Obviously, my prediction for a nail-biter in the game thread was way off. I probably should have taken a peek at the Nets' previous game--last night's overtime loss to the Clippers, in which the Nets were out-scored 19-6 in the extra period. Clearly this was a team running on empty, in addition to being a sub-.500 team that the Suns "should" beat to begin with. Still, all caveats aside, the Suns won this game with energy. They took advantage of their more rested legs by running the Nets ragged, tormenting them with the three-ball, and going after steals, blocks, and rebounds. The result is a second straight walloping of a team that the Suns are supposed to, well, wallop.
Boris Diaw had another double-double tonight, and played a big role in holding down the fort at the start of the second quarter when Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudemire were all resting on the bench. In fact, the lineup of Diaw, Brian Skinner, Leandro Barbosa, D.J. Strawberry, and Raja Bell not only maintained the 15-point lead the Suns had at the start of the second quarter, they extended it by two. The Nets made a bit of a run to close the first half to within 11, but the run came when the "big three" were back in the game. In other words, there was no "Nash rest" letdown this time.
Amare Stoudemire led the Suns in scoring, and finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and several morale-crushing dunks. He did his damage in 33 minutes and just 16 shots. He also led the team in blocks with three. Shawn Marion was in foul trouble part of the time, and as a result, only played 29 minutes. But he was everywhere on defense, and ended up with five steals to go with his 16-point, 11-rebound double-double. While Amare was going to work on the inside, Raja Bell was bombing away from behind the three-point line. He was 5-of-10 from three, and ended up with 20 points. Steve Nash and Leandro Barbosa finished out the double-digit brigade with 13 and 12 points respectively. It was one of the rare nights this season that Nash didn't have a double-double in assists (he only had nine), but maybe that's because he had to share the sharing with Diaw and Barbosa. Like Diaw, Barbosa had six assists. D.J. Strawberry saw meaningful minutes for the second game in a row. While he mostly deferred to teammates on offense, he was relentless going after rebounds, getting hands in people's faces, and hustling in general.
Overall, this was a really balanced effort for the Suns where everyone was getting their opportunities, and making the most of them. The Suns went 4-1 with the 2006-07 starting lineup in the games that Grant Hill missed (not counting the Utah game, since Marion and Nash sat that one out). Here's hoping Diaw can continue to play well when he returns to coming off the bench.
Player of the Game: Joint recognition for Boris Diaw and Amare Stoudemire tonight. A bit of a cop-out, maybe, but gotta do it.
Runner-Up: This was one of those nights where I found myself watching our guys so much that I didn't pay as much attention to the opponent as I probably should have. I'll go with Richard Jefferson, who led the Nets in scoring with 24.
Looking Ahead: Next up is a four-game road trip, starting in Milwaukee on Tuesday.