Washington fell at home last night to the visiting Phoenix Suns in a 109-91 let down at the Verizon Center. Steve Nash didn’t perform perfectly, but he ended up with another solid performance as he led the Suns with 17 points and 14 assists. Channing Frye benefited the most from Nash, as Frye sank a career-tying 7 treys on the night on his way to a game-high tying 25 points. The Wizards were led by Nick Young in defeat, who scored 25 and secured 8 rebounds despite the loss. Rookie John Wall finished with 11 points and 14 assists yet 9 of his assists came in the first 8 minutes and change of the first quarter, while Rashard Lewis achieved a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds yet went 0-for-5 from downtown.
Washington led Phoenix 33-22 after one quarter and held on to a 53-52 lead by halftime. Despite the relatively strong first half, the Suns pushed forward with a dominant third quarter as the Wizards fell flat from the field. “We had some good opportunities, even in the third quarter we missed some wide open shots, we missed some layups,” Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders told the media postgame. “(In the second quarter) we couldn’t get in any running game because they were shooting free throws […] so we did not have that free flow that we had in the first quarter.” As the result of stoppage time, and poor shooting, Wall achieved only a single assist in the second quarter. However, despite the team playing poorly, Wall did not kick into that second gear to dominate. If the Wizards expect to win ball games then Wall is going to have to string together some 20-30 point nights. However, last night was also an example of Wall just not having the help.
In the third quarter, Frye went nuts. He swished 4 of his 7 three point makes on the night and helped spread the floor for Nash as a result. As Washington struggled to find defensive consistency, the Wizards shot 30% from the field as a team over the quarter. Entering the fourth, the Suns led 83-71. Washington tried to make a push, but the deficit never dropped below 8 points and instead extended to as many as 19. “Steve Nash always keeps his dribble alive, dribbles all the way through the baseline, so you got to keep chasing him,” Wall told the media postgame. “I think I did a better job than what I did the last time we played them in Phoenix.” Nash entered last night as the second overall assist man in the NBA, and now Wall has to battle Rajon Rondo and the Celtics. “He’s a terrific player,” Nash commented, regarding Wall. “He’s just going to get better and better. He’s a lot of fun to watch and I think it’s exciting as far as the league and watching him grow and develop.” One thing Wall — and the Wizards — have yet to figure out is how to defend good pick n’ roll offense, something the Suns accomplish even better now that they have Marcin Gortat coming off the bench along side back-up point guard Goran Dragic. While Nash wasn’t “perfect” last night, Dragic finished with a respectable 11 points and 5 assists off the bench, while Gortat finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 steals. That’s some nice depth to have off the bench. And then there are the Celtics, one of the deepest in the NBA. How can Wall — and Washington — tackle them?
Boston is fresh off a victory over Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz, but they’ll be without Shaquille O’Neal tonight, who injured himself during that game. Likewise, Kirk Hinrich had to check out last night for the Wizards, yet he isn’t on the official “out” list. Keep an eye on his status on this back-to-back night. The Celtics are hit hard as far as front court luxuries, yet their core — Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and now Rondo — is in check. Tonight’s game will therefore be the ultimate test for the struggling Wizards. Nick Young has a four-game 20-points or better streak going on, and he’ll have to deliver another one tonight if the Wizards hope to win. Andray Blatche will have to take his battle with KG personally, as he refused to the last time the two teams met. And it’ll all go back to Kirk, who had a decent night last night but fell to injury concerns, creating a bit of a hole for Washington as the Suns closed out the game. Stay tuned.
WAS – Josh Howard (Out; Knee).
BOS – Kendrick Perkins (Out; Knee); Delonte West (Out; Wrist); Jermaine O’Neal (Out; Knee); Shaquille O’Neal (Doubtful; Hip).
Howard expected to be out at least 10 more days. No relation between Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal.
Telecast: CSN @ 7:00 p.m. ET
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
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