"Relax, relax, relax, OK? Everybody just relax, OK?"
So said Alvin Gentry with under a minute left and the game getting hairy at 105-100 after the Suns led by as many as 16 in the second half. Jared Dudley responded by pulling down a big defensive rebound of a Courtney Lee miss and then nailing a game-clinching 3 with 36.2 seconds left to seal a huge win for the Suns.
I'm relaxed. How about you? The Suns brought home a critically important win over the Rockets with a 20 point, 15 rebound performance from Marcin Gortat, 18 points and 10 assists from Steve Nash, timely third quarter defense, and 19 points from Dudley, including that clutch 3 with the game on the line.
Former Sun Goran Dragic came up big again for Houston with 22 points and 7 assists, and Luis Scola scored 21 but it wasn't enough for the Rockets as they could not overcome a 30-16 third quarter from the Suns, and allowed Phoenix to climb right back into the playoff race, now down only one game for the eighth spot.
On a night when Grant Hill returned from injury and the Suns desperately needed a win, they rode a great all-around performance with six players scoring in double figures including two off the bench and worked the Rockets over in the third quarter, then held on during white knuckle time in the fourth with clutch play.
If this Suns team is going down, it won't be without a fight, and all fists were swinging tonight.
- There are plenty of Telfair critics here, and I'm one of them, but he's playing great basketball lately. His hard, intense effort, never in question, has met with familiarity and confidence. More of this Telfair and the Suns are a team nobody wants to play.
- Dudley had a few rough games here recently, causing him to be spring-loaded to play well tonight and he nailed it. That game-winning 3 was cold-blooded and again his contribution was bigger than his box score indicated.
- Grant Hill didn't look to be missing anything physically. He ran the floor well, brought in 6 rebounds and scored his 2 baskets at key points. What was once true isn't always true, and the conventional wisdom that Hill can't be a backup might not always hold. He provided a great stabilizing force on the second unit.
- The role the Suns coveted when they signed Michael Redd was scoring, and Redd is filling that role as a pure scorer. He scored 13 in 20 minutes tonight on 10 FGAs and is a key reason the bench isn't blowing leads but often extends them, improving as he rounds into better health and conditioning.
- That 18 rebound performance from Marcus Camby in the first half? He had zero in the second half and the Suns ended up out-rebounding the Rockets 44-39.
- Answering the bell: The season was on the line tonight and the entire team responded with production up and down the line-up. Living to fight again tomorrow.