It was 10 minutes of sheer basketball bliss. A nail-biter down to the final seconds. Perhaps the best finish to a game I've seen all year. But enough about the end of the double-overtime Blazers-Bulls game that simultaneously entertained me thoroughly, while also blocking out the horrific first quarter of the Suns-Sonics game. (Although if you do want more on the Blazers-Bull game, Blog-a-Bull and Blazer's Edge will happily oblige).
Let's talk Suns-Sonics.
Like I said during the live blogging in the game thread, I think the Suns may have taken this retro thing a bit too far. Although those of us watching via TNT didn't get to see any of that first quarter debacle, a quick look at the boxscore tells me that the Suns played a lot like it was 2003-04 during those first 12 minutes of game time, getting outscored 33-13. But then the 2004-05 Suns showed up in the second quarter, showing that a 20-point deficit means nothing when you can rain threes on your opponent and score in spurts. However, by the time the game was over, the 2007-08 Suns were back when, after leading by as many as 15, they had to hang on for dear life in the final minutes as the Sonics closed it within four. But also like the 2007-08 Suns, entering the fourth quarter with a lead meant ending it with a lead as well.
This was a fun game to watch for most of the night. I can presume the first quarter was beyond awful. But for those of us who joined in the second, it looked like the Suns had a bit of extra pep in their step at times. Steve Nash looked shoulder pain-free, making 7-of-11 from the field, hitting three of his six three-point attempts, and being even fancier than usual with some of his passes. Amare Stoudemire continued to be a beast inside, with another 30+ point game and 11 rebounds. Shawn Marion led the team in rebounding with 14. Leandro Barbosa made up for a subpar night from the field by making 9-of-11 free throws in a 16-point effort. Overall the Suns were 44% to the Sonics' 39% from the field, and kept things close on the boards. The block party continued as well with Amare and Raja Bell swatting three each, and Marion two.
The Sonics got nice games out of Kevin Durant, Earl Watson, and Kurt Thomas. Watson had 20 points and eight assists. Durant went for 28 points and seven rebounds. Thomas had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. The Sonics hung tough, but ultimately, experience ruled the day as the Suns got just enough stops, and made just enough free throws to put the game out of reach in the final minute. The win by the Suns coupled with the loss by the Spurs puts the Suns on top in the West for the first time this year.
Player of the Game: Amare Stoudemire. Again. I hate being monotonous with this, but 34 points (11-of-19), 11 rebounds, and three blocks will usually land you in this space.
Runner-Up: Kevin Durant. I'm going to hate seeing him play for a Western conference opponent over the next few years.