As Phil Jackson once said, it's a big man's game, and the Suns are now a big man's team. Amare and Shaq teamed up nicely tonight, and the crowd responded by officially passing the Suns MVP torch to the former man-child. There was a telling moment in the fourth quarter. When Steve Nash went to the free throw line for the first time in a game in which he was little more than a role-player hitting the occasional timely shot: Complete and total silence. Moments later, Amare was serenaded with the "MVP!" chants that normally accompany Nash. The torch has been passed, folks, and I'm sure Amare fans everywhere are saying, "It's about time!".
Well, I said the Yao-less Rockets would make a good matchup for the Suns, and if this game is any indication, they will and then some. Sure, there was the huge caveat that the Rockets were on the second night of a grueling back-to-back that had them arriving in the wee hours of the morning. Sure, they're in the middle of the proverbial post-streak malaise. Who cares? The Suns were without their preferred Tracy McGrady defender, and the guy who took the assignment in his place is nursing a sore wrist. I'd say that evens things up pretty well.
There was a tale of two halves theme in this game. The Suns came out smoking in the first quarter, outscoring the Rockets by 17. They played near flawlessly, out-rebounding the Rockets, making only one turnover, while practically everything they threw at the basket went in. The shooting accuracy continued into the second quarter, although turnovers and a few offensive rebounds by the Rockets kept the scoring even. The Suns shot an amazing 76% for the first half, and kept an edge on the boards. The second half can be summed up in two little words: Let down. The Suns came out a little sloppy, made a few more turnovers, gave up a few more offensive boards, and proved the old cliché that nobody shoots 70%+ for an entire game. Before they knew it, it was a 10-point lead heading into the fourth. But the Suns kept the Rockets at arms length from there on out, and the end result was a nine-point win that moves them to the top half of the Western Conference standings.
Our Suns are a big man's team now. May God have mercy on the league.
Player of the Game: Amare "MVP" Stoudemire, because he scored 38 points, had 13 rebounds, shot 9-of-15, made all 20 free throws, and most importantly, because the crowd said so.
Runner-Up: Grant Hill. Sore wrist and all, he played a huge role in holding McGrady to the quietest 30-point, near triple-double game ever.