks in there. Can’t really think of anything to ask: “So, are you guys getting bought out or what?” doesn’t seem appropriate.
Walking back to the media room, I almost literally run into Jay and Beyonce – and their giant bodyguards – on their way through the tunnel.
The arena is flooded with free Deron Williams jersey-style t-shirts, but there are quite a few outliers – an old-school Nets Vince Carter here, an orange Steve Nash there. Deron gets most of a standing O when he’s introduced.
– There’s a near immediate DE-RON WILL-IAMS chant. Can’t imagine it’s planned, just worked out by syllable count. Seems right. Pretty full house, too.
– Hopefully Deron is constantly telling Brook “go to the basket, or I’ll never pass you the ball. Ever.”
– With that, Brooks hits an 18-footer (from Deron), and gets a congratulatory whack on the butt from Avery on his way back downcourt (or is it upcourt?). So, maybe not.
– The first quarter is flying by thanks to very few foul calls, and the fact that the first time out isn’t called until 5:26 remains. Also, it seems that the Nets brought the Pantera CD with them from IZOD.
– Mickael Pietrus checks in and puts up five quick points; Suns lead by six. Deron is like a compression over an arterial wound – take him off, everything goes bad fast. Then again, here’s Ben Uzoh with a pretty reverse layup in traffic, then Sasha Vujacic gets the ball on a defensive rebound with 2.8 seconds left, launches from halfcourt — it looks on line — GOOD. Nets trail 26-23 after 1.
– Sasha with a great one-handed bounce pass along the baseline to Travis Outlaw for the one-handed dunk. Late in the first quarter he pulled out a behind-the-back bounce pass to Lopez on the perimeter. Why did the Nets sign Jordan Farmar again?
– Here comes the Suns: Gortat. Dunk. Pietrus open three. Aaron Brooks misses a sweeping running hook (really) but draws enough of the defense to allow Gortat to easily tip in the miss.
– Johan Petro enters for the Nets and misses jumper in lane badly (pass from Deron) on the ensuing possession. Nope, he’s not Boozer. Next time down, a Deron turnover leads to a Warrick contest-level double-clutch reverse. Outlaw comes back with a two-handed dunk of his own that Dudley foolishly runs into – and one. Which provokes another Warrick dunk, this time from Dudley.
– Williams hits a runner off a curl and gets another layup off a Suns turnover. 42-all, 5:34 Next trip, Deron’s entry pass goes to wrong Lopez – Brook spins away from the pass. Is that really a turnover? Nash hits Robin, who buries a flying dunk on Humphries. But Deron — here’s why the Nets got him — leads a four-on-two and hits the trailing Morrow for a triple – his sixth assist – 2:32 to go in the half. 50-47.
– Robin Lopez cocks the hammer for a big tomahawk and Humphries meets him up top and blocks it. DOWN GOES LOPEZ! Back downcourt, Robin shrugs at Brook. Damion James gets a dunk, which is Williams’ eighth assist.
– Haven’t mentioned Vince Carter much despite his warm reception by the Jersey crowd. This is because Vince has two points. Oops, make that five points. Suns by four.
– Deron gets his 10th assist (to Lopez) – and has 11 and 10 with 5:51 to go in the third.
– Nash connects on a lull-to-sleep jumper over Bropez, and is answered by Bropez (another assist for DWill). Trading leads. Grant short on corner three on kick from Carter.
– Then it’s time for the Nash-Gortat pick and roll. Fouled the first time, Gortat hits two consecutive layups on the next two possessions before the Nets are able to get a stop on the fourth try. Nash misses a jumper instead. Then Gortat gets an easy dunk from Nash, just by sealing out. Suns lead 69-66 after three.
– It’s a decent crowd, but you can still hear slapped rebounds from all the way down the other end – Warrick reels in a Sasha miss.
– Some raw notes here: Aaron Brooks for three. Morrow answers. Warrick jumper. Sasha from Deron, to Deron underneath. Layup. Petro fouls, enter Bropez. 9:52 Dudley miss driving layup from Brooks, Warrick is there to two-handed dunk the mess. Lopez from 20. Williams’s 12th assist. Another Nets foul. Two in the fourth. Aaron Brooks another three. 79-73 Suns. His threes are SUPER pigeon toed. Aaron Brooks again, 81-73, time out Nets. 8:17 Lopez, then Humphries. Nets back within 4.
– Deron is in the locker room for who knows what. All we know is the Nets are in trouble. Dudley hits a three, Warrick puts down another high-flying dunk — Avery calls time out to get the Nets resettled (and give Deron more time).
– Finally, with 4:49 to go, Deron emerges from the tunnel and heads straight to the scorer’s table. The DE-RON WILLIAMS chant starts again. But the play doesn’t stop — by the time Williams checks back in the Nets are down 7, 3:02 left. He gets started quick with a driving dish to Humphries on the baseline for a dunk. Brook over Gortat. 21 points. 90-85. Two minutes. Deron drive and kick, Brook WAAAAY short on baseline J. Hill rebound. Nash into Gortat, jumper over Williams – Nash’s 12th assist. 92-85, 1:17.
– Bropez buries another corner 20-footer from Williams, over Gortat — so much for going inside. Inside a minute. Nash dribbles out entire shot clock before launching an awkward sideways twisting push shot. Nope. And a Morrow triple cuts the Suns lead to two. Nets foul – and foul again with 14.9 left to send Nash to the line. If you want to distract Steve Nash at the line, don’t clap Thundersticks — it won’t work – maybe offer him a Coke. He hits both. Four-point game.
– Cue “Animal House” clip that’s older than pretty much all of the Nets. Meanwhile, Jay Z’s here to the end. But it’s not over yet. Morrow buries another three, over Nash. 10.7 seconds left, one-point game. On the ensuing inbounds, Hill can’t get the ball to Nash – so he finds Channing Frye right under the basket instead for a dunk. That’ll work. The Nets need to go the length of the court in 8.5 seconds. Nash fouls Morrow with 2.7 seconds left. It doesn’t look like it was in the act of shooting — rather, it should have been called before he got in the act — but he’s awarded three FTs. Wow. One. Two. (Suns have two timeouts.) Three. The Suns call a 20. Hill inbounds from the side again, and gets called for a five-second violation. Yikes. But the Nets are out of time outs. Sasha to Deron, back to Sasha – no shot. Overtime.
– Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?
– There’s a Robert Horry moment with 1:17 left — Morrow gets a GREAT look at a three from uptop off a Hill backtap. But he misses it.
– The Suns call time out with 9.1 ticks left, down 2. The lineup that comes on to the floor is Brooks, Nash, Gortat, Hill and Frye. And it’s Frye who hits a three from up top with 6.6 to go to put the Suns up one. Too much time? The Nets use their last time out, advance the ball. Sasha inbounds. Deron drives around the top, misses, but Humphries is there to tip it in – he celebrates briefly, but it’s waved off. Refs hold everyone out to review. Everyone stands around. One way or other the game is over. The ruling on floor… stands. Sorry, Deron. Welcome home.
A couple guys are there taping players memories of March Madness. Nash speaks somewhat animatedly about Santa Clara before switching into somber post-game mode. (Before he does, I ride their coattails to ask what he’d tell his younger self in those NBA commercials. “I don’t know. ‘Work hard.’”) Carter brushes them off entirely: “Just questions about the game.” Given the game he had, I’m not sure whether this is the wiser choice.
Grant Hill has got the Full Ewing going, ice bags taped to his elbows, knees and ankles.
The only animated Sun is Channing Frye, still ebullient following his game-winner. “Oh, it felt juicy. I knew it was good. I got my feet right and everything. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. If I can get a good clean look at the rim and my feet right, most players are going to make that shot.”