And we thought our Suns would be much different than last year's team! HA!
In one respect, the Suns looked like the '09-'10 squad, blowing an 18 point lead in 5.5 minutes in the third quarter. What's more, in the waning seconds, it was looking as though the Suns were primed to lose the game the exact same way they did in Atlanta last year as they clung to a 2 point lead with 8 seconds left and the Hawks in possession.
But this is 2010, people. This time the Suns defense swarmed at a driving Joe Johnson who missed a floater in the lane. It was a free throw shooting contest from there, Suns 118-114
The Suns once again played a strong game with everyone contributing. Steve Nash tallied a season high 15 assists while chipping in 19 points and 5 rebounds. Jason Richardson led all scorers with 21 points, and the Suns bench dropped 46 points while the Hawks reserves managed only 19.
Early on it was a game of runs. The Suns scored 11 straight en route to a 17-8 advantage in the first. The Hawks responded with a 7-0 run of their own to close the lead to 2. In the second, Hedo Turkoglu keyed a 19-6 run with 8 points, including two 3's and the Suns went up 12, closing the half 61-50.
The Suns defense had been active, and although allowing the Hawks more than 50% shooting, had managed to keep anyone not named Al Horford in check. But in the 3rd, the slumping Joe Johnson exploded for 14 points, while Mike Bibby, and Jamal Crawford joined the 3-point party, draining 6 in the quarter, and erased an 18 point Suns lead.
The 4th was tightly contested. 7 straight Josh Childress points put the Suns up 104-98. But the Hawks scored on 6 consecutive possessions to tie the game at 108 with a minute left. After a Jamal Crawford bucket with 42 seconds left (he missed the 3 that would have given the Hawks their first lead since early in the opening quarter), the Suns called a timeout. Steve Nash found a mismatch with Channing Frye guarded by Mike Bibby. Frye hit a bank that put the Suns up for good.
Hedo-11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 3-pointers
Grant-14 points 6 rebounds
Frye-8/2/2, 2 big 3's and a big 2 over Bibby in crunch time
J-Chill-11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists in his return to the ATL
Dudz-15 points, 6 rebounds
Can you feel this team growing stronger and more confident? The word Chemistry was murdered in the preseason, but I think it's clear that Alvin Gentry and every one of the Phoenix Suns weren't only talking about whether the guys went out to eat together after a game or whether Nash and Hedo could play the two man game. Chemistry encompasses much more. This team is growing more confident individually, but most importantly, they are gaining faith and trust with one another. These past two games have been against non-elite squads, and that certainly helps. Yet the Grizzlies and Hawks are not bad NBA teams.
- Hedo is starting to put it together, his legs seem less tired, and he isn't worrying so much about getting out of Nash's way.
- Nash had 2 TO's against 15 assists. If he had tired legs, he found a way to get them energized. Tonight he wasn't forcing things the way he was in the first 4-5 games. Further, if you dish 15 assists out, there's a good chance you and your teammates are on the same page.
- The WarMachine is making a difference. He only dropped 6 tonight but he is playing a vital role, his 2 man game has been excellent, and his athleticism is certainly needed.
- Remember when we were worried about Jason Richardson? No longer. He is playing All-Star caliber basketball and has been since midway through last season.
- Channing Frye played an excellent defensive game against Memphis a couple nights ago, and tonight he hit a couple of big 3's. His shot will continue to improve, and while we probably won't see 150 3's this season, his early showings on the defensive end and ability to play in the paint are arguably more important than his normal stand at the top of the key and wait for Nash to pass from last season, not to mention '09-10's obvious shortcomings on the defensive end.
- Dragon is very, very good. Playing confident, energetic. Did you see him early on in the game get the ball in the corner, look down to make sure his feet were beyond the arc , then calmly fired up a 3? That's some serious confidence if you're asking me.
And lastly, if you were on the thread tonight, you probably read Seth's comment on Robin Lopez. The reports are that Robin is struggling in main part due to his back. I'm paraphrasing obviously, but it makes a lot of sense, and if you have a condition with your spine (I do), you can understand that overcoming an injury like this is both mental and physical, not unlike Amare returning from his knee issues. Even if you are playing without pain, there is a hesitance that comes with attempting to move in a specific way. You doubt you can do something, so you do not try to do it. It's probably a poor explanation, but if you've been through it, you know what it's like...
Next up tomorrow, the Grizz again. Get some sleep, people it could go to two overtimes again.