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Down to the Wire in a Good Way: Suns Fight Past Pesky Jazz 103-98

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The Suns kept opening the gap, the Jazz kept slamming it shut. The Jazz made a bit of a run, the Suns said "not this time", and took it right back. Biggest lead for the Jazz: 6. Biggest lead for the Suns: 8.

This was a great game to watch if you like close, hard-fought battles to the end. The Suns started out with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor, taking an early lead that didn't last long. The Jazz fought back and took a lead of their own, but the Suns ended up on top by four at the half, which set up one of the funniest halftime interviews I have seen in a while. Steve Nash took an elbow to the face in the first half, and had to give his interview with a giant-size chip in one of his front teeth. He milked the moment for all it was worth. You can probably catch the replays on ESPN News or ESPN.com. (Incidentally, the part of his tooth that got knocked out was a cap, courtesy of a Karl Malone elbow during Nash's Dallas days).

Were there things that could have been better? Yup. Like players not named Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, or Amare Stoudemire combining to hit 12-of-38 from the field. But that had a lot to do with the Jazz defense too, particularly Andrei Kirilenko, to whom I owe a bit of apology for the semi-dissing I gave him during the summer amidst rumors that he might be swapped for Shawn Marion. I still think Marion is the better fit for this team by far. But AK-47 was everywhere tonight on the defensive end (Shawn was too), and was also frequently the guy making key shots to close up those gaps I was talking about. So my bad with all the anti-AK talk.

The Suns played some pretty nice defense themselves, keeping the rebounding differential to five, and getting 13 blocks. Shawn and Amare seemed to be in competition for who could block the most. Amare won that battle with six, but the Matrix had the overall better line. This was a really fun game to watch. It kept me riveted to the screen on a night when I had planned to multi-task a bit. A real treat for the fans, and a nice way to bounce-back from the two consecutive clunkers.

Player of the Game: In his post-game interview Steve Nash said Shawn Marion gets the game ball. With 26 points, 12-of-19 shooting, 15 rebounds, five blocks, and two steals, I'm inclined to agree. Nash didn't do bad himself, though, with a game-high 29 points, 10-of-12 shooting, 11 assists, six rebounds, and two big threes that helped open up a lead in the fourth quarter that (finally) the Jazz couldn't close.

Runner-Up: He doesn't have the best stat line, and his plus/minus doesn't back it up, but I'm putting Andrei Kirilenko here. It just seemed like he was always the one hitting the timely shots on offense, and sticking up those rangy arms on defense to bring the Jazz back whenever the Suns looked like they might start running away with it.

Grading the Game: As always, I love a well-earned win. This one's an "A".