PHOENIX – Marcin Gortat breezed into the Phoenix Suns locker room more than an hour before game time outfitted in a relatively stylish gray suit that was not accessorized by a walking boot.
After absorbing some rave reviews from fashion-conscious teammates, Gortat announced, “It is what it is.”
Aside from a stab at sartorial splendor, the “it” scheduled Friday at US Airways Center was Polish Night with the Polish Hammer in the wrong uniform.
It also was NBA green night, with warm-up T-shirts and a couple of green headbands representing the league’s approval of conserving the planet’s natural resources.
Finally, it was a night for the Suns – whose defense went from pretty bad before Gortat injured his foot to dreadful since – to score 107 points and lose to the Golden State Warriors by four.
Oh, this particular Suns defeat was really peculiar. With Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley combining to make 23 shots in 30 attempts, Phoenix managed to achieve its eighth consecutive defeat while shooting a season-high 61.1 percent. With the NBA record (Washington Wizards losing to the Chicago Bulls in 2001) of shooting 63.4 percent in a defeat still within reach until very late, the Suns’ Friday shift included coughing up an 18-point first-half lead and rallying from as far back as 11 in the second half.
Dragic and Beasley also teamed up for 11 of the Suns’ 22 turnovers, which were converted into 31 points by the Warriors.
“For us to shoot 61 percent and still lose is mind-boggling,” Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said, “but we had 22 turnovers in some crucial situations during the game. We’ve got to keep working to clean those things up and try to take the little victories out of this and keep building.”
After starring as the headlock victim of Clipper Ryan Hollins during Wednesday’s loss in Los Angeles, Dragic played more than 43 minutes, made 11 of 13 shots and finished with a career-high 32 points.
“To me, with all due respect, a poor man’s Manu Ginobili from the point guard position,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said, comparing Dragic to the San Antonio Spurs’ crafty southpaw. “Great first step, great change of speed, lulls you to sleep, attacks the rim, can score, can facilitate, tough matchup, great toughness.
“He’s had a heck of a season, and he’s certainly a heck of a player and a piece for them moving forward.”
Four days after the season ends, Dragic said he’ll be returning home to Slovenia and start preparing to play for the national team in the European Championships.
That’ll keep him busy until he returns to Phoenix in late September.
Before powering down his usual pregame snack of Smucker’s peanut butter/strawberry jam “Uncrustable,” Dragic said the Slovenian squad (assuming he survives the cutdown from the 30-player tryout) has only one other NBA employee – Orlando Magic guard Beno Udrih.
When it was insincerely suggested that Hollins could apply for citizenship and become a second NBA teammate on the Slovenian side, The Dragon said, “Great … have him sign up … then he can choke someone else.” BEASLEY WALKING THE WALK
After presenting the Suns with what Hunter referred to as his best overall performance of the season Wednesday in L.A., Beasley came through with a rare gem at home.
The Beas – who scored 17 of his 25 points in the first half – made 12 of 17 shots from the field and collected six rebounds. Although he did use his quickness and spin move to reach the rim for three buckets, Beasley didn’t shoot any free throws.
And he didn’t, as usual, pull any punches when asked about putting together two consecutive strong games during a season riddled with recommendations or admonitions regarding consistency (offered by various people).
After assuring reporters he really isn’t listening to advice these days, Beasley went down the roll of people he’s tuned out.
“Everybody,” he said. “My friends, family, teammates, coaches … I just stopped listening to people. I’m doing what I know how to do. That’s really it – the more I listen to people, the more I got to think about.”
Not shooting any free throws probably meant Beas didn’t have to bother ignoring those pesky gremlins he referred to earlier this season.
While we’re at it, let’s check in on what Hunter had to say about Beasley.
“I just want to say Michael Beasley … his last two to three weeks have been off the charts, even in practices,” Hunter said. “I’ve been riding him pretty tough.”
When asked if Beasley’s late uprising had anything to do with leaving a positive impression on, well, anybody before the season comes to a close, Hunter was blunt.
“Whatever his motivation is, then let it be that,” the interim coach said. “I really don’t care.”
DRAFT LOTTERY IMPLICATIONS
With the Cleveland Cavaliers knocking off the Boston Celtics, the Suns moved into third place in the worst-record-in-the-league sweepstakes.
Meanwhile, that coveted bonus lottery pick potentially conveyed to the Suns if the Los Angeles Lakers fail to reach the playoffs received a boost when the Utah Jazz took down the New Orleans Hornets.
The Lakers did maintain a half–game edge over the Jazz for the eighth playoff seed, though, by knocking off the Memphis Grizzlies in L.A.