How's that for payback? The Suns avenged an early November loss in grand fashion, thoroughly dominating the Hawks in every statistical category but one. As usual, that one category had to do with the boards. The Suns countered the Hawks' 26 offensive rebounds by out-shooting them 64% to 34%, blocking 19 shots, and snagging 12 steals. They held the Hawks to just 33 first half points. The Hawks doubled that total in the third quarter, but the Suns logged 38 points of their own. The Suns outscored the Hawks in all four quarters, including the mainly garbage time fourth. Even more impressively, they did it mostly without the three pointer. By the time Steve Nash nailed the first three-ball of the night midway through the third, the game had long been penciled into the "W" column.
A few points of interest:
- I think we can guess what the missing ingredient was back in November. Amare Stoudemire went to work dismantling the Hawks almost from the opening tip. He led the way in scoring with 24 points, added 7 rebounds, and had 4 blocks.
- Remember when it seemed like Amare and Boris Diaw could not function together at the same time? Not anymore. Diaw came within sniffing distance of a triple-double with 16 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. More importantly, he worked beautifully in tandem with Amare.
- Not only did Boris work well as a starter, Grant Hill had a pretty nice game of his own off the bench, especially given his "coming back from a lengthy absence" status. He went 6-of-10 for 16 points. I wonder if he would be open to a Manu Ginobili type role full time?
- It was a quiet night for Raja Bell, although he did get it going a bit late in the game. His defense was there, and the Suns didn't really need a big scoring night out of Bell anyway.
- How's this for efficiency? 8-of-10 by Diaw, 7-of-8 by Shawn Marion, 10-of-11 by Amare, 6-of-9 by Leandro Barbosa, 6-of-10 by Hill. By comparison, Steve Nash's 4-of-8 looks downright paltry. That's not to say Nash was invisible, though. Aside from his usual offense-driving self, he had three of those aforementioned 12 steals.
- Marcus Banks is apparently back in the rotation, seeing some meaningful minutes for the second straight game. The complete lack of dropoff when he was in the game for Nash will probably preserve his spot for now.
- Every Sun who was active played tonight and everybody scored. Alando Tucker was the odd man out on the inactive list.
- Let's put a positive spin on the offensive rebounding woes shall we? The Suns got a ton of practice blocking and otherwise preventing baskets tonight, because they had to do it 26 extra times thanks to offensive rebounds. The Hawks had 102 shot attempts to the Suns' 81, and still managed to lose the game by 33 points. Imagine how deadly the Suns would be if they could figure out this rebounding thing even just a little?
Player of the Game: Amare Stoudemire. It's a close call.
Runner-Up: I'm going "big league" tonight and giving it to one of the Suns. Boris Diaw gets the nod. In fact, I should probably scrap "runner-up" honors altogether this time, and just make Diaw and Amare co-players of the game.
Up Next: The Suns take on the Tony Parker-less Spurs at home on Thursday. I can't begin to describe what a bummer this is. I was really looking forward to seeing both teams at full strength. Grrrr...