Feel free to comment below during the course of the game, and I'll do my best to respond to your comments, observations or questions (however sarcastic they may be).
If the Suns want at least the number three seed (they should, to avoid the Lakers in the second round), they have to win out. That's because they play two of the teams they're currently chasing, Denver and Utah, to end the season. Losses to them are double whammies in the standings as opposed to teams not involved in the current Western Conference fracas.
Before jumping ahead, though, Phoenix faces the gritty Houston Rockets. Aaron Brooks could go off for 30-40 points. Pick a no-namer to go off for at least 20 (Chase Budinger or Hilton Armstrong are my picks). Pick Luis Scola to infuriate you at least five times with his Argentina-flopping/who-me? tactics. But pick the Suns to win at home over a team that's actually smaller than them, even without Robin Lopez.
J-Rich should abuse Kevin Martin down low, and hopefully Amare will take exception Scola's tactics, as long as he does so by playing harder instead of whining louder, as he did the other night.
This isn't the time to whine. It's the time to win, or not have home-court for the first round
12:00 - After making the bone-headed decision to dribble into a 20-footer in crunch-time against OKC (and ignoring Nash/Stoudemire/Hill in the process), Frye had better bang and rebound against the Rockets' smaller lineup. That or stop announcing he's opting out this summer for more money.
Shane Battier is out. That's good. I can only stand so many blue-collar, all-around Dukees on the floor at the same time. Plus he's such a Mr. Rogers in front of the camera, it makes me nauseous.
11:32- J-Rich in the post right away. Love it. No shot this time, but look for that mouse-in-the-house matchup all night long.
10:49- Refs are apparently little guy fans, calling the o-foul on J-Rich. Make-up call on the other end with an o-foul on Scola. Turnover by Nash. Ugly ball early.
10:00- Brooks sinks the three to spot Houston 5-0. Amare finally takes it with authority (and the ball high) for the Suns' first points.
9:25- Nash's jumper just settles the Suns down and shows them how easy it is. Meanwhile, an Amare sighting on defense (great block).. 4-5, Rockets.
8:33- Nashty pull-up three. Looks like he wants to run the table on the season. Brooks responds with a three to tie it up at 8-apiece. Game on?
7:33- 'Notha great block by Amare, but it goes right to Brooks for the three. Amare looks remarkably attentive on the weak side. Without Lopez, that's huge. Brooks has 11 of Houston's 13 points.
5:43- Internet connection goes out...hate my apartment. Amare has a poster dunk during my unintentional commercial break (figures), and the Rockets are the Brooks/Ariza show thus far on offense.
The sideline reporter runs a horribly cheesy promo on Star Wars night (random). That's Exhibit A as to why Phoenix will always be considered a big town, not a big city.
4:47- Ariza hits a three; just their sixth of the game already.
4:22- J-Rich misses the most wide-open dunks/layups in the league. Period. Pathetic for a two-time Slam Dunk champ. Frye misses a three (took him all of three seconds to shoot it), and the Suns are down 26-22.
3:26- Hill nails the three. Scola responds. I just dislike Scola. He just rubs me the wrong way, along with compatriots Ginobili, Oberto and Nocioni, which is weird, 'cause I lived in Argentina for a little while.
2:42- Timeout, Suns down 28-25. Must-win games are defined my defense, and so far that just hasn't happened. Aaron Brooks looks like Vinnie Johnson, and Channing Frye needs a guilt trip in the worst way.
2:21- Over-the-back on Phoenix leads to another Houston three. That means, Phoenix didn't box out. Didn't box out Houston? Inexcusable. Turnover Houston, but they're up 31-26. You'd think the teams' respective positions were reversed.
1:36- Channing travels. Makes up for it with a block. I still wouldnt' give him more money.
0:54- The Slovenian is in, and Frye promptly blows his assist by bricking the three. Amare 'boards and puts it back (should get at least five more of those tonight). Scola responds.
0:05- See what happens when Frye passes? J-Rich gets the and-1 jumper, and the Suns are within one.
0:00- Kyle Lowry just made the Suns look lazy ('cause they were), making the runner at the buzzer. Rockets up 36-33.
Zero intensity on defense, except from Amare. I didn't think this would turn into a Frye Hate Fest, but the guy is doing nothing for me. Even his token good plays don't soothe my irritation at a 6-11 guy who could be so much more than what he is - a hot-cold three-point shooter who can't rebound or intimidate on D.
11:22- Budinger is showing up his fellow Wildcat alum Frye. That just shouldn't be.
10:35- Dragic nails the three, but it's nixed by the subsequent no-show in D. Guess who let the Rockets get in the lane? Yeah. Frye. Come back, Robin, for my sanity. Rockets up 42-36.
10:02- Dragic just pulled the Dream Shake! Almost got the three-point play. I'm giddy over that move. Not so much over his 1-for-2 showing at the line.
9:37- Dragic and the Suns just got ripped off. Dragic got the steal and had the ball when the shot clock went off. Refs say Dragic didn't have possession and call off his dunk. I say the refs don't have a clue and call off their salary. Suns miss and it's Rockets ball. Bad break or bad omen?
8:43- Jeffries definitely played for D'Antoni recently - his flop attempt was ghastly. STAT makes the free throws, Suns down 44-42.
8:09- Great ball movement gives Barbosa the open three. Much better than Leandro dribbling the ball to death. Btw, that was all created by defense.
7:44- D is officially back. Lou forces another turnvoer. As if to prove my point, Barbosa dribbles too much, and gets called for the charge.
7:05- Amundson gets under people's skin. I love it. People judge by appearance, and Lou doesn't look like he should be affecting you the way he does. Timeout, Suns up 45-44.
6:52- Amundson cleans up an ugly Barbosa drive. Houston's finally cooled off. Averages don't lie.
5:45- Welcome home, Jordan Hill. I wonder if he ever dreamed of being part of an Amare poster? Next possession, Amare goes right back at him. That dunk was a signal to Amare that he can take Hill easy and often. Suns up 51-46.
4:54- Nash and Barbosa actually miscommunicated on their patented backdoor cut. I'm trying to remember the last time that happened.
4:41- Little men have big attitudes, as evidence by Brooks' technical foul. Nash makes the freebie. . I guess that was a lob from Barbosa, but if it was, it was a horrible attempt. Houston converts, and its' a two-point lead.
3:49- Barbosa is finally pulled for J-Rich, but Amare is having issues converting inside. Doesn't matter, though, when Nash does the extra-long Euro-step in the key for the layup.
3:09- Not that I mind, but Brooks can't get a call. The dude has had four specific calls against him, and he and Adelman feel like the refs have a vendetta against him.
Even with Brooks on the bench, the Rockets have another high-scoring waterbug guard in Martin, who gets to the line. Timeout, Suns up 54-50.
2:20- Lou should be crowing about a raise more than Frye. He's finding a niche in the pick-and-roll, this time getting a dime from J-Rich. Scola gets fouled but misses a freebie. Suns up 56-53.
1:59- Sure, Lou. Miss the jumper right after I give you some pub. As I type it, he slams home an 'oop from Nash. I'll shut up now.
1:21- The Slovenian and Frye come in. My feelings are understandably mixed.
1:02- Lou gets another dunk courtesy of Nash. If only he had a jumper to keep him on the floor. You know, between Amundson and Budinger, you might have the best white hops in the league in one building tonight.
0:06- Lowry threads the pass out of the triple-team to Hayes for the layup. Kevin Johnson is rollin' over in his grave. Suns' call a 20-second TO for a last-second shot. Dragic for three. Not Frye. Please.
0:00- Nash loses track of the clock, no shot. Halftime, Suns up 62-57.
Good thing the Suns' D picked up, otherwise the Rockets could have 70 right now. They ripped the Suns apart at first, but then Phoenix's bench got told by Gentry and picked it up.
Big Lou's got eight points and three boards. I should put him in the MVP voting poll. Amare's on his way to another big night - 17 pts and 7 boards.
Third quarter, Suns need to go Temple of Doom on Houston and rip their hearts out. More Amare down low, less Frye out high, and more defense all around. If the Suns can't corral the Rockets, how're they gonna stop the Thunder/Jazz/Nuggets/Mavericks/Blazers?
NBA Broadband is promoting their top four for next year's Slam Dunk Contest. Rose is a candidate, apparently because of his dunk on Dragic earlier this season. One good dunk does not make him a Slam Dunk candidate (he's not), but it's sad how purple and orange always seem to be on the receiving end of those season highlights.
11:25- Amare down low. Again and again. No one can stop him. The only worst mismatch was Jordan against the Jazz backcourt in '97 and '98.
10:07- Jarron Collins was a nice surprise for a couple games, but reality has set in. He's a bit player, and he's the Suns' starting center.
9:11- Jarron just showed me up. Kind of. Collins had the longest breakaway layup I've ever seen. Barbosa/Dragic would've been faster in slow-mo, and he may still need a blow after that play. After a backcourt turnover to Houston and a Stoudemire jumper, Suns up 70-61.
8:08- Nash weaving, Nash dishing, Amare finishing. Vintage Suns ball for the last half-decade. Suns up double-digits now, and Phoenix has that we're-better-than-you swagger.
7:34- Amare's like a shark smelling blood, now. STAT just barrelled into Hayes, count the basket, but miss the FT.
7:02- Ariza airball gets the crowd involved, and J-Rich follows that with a gimme in the lane. Stoudemire's passing is almost underrated now.
6:02- Scola's keeping the Rockets from getting blown out. Jumper keeps them within ten. Hill answers with a straightaway jumper, and Adelman calls time to stop the bleeding. Suns up 79-67.
Amare already has 26 and 9. Show him the money, Kerr, 'cause you ain't getting better with the $6 mil you'll have under the cap if/when he leaves.
4:55- Collins gets a bucket after some great ball movement. In that area, along with rebounding and defense and toguhness, Collins is inmeasurably better than Frye.
4:12- Lead pass for Budinger is too long. Nash makes it look so easy, but it's one of the hardest passes to make.
3:16- Frye comes in for Collins, and my teeth are already clenched. Dudley's in for Hill, but lets Budinger nail the three. Suns up 81-74.
2:53- Stop shooting, Frye!!! What a brick-factory! Scola makes Frye pay for his stupidity/selfishness with a layup off a Brooks dish, and the Rockets are within five.
2:26- After the timeout, Stoudemire saw Jordan Hill was back in, and promptly took him to the rim for the foul. Misses another gimme, though.
1:54- Two o-boards by the Rockets lead third-chance shot, and Houston is within four. This is the single biggest reason the Suns aren't a championship-caliber team - NO KILLER INSTINCT.
1:17- Scola inside, but Frye responds with decent shot selection. Nash follows that up with a back-off three, Suns up seven.
1:28- Can I get a 20 on the Suns' pride factor? Scola looks like an All-Star, and Budinger looks like ROY, hitting a three. Suns up two.
10:42- Connection goes out, but comes back in time for me to see the game tied.
10:20- The Slovenian drives and scores. He's the man. I have a man-crush on Goran Dragic. Lowry responds with a drive of his own and ties the game again.
9:40- Dragic misses a three, but I don't mind that from him as much as I do from Frye. Favoritism? Maybe. i don't care.
9:10- Amare and the bench holding serve, but Brooks hits the three to give Houston a one-point lead. I can't believe this. Phoenix needs this game in the worst way, but I'm not getting that desperation vibe. Teams that can't muster a desperation vibe in the regular season certainly can't do it in the playoffs.
7:36- Dragic is staying in with Nash, and shows why with a steal and ft's off the fast break. Suns up 93-92.
7:08- Jeffries gets the o-board, but STAT makes up for it with another great denial. This Stoudemire better show up in the playoffs.
6:09- Budinger, my pre-game no-namer that would hurt the Suns, hits the three. Amundson routinely misses his ft's off the offensive board. Rockets up two.
5:42- Rockets turnovers are helping Suns' cause, and timeout is called to stop the chaos. Suns need to put their foot down now, or they'll be saying "if only" come playoff time.
5:27- I'm in danger of sounding sacrilegious, but Dragic is better than Nash at making skip passes. He doesn't need to weave in a full circle to see the open man. He sees Hill and whips it to to him. Hill only makes 1-of-2, but it's out-of-bounds off Houston. Amare gets the man-shot inside, adn the Suns are up one.
5:00- Brooks hits another three (six on the night). He's the man. Crowd him.
4:24- Scola just faked both Stoudemire and Frye out of their shows one after the other. Embarrassing. Misses both freebies, though. Don't cry for me, Argentina.
4:10- I can't see Stoudemire, but he's in there making shots. That's how much Houston's crowding him.
3:53- Stoudemire's big foot in the circle costs him the charge from Scola, who gets two freebies to put them up two again.
3:31- Amare Moment. Saves the ball from out of bounds with effort not normally associated with Mr. Stoudemire, then throws down a dunk in traffic. Pay him, Kerr/Sarver. Pay him or ready yourself for riots.
3:12- Houston (Scola, actually) is living at the line, and they're up two.
3:07- Nash hits his patented crunchtime three, and Frye (FRYE!) comes up with a clutch rebound...AND HITS THE THREE! SUNS UP 4! 2:39 LEFT! I forgive Frye everything. He's my favorite player.
Now that the timeout has calmed me down, let me retract my previous statement. Frye is not my favorite player. He just made my second-favorite sequence of the evening (after Amare's save/dunk play). I feel better now.
2:27- Turnover Rockets, J-Rich three (three in a row, 9-0 run), and things are once again as they should be.
1:39- Frye just hit another three, and a possible heart-wrenching loss has turned into a rout. This is incredible. I've never seen such a huge swing in momentum (except when Phoenix's lead-losing streak earlier this season).
1:09- Hill unofficially seals the game with an inbounds pass steal. Such a Dukee play.
0:32- Budinger's gets his 20 points thanks to garbage-time buckets. Then the Rockets stubbornly foul Nash to postpone the loss. Nash at the line..."MVP! MVP! MVP!"
0:23- Nash is limping, and the city of Phoenix just got sick. Mr. Canada looks ok, but no one will sleep well until the official diagnosis comes out.
0:20- Houston scored during the Nash injury, and they're scrapping to stall. Finally the Suns clear the board and hold out for the win. How's Nash? Get him to the hospital? X-Rays, MRI's, get it done, ASAP.
Big win. Huge win. A win they almost lost. Suns are tied with Denver and Utah, and play both of them this week. I love this game.