From The Other Side: The Suns Adjusted, The Wizards Did Not
The last game was played in Milwaukee, and this one was played in the friendly confines of the Verizon Center. The Bucks were missing three starters, and the Suns had a healthy roster at their disposal. The Wizards are a putrid 0-20 on the road, and they went into last night’s contest with 12-8 home record–including four straight wins at home. You get the point here, there were plenty of differences between last night’s game against Phoenix and Wednesday night’s game against Milwaukee. Still, it played out exactly the same.
In both games, the Wizards played flawless first quarter basketball, only to see their hard work come unraveled in each quarter after that, leading to a double digit loss.
The Wizards shot 53-percent in the first quarter, and they were mainly led by Nick Young (11 points) and Andray Blatche (10 points). John Wall did not do much damage scoring-wise (two points), but he managed to dish out a whopping nine assists, before he was subbed out for Kirk Hinrich with 3:49 left in the period.
Meanwhile the Suns only shot 34-percent in the first, they committed nine turnovers, and they lacked any sort of energy and rhythm. During one stretch, when the scored was tied at 14, the Suns turned the ball over twice, and had a shot blocked by JaVale McGee the next time down the floor. The Wizards turned that into into 11 consecutive points (and five assists by Wall). The score after one in Washington was 33-22. The score after one quarter in Milwaukee was 27-19.
Unfortunately for the Wizards, the Suns snapped out of their doldrums in the second quarter by shooting 50-percent, and relying on Marcin Gortat (eight points), Channing Frye and Goran Dragic (both with five points). They still turned the ball over six times, but they were able to hold the Wizards to just 34-percent shooting and 20 points. The score at halftime was 53-52 in the Wizards’ favor. In Milwaukee, the halftime score was 49-47 Wizards.
The third quarter was when the Phoenix Suns finally put everything together and pulled away from the Wizards. Their turnovers were low (three), their shooting percentage was high (50-percent), their three-point percentage was even higher (54.5-percent), and their defense was smothering (the Wizards shot 30-percent). Channing Frye hit four three-pointers in the quarter, and Nash had five points and six assists. Blatche (two points) and Young (three points) were nowhere to be found for the Wizards, and the score after three quarters was 83-71 Phoenix. In Milwaukee, the score through three was 75-66, in the Bucks’ favor.
The fourth quarter of last night’s game, much like the fourth quarter in the Milwaukee game, was basically garbage time. The Wizards cut the score to 88-80 with 8:47 left in the game, then the Suns held them scoreless for almost four minutes, and they pushed the lead back to double digits. The final score was 109-91, and the bottom line was that the Suns made adjustments to their poor start, but the Wizards never countered.
After the game I asked Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Jared Dudley about the disparity between their poor first quarter play, and the adjustments they made from there:
“You know I thought we just missed some shots, we weren’t sharp, we were fumbling the ball around a little bit and not converting. I thought they had more energy and more purpose early on and it took us awhile to play at a higher level.” –Steve Nash
“In the first quarter Nick [Young] got hot and hit some threes, and we had to respect McGee after he got that lob, and we were just to make Wall shoot, so we were going under the screens, and we were just off. But once we starting limiting Nick, and concentrating on keeping Blatche out of the sweet spots, we improved. Plus we had 14 turnovers the first half which fortunately didn’t take us out of the game completely. Second half we took care of the ball, starting hitting some shots. We also saw them getting frustrated in the second half, and that’s going to happen with a young team with a young point guard, so that worked in our favor too.” – Jared Dudley
“They came out and hit some shots. We turned the ball the over a little bit too much and they got out into transition. We had a bad first quarter. We kept our composure. I thought in the second quarter, the second unit did a great job and got us back in the game. At halftime, we were down one and were talking amongst ourselves as players and said hey we’re down one, we’re back in the game and we played terrible. Let’s just come out and take care of business. We had a good third and just finished them out there in the second half.” –Grant Hill
Other observations from the Suns locker room:
The Washington Wizards inexplicably went to a zone in the third quarter, and Channing Frye single-handedly dismantled it to the tune of 12 points. Sean Fagan of Bullets Forever reported that Andray Blatche mentioned the point of the zone was to keep the Suns out of the paint–unfortunately it led to the Suns highest scoring quarter of the night. After the game, I asked Dudley and Hill if they were surprised to see the Wizards’ zone.
“You know what? Teams have been doing that to us recently, so I wasn’t that surprised. Teams have been doing that and switching screens, and playing Steve [Nash] with a big man, so I wasn’t surprised to see it. Now I was surprised they stayed in it as long as they did, especially with Channing killing it, but hey we stretched our lead, so I’m not complaining.” –Dudley
“Nope, I wasn’t surprised at all, we were scoring pretty easily prior to that, and we knew from playing them earlier in the season that if they did go to a zone, we could score right away in bunches, and then they’d eventually switch back to man.” –Hill
I also briefly spoke with Mickael Pietrus (who did not play) about whether he had talked to Rashard Lewis, and what his observations were on his adjustment to the Wizards:
“That’s my friend, we talk and text all the time, and he’s a real good guy, and eventually he’ll be a good leader for this team. But right now, he’s still learning, Arenas and [Jason]Richardson are still learning. In Phoenix, and Goran, Vince and I are still learning too … it takes a month and a half to two months, maybe longer to really get comfortable. But in terms of Rashard, he’s my friend so I know his game and his body language, and he’s not comfortable in Washington yet. Trades are a funny thing man some people can handle it and they adjust, others can’t handle it and they never adjust. We’ll see how it plays out though.”
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