Amar'e's reaction after dunking the winning basket. (Photo by Max Simbron)
US Airways Center it's starting to become a dangerous place for opposing teams. The Phoenix Suns are the only team in the NBA yet to lose at home. They have won 17 straight games in the desert, dating to last season.
Some of us could say that tonight's game was fun, exciting and entertaining. Others could describe it as frustrating, nerve-wracking and bittersweet. What I'm certain about is that all of us went through a rollercoaster of emotions and that this game had so many WTF moments that you couldn't count them even if you tried really hard.
At the end of the day a win is a win and the Suns nailed some big shots down the stretch and got an offensive rebound that proved to be the defining play of the game. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and let's take a look at what happened before it came down to that exciting play.
The Suns were hot in the first quarter. They were hitting shots, moving the ball well and Steve Nash was finding wide open teammates with a variety of passes that made me jump from my seat on several occasions. They looked sharp and with a lot of energy. On the other hand, the Magic seemed tired and a step slower than the Suns. They were careless with the ball, having six turnovers and only scoring 9 points with three minutes to play in the quarter. Eventually their offense picked up and they managed to end the 17-0 run by the Suns with a run of their own. At the end of the quarter the score was Suns 33 and the Magic 22. Although they cut the lead to eleven, I had the feeling that Phoenix was in the driver's seat and that they would put the game away at any moment. Boy was I wrong.
Gentry decided to go with his bench to start the second quarter. Jared Dudley made a three pointer and Amar'e, who remained on the floor, got a nice feed from Dragic aka Frosty. This great play prompted Van Gundy to call a timeout as the Suns were pulling away and extending their lead to 19.
The Magic would not back down and they showed everyone why they are the best road team in the NBA, shooting accurately from the perimeter and fighting their way back in the game. At this point, Howard had been a non factor. The Suns were double teaming him as soon as he put the ball on the floor. The plan was working until Howard started to find open teammates who did what they do best...hit outside shots.
At the half, the Suns had shot 52% from the field while the Magic managed to stay close despite shooting 43%. Orlando had 13 turnovers and the Suns 6.
If I was Alvin Gentry I would be really disappointed with the effort shown in the third quarter. The Magic got the lead down to eight points thanks to a great shooting performance by Mickael Pietrus. He was absolutely phenomenal, scoring 15 points in the quarter.
Suddenly we had a ball game. The Magic erased what was once a 19 point lead and got it down to three. All of this happened with Vince Carter on the bench. Carter, who seldom hurts himself while playing the game of basketball, went to the bench due to a sore knee early in the Q. The Magic closed out the third trailing just 85-81.
4th Quarter Madness
Basketball is a crazy game. When you are in practice (Yeah, I'm talking about practice) you run drills, shoot the ball a hundred times, box out etc. You do all these things thinking that at some point of the season, these little things will help you win close games. But the truth is that sometimes you just need a little luck.
With the Suns ahead by one point, The Magic stole the ball from Amar'e. Anthony Johnson was leading the fast break and he dribbled the ball off of Pietrus' foot giving the ball back to the Suns. Steve Nash found an open Jared Dudley who shot the three ball but was closed out by Dwight Howard. With him nowhere near the paint, Amar'e was able to get the rebound off the missed shot by Jared. Offensive rebound leads to a dunk. Dunk lead to Amar'e's scream. Scream leads to the Win.
- Despite the comments that I saw on the game thread, Robin Lopez had a very bad game. He had only 2 points and 5 fouls in just under 5 minutes of playing time. It's very frustrating to see him play.
- Jared Dudley had a monster game. He hit big boy shots in the 4th quarter and scored 19 points to match his career high.
- The Magic shot 38 free throws. Dwight Howard alone shot 17 while being held to only one field goal attempt.
- Rashard Lewis didn't refuse to play in this game.
This was a game that the Suns desperately needed. They were rested and playing at home. The Magic were playing the second game of a back to back. True, wasting a 19 point lead is nothing to be happy about but remember that Orlando is a hell of a team and they showed it tonight.
Protect your home court. I bet that's on every championship team's check list. The Suns are certainly doing their best to comply with that statement.