With a nod to Dan Hilton and his By the Numbers feature on Suns.com (and at the obvious risk of jinxing myself and the Suns for Thursday), I'd like to note that the Suns are now 3-0 in the games I have watched at the US Airways arena dating back to 2005. This includes getting to see the Suns' first home win of the season in 2005-06, as well as the game against Memphis last season when the Suns came into it 1-5. However, my theory that the Suns don't start to turn it around until I show up for my annual game(s) in Phoenix has been blown out of the water this season. With a 6-2 record that remains on pace with the 2004-05 team, it looks like the Suns didn't need my help to get on track this time.
The Suns were in full throttle mode tonight, picking up where they left off against Orlando on Saturday. Four Suns scored in double-figures, and when I said the Suns "soared" in my title, I was referring mostly to Amare Stoudemire, who soared, dunked, shot, rebounded, and even defended his way into a 26-point, 12-rebound night with four blocks to go with it. Another thing I noticed about Amare's play that hasn't always been obvious before: He seemed to be going out of his way to make the right decision with the ball instead of automatically thinking "score". Most of the time, he ended up taking the shot anyway, but it was nice to see him look for his teammates on a few occasions before doing so. Grant Hill also had an impressive night. After seeing him play in person for the first time ever, I would say that he seems to be a better defender than advertised. He was also on fire from the three-point line tonight, making three of four and looking far more comfortable behind the arc than he has in previous games I have seen this season. Shawn Marion and Leandro Barbosa finished out the 20+ point quartet, each scoring 23. Boris Diaw didn't have the greatest line in the boxscore tonight, but it wasn't for lack of being aggressive this time. He tried, but the shots just weren't falling. As for Steve Nash, this was one of those nights where the Suns didn't need him to score, so he concentrated on setting up his teammates. In the end, the Suns were clearly the better team by a mile in this game. They outdid the short-handed Knicks in every hustle category including rebounds, steals, and blocks. The final score is much closer than the game really was.
A few quick notes:
- There was an unexpected Eric Piatkowski sighting tonight. He scored on a three-pointer, but beyond that didn't seem to affect the game one way or the other.
- Sadly, there was not a D.J. Strawberry sighting. A tad disappointing, given that the Suns led by 21 at one point late in the game.
- I never realized how short Isiah Thomas is before compared to his players. They towered over him, even when he seemed to be dressing them down.
- Amare Stoudemire looked absolutely giddy every time he went to the scorers table to enter the game. It is very obvious that he loves to play.
- Shawn Marion was wearing a smile throughout the game as well. If he harbors resentment to still being in a Suns uniform, he doesn't appear to be letting it affect his game or his demeanor on the court
- I think the rowdy fans JSun mentioned in his recap of the Laker's game have switched allegiances and moved down to the fifth row. There were a couple of Knick fans a few rows down from me that gave new meaning to the words "obnoxious" and "rude". One of them practically shoved three Suns fans out of the way to grab one of the Sol Patrol's basketballs that they threw into the stands after their performance. In fact, I think he even snatched it out of somebody's hand if I recall correctly. He and his buddies spent the entire game heckling, and generally behaving badly. Somehow they managed to avoid getting kicked out, and even snagged a free T-Shirt to boot. At least they had to watch their team get run out of the building by the Suns.
- Why did Mike D'Antoni still have Steve Nash and other starters in the game in the fourth quarter with the Suns leading by more than 20? Maybe it was so fans would not be deprived of at least a couple really awesome plays involving Nash passes to soaring teammates. It kind of made up for not getting to see D.J. play.
- Lastly, a special shout-out goes to Hotel San Carlos for allowing me to borrow their business center to reprint my ticket that (for the first time ever) I left in my hotel room back in Tempe. Major gratitude for awesome customer service that saved my dinner plans, and maybe even my attendance at the game itself.
Runner-Up: I would normally give this to the best player on the losing team, but I'm going with Grant Hill. He deserves a mention tonight.
Grading the Game: A- (The minus is for not getting to see my favorite Suns rookie take the floor).