PHOENIX – In Wednesday night’s episode of How The Lottery Picks Turn, some disorder was restored by the Phoenix Suns.
Riding a draft-diminishing wave of a three-game winning streak, the Suns parlayed four days of practice into a demonstration of how to hold a team under 100 points and still lose by 27.
“That was pretty bad,” interim coach Lindsey Hunter said after the Suns fell to 8-12 under his watch. “I do not see one bright spot to take from that game other than it’s over.”
The 98-71 victory was claimed by the Toronto Raptors (24-38), who hit town on a five-game losing streak and the convenient variable of Bassy’s Revenge.
Bassy, of course, is recently acquired point guard Sebastian Telfair, who on Tuesday admitted being bitter over the Suns giving his backup role to rookie Kendall Marshall and then shipping him out of town.
With Marshall going by the name “KButter5” in his Twitter handle, this showdown could have been labeled Butter vs. Bitter.
When it was over – Marshall’s inability to join the battle limited his participation to the first half – Telfair had 13 points, seven assists and a bit less bitterness.
“I wouldn’t call it personal,” Telfair said, “but you got to go out there and compete.”
The Suns, for the most part, played like competing was optional.
For the record (or close to it), the home team was on the verge of tying the all-time franchise low for points in a game (68) until Marcus Morris knocked in a 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining to become the only Suns player in double digits; he finished with 12.
For a while, Marcin Gortat was the top candidate for leading-scorer status even though his work night ended with 34 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. Gortat, who had eight points and seemed to be on his way to a much-needed big game (especially in the absence of Jermaine O’Neal), injured his right foot and didn’t return.
“I actually stepped on someone’s toe or foot with my heel, and that’s why … I don’t know what happened, I just heard a pop,” Gortat said. “Yeah, I’ll be able to play. Well, I say ‘yeah,’ but the doctors say ‘no,’ I’m out for a few days, maybe weeks.
“I definitely heard a pop in my foot, and I knew right away it wasn’t an ankle, it was just my arch. Obviously, I’ve got a big bruise and pain.”
With O’Neal out for personal business and Gortat potentially gone for a while, the Suns’ recent uprising — which occurred after they had slipped to a prime Ping-Pong pouncing position as the third-worst team (by record) in the NBA – could slow down a bit.
But despite Wednesday’s loss, Phoenix still sits in a sixth-place tie in the misery rankings. What made the night even more difficult by draft standards was what occurred to make a second potential lottery pick seem even more unlikely.
That pick, you probably recall, arrives if the Los Angeles Lakers fail to make the playoffs. On Wednesday, Kobe Bryant and his ninth-seeded cronies rallied from a big deficit to defeat the New Orleans Hornets shortly before the eighth-seeded Houston Rockets lost to the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers now check in just 1.5 games behind the Rockets.
In other big-picture news, the Suns’ attempted culture change doesn’t seem to be having a positive impact on the offense.
Against the league’s 25th-ranked defense, Phoenix shot 38 percent from the floor and committed 29 turnovers (converted into 39 Raptors points).
“Maybe in the first quarter we played OK,” Suns point guard Goran Dragic said, “but then everybody was holding the ball too much. We didn’t follow directions; three guys knew the play and two guys didn’t. That’s it.”
The Suns – whose employers cough up vouchers for free fast food to those in attendance when the team scores 99 or more points – haven’t generated enough taco-producing points since losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 1. The previous taco-supplying effort came way back on Dec. 19.
And bad offense is only overshadowing the struggle to become regularly solid on defense.
“You know, back to the drawing board,” Hunter said. “You have to make it happen. The only way I know how to do that is to get in the gym and grind it out and every single day come to try and get better.”