That's the difference between an extermely talented Denver team with two legit HOF players, the DPOY, a guy in JR Smith that can flat out score and a very solid bench full of role players and the Phoenix Suns. Heart. AI must be pulling his cornrows out as we speak.
The Suns started the game in total road hangover sleep walk mode against a Nuggets team fighting for its playoff lives. They punched hard and fast the Suns were reeling well into the 3rd quarter when Anthony Carter hit the wrong little Canadian in the face. That's one little feller that you just do not want to piss off.
From that point about 4 minutes into the 3rd quarter it was "game on" having spotted Denver a 17 point head start. And within about 12 more minutes it was game over. The Nuggets folded like a cheap tent after that counter-punch came and the Suns cruised to a 15 point victory.
There were a lot of great stats in this game. Nash's career high 8 three pointers on 12 attempts. The third best ever come back for a Suns team. Amare's amazing 41 and 14. And Shaq probably had his best night as a Sun with 20pts, 12rebounds and 4 of 5 FT's.
No, the best and most telling stat was this. The Suns out-rebounded Denver 26 to 6 in the second half and 49 to 29 for the game. Awesome.
Player of the Game
Is the MVP the best player or the most important to winning the game? Tonight we have a microcosm of that debate.
Amare took it up even another notch with 41 pts, 14 rebounds - 8 offensive - and was as unstoppable as any player in the universe.
But tonight there's no question. Steve Nash was the MVP. He straight up won this game. He willed his team back into it and made sure to drive the dagger home. 36 points and 8 assists isn't a bad line either.
Runner up POG
The Big If. Yes, that's right. Shaq is getting props from leader of the Trade Haters Club. Shaq did exactly what this team needed tonight. He grabbed rebounds. He scored effeciently. He provided on the court leadership. And he provided a nice look how the Big Guy can play point guard. And I don't mean that thundering breakaway in the first quarter. I mean how effective he was running the offense from the post.
I swear that the Suns have a secret black book of sure-fire plays they only open in case of emergency and we might have seen a few tonight.
Shaq on the block draws attention from Diaw's man. Diaw flashes down the lane pulling K-Mart off Amare to stop the pass to Boris for a layup. But then comes Amare like a running back following a very thin French fullback through the line and Shaq dishes a pefect pass for an Amare slam.
Or how about the new high/low game we saw with Amare and Shaq. Amare gets the ball near the free throw line. The defense focuses on him as Shaq moves to the front of the rim and gets the pass from Amare for the dunk. They ran this twice and it worked both time except that the second time Amare's pass was a bit to hard and went through Shaq's hands. A beautiful triangle play.
I love the way the Suns are using Shaq in the offense right now. They pound it low early in the game to establish that and pick up some early fouls and then later in the game Shaq is helping to run the offense and supporting Amare by making his man stick to him.
A few days ago in this post we discussed Kenny Smith's checklist to win the LOB Trophy. #7 on this list was "Magic Moment". ZF argued that Shaq diving into the stands in the Spurs game was this team's MM. I didn't think that quite rose to the level. Tonight, might have been it. Wins like this matter.
A few weeks from now the Suns are going to find themselves down in a playoff game and this game will given them the confidence they need to come back. This win mattered.
Update [2008-4-1 11:2:54 by Phoenix Stan]:
Great recap on Pickaxe and Roll. Sometimes you win a game and sometimes the other team loses. I think its fair to say that as great as the Suns played in the 2nd half that the Nugs blew this one. No way we come back like that on a top tier team.