I think I'm going to start a tradition around here. A day before every game against a Western conference playoff team, I'm going to write a pessimistic semi-rant about how the Suns just can't seem to get it done against the best in the West.
OK, that might be taking it a little too far. Something tells me after Saturday's fourth quarter debacle against the Hornets, the Suns really didn't need to hear from a no-name blogger that it was time to make a statement. And boy did they ever! The Suns unleashed an offensive fury from both sides of the three-point line, and obliterated the Nuggets who, in all fairness, were at the tail end of a four games in five nights stretch. Now that that little caveat is out of the way, lets talk about how the Suns put four guys over 20 points, six in double-digits, and logged 13 blocks on their way to a new season high 137 points to the Nuggets' 115.
The Suns had it going from the opening tip. They hit seven of their first eight shots, had 46 points in the first quarter, and 78 by halftime. Allen Iverson did his best to keep the Nuggets in it, both by scoring and getting various Suns into foul trouble. But the plan backfired a little as the foul trouble paved the way for Marcus Banks to get an early call. Banks not only helped slow down Iverson's scoring barrage, he also was absolutely on fire from behind the three point line. He hit both of his attempts in the first half, and carried it over nicely into the second half where he hit five more, some of which were way behind the line. He ended up with 23 points, 7-of-8 from the field (all threes), two blocks, and an enormous case for more playing time.
But as good as Banks was, Shawn Marion was even better. He had Player of the Game locked up by the third quarter. The Matrix lit it up from behind the arc in the first half, and when that stopped working in the second, he stayed productive in other ways with a team-high six blocks to go with his also team-high 14 rebounds and four assists. He finished with 27 points, going 5-of-9 from three and 11-of-16 overall. For those who like the plus/minus stat, he led the team there too with a +27.
Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill had solid games as well despite foul trouble. Both scored 20 points (Hill on 8-of-11 from the field), and Amare added 10 rebounds. Steve Nash (13 points, 10 assists) and Leandro Barbosa (12 points) completed the double-digit brigade. Overall, the Suns shot an amazing 64.5% from three, hitting a franchise record-tying 20 (of 31), and shot 54% overall. The stellar shooting and the "block party" offset the 10 rebound deficit on the boards, 23 of which were on the offensive end. Rebounding deficiencies aside, I'm sure I speak for Suns fans everywhere when I say this kind of effort is what we'd like to see every game.
Player of the Game: Shawn Marion. A record-setting night for the Matrix on both threes and blocks. More, please.
Runner-Up: Allen Iverson with a game-high 32 points. Nice try, but he couldn't win the game by himself.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Banks had a career night too with his seven three-pointers.
Grading the Game: Grading the Game is back to award the first A+ of the season. Let's do it again.