SAN DIEGO - Whether it’s the new ball or stamina problems that come with a long training camp or just a plain old team slump, the Suns just aren’t shooting the long ball the way they have come to expect. For a team that lives and dies from long distance, it’s a concern.
And with the regular season now finally within sight, the problems are getting worse instead of better.
Sunday night at the ipay-One Center, the Suns missed 19 of 23 3-pointers in a 94-91 exhibition loss to the injuryriddled Los Angeles Lakers. Take away back-to-back 3s by Steve Nash in the first quarter — when the Suns scored the first 10 points and led by as many as 11 — and the numbers are even uglier.
“That’s not good. It’s a concern, but I can’t see it carry through,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We have guys who can shoot and have proven they’ll make them. But when we shoot like this, normally we get beat pretty good.”
The Suns wrap up the preseason tonight at home against Seattle, and then have a week of practice to sharpen skills and improve familiarity before they meet the Lakers again in the regular season opener on Halloween night. D’Antoni started a small lineup for the first time (Nash, Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa), and it was successful early. But outside of Nash (10 points, 11 assists), the starters were 0-for-9 from long range and reserves were 2 of 11, with Jumaine Jones missing his first four before finally connecting.
“I’m just trying to run the floor and get myself into the shape I need to be in to play this style,” said Jones, who missed a lot of time with a badly sprained ankle. “The shots will come, that’s the least worry. I’ll hit those.”
The Lakers were missing seven players to injury, most notably Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown and Vladimir Radmanovic. But a strong game inside by second-year center Andrew Bynum (16 points on 8-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds) allowed the Lakers to pull out a win.
Barbosa played 34 minutes Sunday but had trouble both stopping and shooting 3-pointers due to a sore right toe that has bothered him on and off for about three weeks. D’Antoni indicated he might sit Barbosa out tonight, giving him two days off the toe before the team resumes practice on Wednesday.
“I’m glad it’s happening now so I can take care of it,” Barbosa said. “It’s hard to stop quick and get in the air on a shot. I hurt it, then it got better and now it’s come back.”
D’Antoni usually likes to use his last preseason game as a dress rehearsal. But the Suns have eight days to tinker between tonight’s finale with Seattle and the Oct. 31 opener against the Lakers, so that tendency will likely change.
“We want to get some of the new guys out there and get the rotations down,” he said. “Right now, it’s hard to call a play because not everyone knows it. We’ll get a few days off and work hard a few days during the layoff, and both of those things will help.”
Sonics vs. Suns
What: Exhibition game
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: US Airways Center
Radio: KTAR (620 AM)