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Losing Streak Ends: Suns Edge Magic 110-106

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Two streaks came to an end tonight as the Suns once again overcame a huge night by Dwight Howard to beat the Magic 110-106. The win ended the Suns' micro-sized losing streak at two, and Steve Nash's late-game miss at the free throw line (we call that "Dirking" the shot around here, after that game last March) ended his free throw streak at 53 for the season (74 dating back to last season, according to the broadcasters). I guess all good things have to come to an end eventually, but woo boy, what a time for him to miss one! But Steve would get a second chance at it with three seconds left in the game, and that time he came through with both of them to put a lid on it for good.

This one was a wild roller-coaster ride from start to finish. The Suns jumped out to an early lead that stayed in double-digits for most of the game. But the Magic showed why they have the best road record in the league (9-2 after this loss). Riding Dwight Howard's 30 points and 23 rebounds to go with some timely outside shooting by Hedo Turkolu, Rashard Lewis, and J.J. Redick, the Magic hung in there to close the lead to single digits several times, and all the way down to two in the final minutes. But that was as close as they got, and major kudos for that go to Raja Bell who put a cherry on top of his already-admirable performance by grabbing a critical offensive rebound with 16 seconds to go. The Suns played just enough defense on the Magic's last chance to win, got a little bit lucky, and came away with it. For those of us who like nail-biters, this was about as good as it gets without the game going to overtime.

The Good:

  • Leandro Barbosa's dunk in the second quarter (thanks for the YouTube, SueB!)
  • Raja Bell's first-half shooting (7-of-10 and 4-of-4 from three)
  • Shawn Marion's usual quota of hustle plays
  • Brian Skinner's grit
  • Steve Nash's passing (14 assists and just two turnovers)
  • The Nash-to-Marion way-up-high alley-oop in the third.
  • Amare's block on Howard, also in the third (another wallpaper for srp?)
  • Double-digit leads
  • The energy from both the team and the crowd in the mid-fourth quarter
  • Bell's rebound that probably saved the game
  • The 11 free throws Nash didn't miss
The Not-so-Good:
  • Giving back double-digit leads
  • Untimely misses at the free throw line from Nash and Marion
  • Steve Nash's shooting (2-8)
  • How the team looked when Steve wasn't in the game
The Outright Ugly:
  • Dan Majerle's and Gary Bender's matching pink shirts
  • Dwight Howard at the free throw line (a Shaq-esque 4-of-10)
  • Amare's blown highlight dunk in the fourth quarter
Player of the Game: The Suns looked like a different team--and not in a good way--when Steve Nash wasn't on the floor, but I'm going with Raja Bell. He played hurt, led the team in scoring (20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three), and most importantly grabbed that rebound at the end of the game that kept the Suns in possession and made the Magic start the foul game. It's not Raja's fault Steve missed a free throw, and I still think that rebound saved the game.

Runner-Up: Dwight Howard - see above.

Grading the Game: I'm calling this one an "A". I know there's going to be some disagreement on that because the Suns let a 15-point lead become two and had to hang on for dear life to eek out a win. Fair enough. But those who are regular readers here know how much I love games where both teams fight for it down to the wire, and the winning team can say without a doubt they've earned it. I thought this was the most fun-to-watch game I've seen so far this season, and am grading it accordingly. Feel free to give it your own grade in the comments or in the poll.

Boxscore NBA.com Recap Third Quarter Collapse