Be honest, did you think the Suns were going to pull this one out? Of course you did, because this team never quits. Tonight the Suns overcame a very slow start by outscoring the Houston Rockets 33-23 in the fourth quarter to win 111-105.
Tonight encapsulated the Suns season of a new hero every night. We could credit any of a number of players with the hero tag:
- Steve Nash with 16 assists
- Amare Stoudemire with 23 points
- Jason Richardson with 20 points
- Leandro Barbosa with a key block on an almost certain Chase "Air Bud" Budinger layup
- Jarron Collins with 6 big points and 6 big rebounds in place of the foul plagued Channing Frye
- Channing Frye with a huge 3 pointer before he fouled out to give the Suns a 5 point lead.
Or why not credit the whole Suns team? 10 players took the floor tonight, and 9 Suns had at least one rebound, and 7 players had at least 3 rebounds. The Suns tightened up the defense when it mattered, as usual this season, forcing the Rockets into jump shots down the stretch in the 4th quarter while containing Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry for their 10th win of the season.
Tonight, the Rockets began the game on fire, quickly taking a 19-9 lead. They slashed to the hoop, they dropped threes, they picked up every rebound, they hustled. The Suns looked like a team that had just woken up from a late afternoon nap. Yet the Suns woke up halfway through the second quarter, using an 12-0 run to close within 2 points as the starters returned to the floor.
Led By Amare Stoudemire's 15 points, the Suns were able to keep it close at the half, 55-52. The rebounding margin was closed to 20-26, and the Suns were shooting 48% to the Rockets 45%. The Suns were shooting 3-11 from three point range.
The Suns were ready for Nash to break out and Stoudemire to complete his aggressive first half with a destructive second half to complete another double digit comeback. Unfortunately it didn't really work that way. Nash continued with his tough shooting night and Stoudemire suffered through foul difficulty. It was time for everyone else to step up.
A J-Rich three brought the Suns ahead 61-60. Steve Nash scored his first points on a short jumper. The Suns defense converged, causing 3 quick Rocket turnovers.
But both Stoudemire and Channing Frye picked up their 4th fouls in the third necessitating the use of Jarron Collins. Collins came up big on both ends of the floor and Jason Richardson kept the Suns close with 12 third quarter points.
- Richardson battled for rebounds, dunked, shot the three and the mid range in the third quarter. Unfortunately Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks turned Rich's effort into a dual of sorts, as the Suns trailed at the end of 3, 82-78.
- The Suns iced the game on a Stoudemire drive. Stoudemire took the ball to the hoop on Carl Landry, found himself blocked off and slipped the ball to Jarron Collins who converted a two while drawing a foul.
- Barbosa plays much better with Steve Nash on the floor. The two have an unspoken game going on, with Barbosa slashing and Nash blindly knowing where he'll be.
- The Suns have come back in 5 of 7 game when facing double digit deficits this season to win.
- After a timeout with 2 minutes left and the Suns leading by two, Channing Frye ripped a three to bring the lead to 5. It was a fitting climax for Frye as the next play he was called for a very questionable sixth foul.
- The Suns overcame a dismal three point shooting night, (6-21, 28%%)
- Phoenix had 9 blocked shots tonight, compared to the Rockets 1.
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The Suns are playing fourth-quarter defense like they dreamed of doing the past five years. The Suns slowed Houston's speedsters to 9-of-28 shooting in the fourth, putting their opponent fourth-quarter shooting at 40.4 percent in the 10 wins. Phoenix forced the Rockets into jumpers and challenged them inside, thanks in large part to the surprise crunch-time play by center Jarron Collins .
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But on nights when he gets into foul trouble, the Rockets have no place to turn. That lack of size and some stumbling and bumbling down the stretch were the biggest factors in a 111-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night at Toyota Center.
Highlights via NBA.com