This game was a great test, but Suns fans have to be thrilled with the result...
It was with much anticipation that I sat down to watch the Friday tilt between the C's and our Sunnies, and it didn't take long for me to get a feeling of déjà vu. I felt this was the most meaningful game between these two teams since the memorable '76 finals. The Suns came out with fire in their bellies at the US Airways Center Friday night. With Shaq in the fold, the team seems to have a new energy and an attitude that wouldn't back down. This was typified by the back and forth between Amare and Garnett. Shaq has definitely brought an attitude.
The Suns came out of the block in typical Suns fashion, with Amare hitting 14 in the first quarter. If it wasn't for the terrible butterfingers (11 turnovers), the 1st would have been about 40-13 instead of 23-13. The first half was a game of runs, but the Celtic run of 20-6 was mainly a cavalcade of Suns turnovers, as a broken Celtic offense sputtered all night. I was particularly excited to see the 18-4 first quarter rebound margin. You say what? This is the Suns we are talking about. Well, these aren't your dad's Phoenix Suns. Shaq has brought a new work ethic that we rarely have seen. Many of us fans have long been frustrated at our underachieving team that often had overwhelming talent, but always found a way to lose the last game of the year.
I saw Diaw playing passing lanes. I viewed Grant Hill playing like he has found Ponce De Leon's fountain of youth. I saw Amare play good body-up defense with Garnett. I saw LB's eyes light up at the open lanes that Shaq is creating. I saw the whole team play scrappy defense, standing up to the thuggery of Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins. And then there was the exchange between STAT and KG, followed soon after by Perkins' body slam of Amare. Boston was frustrated. They did not expect the Suns to stand up to them on defense. They probably get their scouting reports from Charles Barkley, who is fond of saying that Phoenix plays no defense.
Looking at the stats, Amare had another monster game, 28 and 6, and Hill's double-double was a consistent boost. Nash killed the C's with a few dagger 3s. There was one sequence that typified the game for me:
Ball's loose, scramble around midcourt, Bell digs it out, gets it to Nash, shot clock running down, Nash is gonna have to shoot, launches a 40 footer, off the back of the rim, rebound by Grant Hill! Gets it out to Nash, and the Suns call a time out.
When was the last time you saw the Suns hustle like that? That's got to hurt Boston's morale..
Player of the Game:
I have to give it to Amare. He set the tone early, shaking off a bad cold and taking it to KG from the start. He avoided early fouls, and did not let the Celt's rough play knock him out of his zone.
It was between Grant Hill or Shaq, but I have to give it to Shaq. His presence set the tone, and his 14 rebounds continued to send the message to the league: This team will no longer take prisoners.
For the Celts:
Most of the C's let their butterfingers, bad shooting, and their surprise at the Suns' play take them out of their game. But I was impressed with Rajon Rondo. I think it is time to admit that the trade of Rondo was a big goof.Boxscore ESPN.com Recap Arizona Republic Green Bandwagon