Well, that was fun, wasn't it?
After a very sluggish first half, I think we all (myself included) were wondering just what was going to happen in the game. Much noise had been made that the Nets had won 3 of their last 4, were 3-0 at home during that 4-game stretch, and were a potential trap game for the Suns, who would be looking forward to...the Pistons? Any way you slice it, everyone was in the "pretty sure we'll win this one" boat, with a side of "but if you let the Nets have a chance, they could steal this one."
Apparently someone forgot to tell Steve Nash about those things.
Nash was an absolute monster. Racking up 24 points, 14 assists, a team high 7 rebounds, all while shooting 9-16 from the field, including 3-4 from beyond the arc. Oh, by the way, that was all in 30 minutes of playing time. Jason Richardson also chipped in 23 points, while Amare Stoudemire scored 15 points with 4 rebounds.
Before I start the actual recap, I just want to say two words: Steve. Nash. I can't say enough about this guy. He's been injured, sore, beaten down, but still manages to come along and drop monster lines like this tonight. At one point in the evening, I was wondering if he was going to wind up with a triple double. While he didn't quite reach that mark, he stopped nothing short of leaving his imprint on the game. This guy is an extremely special player, and we're lucky to have him running our team at the level he is, being at the age he is. Definition of a true professional. Anyway...
The Tale of Two Halves
The Suns and Nets went basket for basket for the first period, with each team scoring only 23 points. The second quarter wasn't much better, where the Nets outscored the Suns 30-27, going into halftime with a 53-50 lead. At that point, some people began to panic. But the little voice of reason chimed in, reminding us that the Nets had built up leads on other, championship contender status teams (see: Lakers, Cavaliers, Celtics). The thing that has plagued the Nets this season has been inconsistency. Oh, and I think they had a severe lack of confidence for much of the season. Probably because they were on pace to become the worst statistical team of all time for a long while.
All statistical mumbo jumbo can be cast aside. The basic story of the first half was this: the Suns shot the ball well, but didn't defend. Even against the worst offensive team in the league, if you don't close out or play a semblance of decent defense, they'll make you pay. There's a reason these guys are in the NBA.
However, in the second half, the story was completely different. Coach Gentry must have had a (almost assuredly) profanity-laden halftime "pep talk" about energy, focus, and intensity, because when the team came out, they came out blazing. In the third quarter, the Suns outscored the Nets 38-23, and completely changed the momentum and feel of this game. It was as if the Suns realized what they were playing for, and then went ahead to let the Nets know as well. Hitting all 6 three point attempts in the quarter, the Suns were led by Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, and some timely shots by the one and only Jared Dudley. (Note: Is it just me, or does it seem like Dudley always seems to hit a 3 to keep the Suns from falling into a rut?)
The fourth quarter saw some of the Suns' reserves take the court, play around for awhile, and the starters come back on to ice the game. All in all, it was a quality win for the boys in purple and orange, despite the opposing team's win/loss record.
Deep Post-Game Thoughts by Jack Handy Trevor Paxton
- Where was Amare tonight? He shot 7-12 from the field, but only got to the free throw line twice (hitting one of two) and only racked up 4 rebounds. Not sure if it was just an off night for him, or if he just wasn't as necessary with Nash being the do-it-all master he was, but I'm intrigued either way.
- How good is Steve Nash? Seriously. Enough said.
- JRich is pretty valuable to this team. 26-4 when he scores 20+ points is pretty dang solid. (Correct me if I'm wrong)
- This team is pretty special. They seem to really, genuinely enjoy each other's company. Also, a 9-game win streak in the closing games of the season is pretty nice too. Let's hope we get some good news on Robin.
- I miss Robin.
- For what it's worth, I think the Nets will be at least a .500 team next season, assuming they bring a superstar/All-Star caliber player on board. BroPez, Devin Harris (though oft injured), Terrence Williams...plus the likes of John Wall or Evan Turner? Could be a scary team.
- Yi Jianlian is the biggest disappointment on the Nets. He's a 7 footer with 3-point range, yet can't manage to stay healthy or consistent. If he ever figures it out, he'll be a fine, fine player. Key operative word: if.
- I wish Earl Clark had gotten some burn to guard his former Louisville teammate. That is all.