PHOENIX – If the general aim continues at its current rate, the rallying cry for the U.S. Airways Center maintenance crew will be “All For Orange Paint.”
And here’s the explanation: with missed shots piling up during this season’s first two Phoenix Suns’ games, the rims have been under siege.
After the Halloween Night assault by the crooked-shooting Golden State Warriors, the Suns and mighty Detroit Pistons spent Friday night casting off in the low 40s. But unlike their performance in Wednesday’s season-opening loss, Phoenix retrieved a reasonably high portion of the misses and walked away with a 92-89 victory.
“We need to learn that there’s only one way to win games and that’s playing focused for forty-eight minutes and play hard and hustle and do all the little things,” Suns forward Luis Scola, who did most of that, said. “It’s not going to be pretty a lot of times, but that’s just the way it has to be.”
Five Suns scored between 13 and 16 points, sort of validating the team’s official “All For Orange” marketing chant that reminds us how all for one and one for all is swell strategy for a team with no superstars.
Even as a collective, Scola was right — this wasn’t an attractive win, but it’ll look absolutely gorgeous in the standings.
“We’ll take it,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after his team held Detroit to 41.1 percent shooting from the field and scored its first triumph of this campaign. “We’re still a work in progress.”
Yeah, we’re not sure which paint will dry first … what’s slowly being applied to the Suns’ canvas or what’s going to be needed on the rims.
After losing their first two games at home last season, Gentry doesn’t mind waiting a little longer for artistic basketball to occur.
“I think we made strides from where we were the other night,” he said.
For starters, let’s take a look at the reserves. Right, they didn’t exactly erupt on Game Two, either, but did manage to finish their two shifts without digging a hole.
In Friday’s fourth quarter, back-up shooting guard Shannon Brown bailed out some shaky execution by bagging 10 of his 14 points. This salvo sort of balanced out the chilly evening from starter Jared Dudley (2 points) and helped the Suns maintain an eight-point advantage by the time four starters checked back in with 5:53 left to play.
The bench’s second-quarter spin was abetted by an early return from starting four-man Scola, who scored 11 of his 13 points while helping the Suns erase an 11-point deficit.
“We’ve been struggling a bit in the second quarter,” Gentry said, “and what we tried to do was put him (Scola) in the position of a facilitator. He’s good at that.”
But the best facilitating was done, once again, by Goran Dragic, whose 10 assists could have been boosted considerably by adequate marksmanship from his teammates. Dragic, by the way, made half of his 10 shots, finishing with 15 points and one turnover.
Through two games, The Dragon looks relentless and – more importantly – confident.
“We still need to spread the floor more and our shots were not good,” Dragic said.
Center Marcin Gortat joined his point guard in taking a much-needed star-type turn, giving the Suns 16 rebounds and finding enough sweet spots in the team’s new Corner offensive alignment to contribute 16 points.
With Gortat tracking errant shots at both ends, the Suns outrebounded Detroit, 52-39. This welcome statistic included a 15-10 edge in offensive rebounding.
“I just thought we went for the ball,” Gentry said. “It wasn’t a magic formula, a magic portion or anything.”
With the defense still locked in, the rebounding upgraded and Gortat finding his previously lost bread crumbs in the lane, the Suns may not be a team built for the upper reaches of the NBA Draft Lottery. But before we start turning cartwheels, please note the offense has yet to be tuned.
“We have to get a rhythm,” Gentry said after his team shot 43.5 percent against Detroit. “We have to get a sense of what we’re doing out there and the spacing.”
Right, trusting that the new system will allow the ball to find them after hard cuts and weak-side screens could make the offense hum. Those still barging into creases that might be used as driving/cutting lanes include Gortat and Michael Beasley.
Ah, yes … Beasley.
“Beasley had his moments,” Gentry said.
He certainly did. We might start thinking of those as Teasley moments. On Friday, they featured a deep two-point hit that boosted the Suns’ lead to nine points at 2:09 of the fourth, and a spin-cycle layup to increase the lead to 11 in the third.
His total body of work was 16 points (on 7-of-18 shooting) and 7 rebounds.
For now, Beasley represents one of four or five decent weapons the Suns must consistently pull to be competitive.
“That was the key to the game,” Dragic said of Friday’s offensive balance. “If you have five, six, seven guys over 10 points that means everybody’s dangerous for a basket and the defense doesn’t know where the shot is going to come from.”
Unfortunately, with a game on the line, your own team might not know, either.