I DO NOT relish those guy having to get on a plane and fly to Denver then drive an hour from the airport in the cold and probably get to sleep around 330 or 4am. They then get up and go to shoot around a couple of hours later, take an afternoon nap, and try and play the Nuggets tonight. I don't expect much from this game and that's ok. A blowout and rest for the starters is probably the best outcome in the long run.
As for Friday's game it came down to a defensive struggle in the fourth quarter and a defensive game plan that was the story of the game. The Suns held the Magic to 42% shooting overall and 35% and 22 points in the final period. They forced (or in some cases simply accepted) 22 turnover from the Magic which lead to 25 points for the Suns. That's huge.
"You've got to be able to win in different ways sometimes. I know we're not known for our defense but we've won games this year on our defense especially the fourth quarter. So it's important that you got to be able to sometimes win them at the foul line, sometimes win them at the three point line, sometimes win them defensively, sometimes you got to win them on the boards. So you got to be able to turn it up and win in different areas especially down the stretch," said Steve Nash.
The Suns really surprised me with their defensive game plan on Howard. In my preview I suggested the Suns stay home on their shooters and let Howard work 1:1 in the paint. Gentry said pre-game that you have to pick your poison with this team and he decided to shut down Howard and takes his chances with their three's.
The most important thing about picking your poison is that you HAVE to not let both poisons get you and the Suns did a great job on Howard. The double teams were sharp and forced Howard into 5 turnovers with Amare getting two or three steals on his own. When the Suns hacked him they did so hard. I don't remember one time when they tried to foul him and he still managed to get the ball in. That's saying something against that guy.
As a result of the Hack-a-Howard strategy the Magic shots 38 three's and 38 free throw attempts and fortunately were 34% from behind the arc and 68% at the line. That made for a pretty ugly game and really showed a HUGE departure from Suns basketball in the past.
There was no way under D'Antoni you would have seen that kind of defensive strategy because it slows the game down and mucks things up. We saw the impact on the offensive end where the Suns lost what rhythm they had to start the game. Of course, it didn't help that Joey Crawford was also calling all kinds of touch fouls on the perimeter as well.
Credit also to the 18,216 strong home crowd. They were fantastic from the tip and loud and proud at the end. There was even a spontaneous (un-prompted by the jumbotron, Gorilla, or Ced Ceballos) chant of "Defense" on the final Magic possession.
The locker room quote of the game was from Jared Dudley who said this about his final shot which missed resulting in Amare's FANTASTIC rebound and put-back,
"The play was first to go to Amare but then we saw Dwight guarding Grant Hill and basically Steve did the freestyle and I just ran to the corner Dwight switched on me he jumped like he really was Super Man, I couldn't even see the hoop. I missed it. Amare went to go get the rebound. Got it. His basketball instincts got it. He went up and dunked it and that was a big big play for us."
Dudley finished the game with a season high 19 points and 4 for 8 from behind the line on night when Frye and Richardson were a combined 4 for 13 from long range. Dudley played solid defense and really was a difference-maker in this game.
As for Robin, he did some nice things and you can see glimpses of his potential when he's able to use his size to battle in the paint and tip balls. He's still got a long way to go on his decision-making on defense and knowing where to be offensively so he's not getting in the way. He looks completely lost out there right now but there's only one way to solve that.
Gentry continued to limit his bench minutes. He believes that protecting home court is going to be crucial to the Suns season and you saw again tonight that he's not willing to risk anything with Clark or Tucker which resulting in another 40 minute game for Steve.
Based on locker room body language Clark does not look happy at all about the situation. Hopefully, he will continue to work hard in practice and at some point earn his time. There will come a point this season when he's going to get a more consistent opportunity, especially if the ageless wonder Grant Hill finally misses a game.
Post game Audio (I used some new equipment so check out the sound quality)
Phoenix Suns 106, Orlando Magic 103 - Third Quarter Collapse
A recap of the Orlando Magic's 106-103 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday, December 11th, 2009.
Suns beat Magic; win 17th straight at home
"Let's be honest, Steve Nash, best point guard I ever played with," said Dudley, who 4-of-8 3-point shooting made him 48.1 percent for the season on 3s. "Basically wide-open shots. I had opportunity to knock it down. You got players like Alando rolling to the basket. I was left open a lot of times."
NBA.com - The Game Happens Here
As is typical, Nash (20 points, 18 assists) and Amar'e Stoudemire (28 points, 10 rebounds) were terrific. There have been four 18-plus assist games in the NBA this season, and Nash has three.
Iowa Energy: Griffin warms up to task for 5-0 team | desmoinesregister.com | The Des Moines Register
Griffin finished with 19 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and 10 rebounds against the Wizards as Iowa (5-0) remained unbeaten. "It's difficult for those guys to come and fit right in," Energy coach Nick Nurse said. "He was just so athletically charged up."