Suns fall flat in opener
PHOENIX — Steve Nash made his teammates better, and while he cannot do the same for the latest Suns incarnation at least he will cover up the stinker of an opening-night performance.
Nash goes into the franchise’s Ring of Honor on Friday and much of the lead up will be about him instead of the 111-95 beatdown the Dallas Mavericks put on the Suns on Wednesday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Suns never got going at the up-tempo pace they want, even against the older Mavericks. The improved defense coach Jeff Hornacek sought wasn’t there, even with former defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler in the middle. The Suns missed seven straight 3-pointers at one point and shot less than 40 percent.
"Embarrassing at home, especially for opening night," Chandler said of the loss that wasn’t as close as the final margin. "It’s clear we got some things to work on. … Everyone from top to bottom can take a piece of this loss."
The Suns struggled through foul trouble, turnovers and cold shooting in the first half but trailed by just nine at halftime. They were down by 19 less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Hornacek immediately called timeout but only briefly talked to the players, leaving them to stand around and wait out the rest of the break.
The deficit grew to 25 less than three minute later and approached 30 to cap a 43-15 Dallas run before the Suns showed some fight in the fourth.
It was the worst season-opening loss at home in franchise history. The loudest cheer of the night came when Devin Harris missed a pair of free throws in the final quarter.
"They jumped on us," Eric Bledsoe said. "They’re a pretty good offensive team and I though we didn’t help each other on defense. They were getting layup after layup. … They got whatever they wanted.
"Everyone had jitters or whatever about the first game and we didn’t play our type of basketball. But it’s the first game and it’s a long season."
Bledsoe led the Suns with 15 points but he and Brandon Knight shot a combined 10 for 25. Markieff Morris was 1 for 6 and committed five fouls in 11 minutes on the court. Mirza Teletovic missed his first six shots and was 2 for 10 in his Suns debut.
"That first half, we had a lot of opportunities," Hornacek said. "Part of our aggressiveness was probably taken away by all those fouls they called in the first quarter. We had guys in foul trouble.
"Even with all that, we were still up by three at one point (in the second quarter) and we had one stretch where we had wide-open shots and didn’t make them. We could have probably blown the game open."
Instead it went the other direction, as the Mavericks got 48 points in the paint and 25 fast-break points.
"We never felt good offensively," Chandler said. "But we can’t let that dictate how we play defense. We gave up way too many points.
"I wouldn’t say I sensed this. There’s definitely some things we have to work on, clearly. … The only positive about this is when you get smacked in the face like this you got to address some things. I’m sure we’ll address some things tomorrow in practice and we’ll bounce back."
Forward Jon Leuer was a bright spot off the bench for the Suns. He was 5 of 9 from the field and had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Little else was worth gleaning from the opener.
"You got to flush it down the toilet," Hornacek said. "I think we were chalking the early part of the game up to a little nerves, a little being jacked up because it was the first game.
"So you chalk it up as a bad game by everybody and you bounce back two days later and play again."
Thankfully, Nash arrives shortly, to mask the night from all but the loss column and give these Suns a second shot at a first impression.
All 13 active Suns played in the first 18 minutes of the season. Doubtful that continues. Rookie Devin Booker was the last off the bench.
19 — The Suns were called for 19 fouls — to 12 for the Mavericks — in the first half. Seven Suns had at least two fouls in the first 24 minutes and both Chandler and Morris had three.
Booker’s first points in the NBA came on a 3 from the right corner in the third quarter. It is what he was drafted to provide. Booker finished 6 of 7 for 14 points.
- Brandon Knight
- Dallas Mavericks
- Devin Booker
- Eric Bledsoe
- FOX Sports Arizona
- FOX Sports Arizona - Suns
- Jon Leuer
- Markieff Morris
- Mirza Teletovic
- Phoenix Suns
- Tyson Chandler