This was just what the Suns needed after that massacre in Utah Thursday night--a nice, Eastern conference opponent who was willing to run with them. The Bucks did a good job of keeping up, though, leading by seven at halftime before falling to one of those patented third quarter blowouts by the Suns. In fact, if Bucks fans are looking for a reason to feel good about their team after this game, they can take comfort in knowing that the Bucks outscored the Suns in every quarter but one. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for us, that one was a doozy. The Suns outscored the Bucks 35-18 in the third, giving them just the right amount of cushion to survive the late surge in the fourth.
This game started out looking like we might be seeing the "Kobe effect" with Amare Stoudemire. He was torching the Bucks single-handedly, but unfortunately, his team was behind. However, the Suns came out on a mission in the third, especially Boris Diaw who had maybe his best game since 2005-06. It's been a long time since we got to see Diaw play like this, and it was a lot of fun to watch. He set a season high with 21 points (10-of-15), and also had a team-high 11 rebounds to go with 4 assists, a steal, and a block. He was a huge part of that third quarter run, especially on the offensive end but also on defense as well. He was aggressive going to both the basket and the boards. Whatever happened to get him so fired up for this game needs to happen before every game. Thanks in part to Diaw's efforts on the glass, the Suns out-rebounded the Bucks 34-27.
By the fourth quarter, it was Steve Nash leading the way and looking like he couldn't miss if he was blindfolded. He certainly didn't look like someone fresh off of missing a game with the stomach flu! Nash ended up with a season high 35 points (13-of-17), five three-pointers, seven assists, and approximately 18,000 "MVP" chants.
For the Bucks, it was Andrew Bogut doing most of the damage with a 29 point, 11 rebound effort. But he had plenty of help, especially from Charlie Bell who hit some big threes late in the game that kept the Bucks' hopes for winning alive. Bell had 28 points, 7 assists, and shot 7-of-10--even more impressive considering he came off the bench. He was a big reason why the Bucks out-assisted the Suns 23-19. Despite being on the second night of a back-to-back, and being thoroughly outplayed in the third quarter, the Bucks didn't go away. They got right back in it in the fourth and kept it interesting right up until "foul Steve Nash" time in the fourth quarter. But "foul Steve Nash" time usually means winning time, and that's what happened here.
Player of the Game: I thought Boris Diaw had this locked up at the end of the third quarter, but the truth is, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire were both worthy too. I guess I should go with the guy getting all those MVP chants. 18,000 people can't be wrong.
Runner-Up: I'll put Boris here. Sorry, Andrew Bogut. You'll have another shot at it in a couple of weeks.