"Bench leads Suns to win" is starting to become a very familiar saying around here after about a decade of never thinking of uttering those words. What a great performance yet again by this young group of active, confident and well mixed reserves. It sure is fun to watch the way these guys play with effort and heart.
The group of Lou, JD, Swift, Tucker and Dragic turned a 7 point 1st quarter lead into a 12 point advantage which starters managed to turn into a 3 point lead by the half.
Then in the 3rd quarter after the Nuggets come out and took the lead all the way to 11 point by about halft way through the 3rd the starters clawed by with an 11-4 run to close the 3rd quarter down 4. The bench once again came in and delivered a 6-0 run to regain the lead which the Suns were able to bring home.
This was a highly emotional game. Certainly of playoff intensity and watching it was difficult watching it to really think to much about why things where happening and not just get involved in what was going on. Therefor, I don't have a lot of real analysis for you until (if) I get a chance to watch this one again. And this one deserves to be watched again.
Here's what I got:
- Suns came out looking great. The defense was so active and the Suns ended the 1st quarter out-rebounding the bigger Nuggets 17-7 and was +5 in second chance points. That's huge for the Suns
- After really nice stint by the bench to extend the lead the starters got sloppy with the ball. There were several times the Nuggets were able to just slap the ball away from an unfocused Suns player and get easy points. The Suns has 6 turnovers in the 2nd quarter and were - 8 on fast break points
- I missed most of the worst part of this game as I was driving to the arena during the stretch of the 3rd quarter that saw the Nuggets go on a 19-6 run. Not sure what happened there but I will re-watch that stretch
- It seemed right around the time Lou was able to get under Nene's skin and earn himself and elbow to the head that sent Nene to the showers, the Suns woke up a bit and cut the lead to -4 in by the end of the 3rd. The Suns again had 6 turnovers for the 3rd straight period
- Grant Hill and Jared Dudley can Duke it out for the game ball. Both guys were awesome. Hill finished with 23 pts, 10 reb, 5 assists and 2 steals and was a real floor leader
- Dudley 12 pts and 8 rebounds in just under 30 minutes and the only steal he had was taking Barnes crunch time minutes which hustle play after hustle play. He and Lou were both all over the floor and fought for everything on the glass which lead to the Suns finishing this game with a 46 - 33 rebounding advantage which they really needed to overcome the 20 turnovers
- Dragic and Tucker were both solid. Goran with the ball and with 8 efficient points in just under 13 minutes while Tucker didn't shoot well his defense and energy were solid
- The Suns didn't ever seem to really be able to establish Shaq in the post consistently but his 7-8 from the line was huge along with his 2 blocks. There were times where it seemed the Suns reverted back to just standing on the wing and trying to make an entry pass that was too easily defended instead of using motion and screens to get him the ball in better position. Give the Nuggets credit through for playing him well. Both Nene and Bird Man were solid
- Barnes was a non-factor offensively going 1-8 in 27 minutes. This guy is just not a consistent shooter and yet doesn't seem to be able to stop shooting. Credit Dudley for stepping up and Gentry for playing the right guys at the right time. Boy is it a change to have a Phoenix team that uses different guys at different times and is effective doing it
- The refs sucked in this game. They didn't cause the Suns to turn the ball over 20 times and the Suns ended up with 11 more free throw attempts so it is hard to complain too much but this was not a good night for the zebras and I doubt either side feels differently
- This was the best regular season game I've been to in a while as far as fan involvement. There were a lot of empty seats in the house despite the official report of a sell out but those that were there brought their playoff game cheering. Fun stuff
- Those guys shot 47% from behind the arc that was mostly Mr Big Shot and Melo hitting 7 out of the Nuggets 10. JR Smith was held in check....or held himself in check. You never really know with that guy
- Running 40 ft hook shots to end periods should be banned. You should not get 3 points in a professional game due to dumb luck. Then again, Shaq did shoot 88% from the line so I guess luck balanced out
- The funny thing was I don't think either team played nearly their best ball. Too many turn overs for the Suns. Lack of effort to start the game for the Nuggets and off nights by a couple of key guys on both sides
Next up Utah on Wednesday. That is a tough match up since the two weakest links on the Suns bench are both exactly the kind of mobile athletic bigs you need against the Jazz. Swift and Robin both aren't looking nearly as good as the rest of the crew and that's a big weakness right now against these top team. If Robin were playing as well as Lou and JD this Suns team would be a LOT better.
This was a great win and certainly good to see the Suns gut one out for a change. We might not have basketball in Phoenix after April 15th but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy big games.
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 03/24/09 8:30 AM MST ]
I was able to re-watch the second half early this morning and have some more thoughts and fixes to what's above:
- I was totally wrong about not getting Shaq involved. There was one bad play in which Grant Hill made a bad entry pass that got picked off but that was it. Shaq played 12 minutes and had 10 points on 3-3 shooting and 4 of 5 from the line in the final two quarters (which is half btw. 2 quarters = 1 half just to be clear)
- I did not give Nash any credit for his two big defensive stops on Billups at the end of the game. On one play Nash anticipated Chauncey going left and got there first and drew the offensive foul. At that point the Suns were up 2 with about 50 seconds to go. Huge stop. On the next play the Suns were still up 2 and the Nuggets had the ball with 21 seconds. Nash wouldn't let him get a good look at a three and stayed right on Billups forcing a tough 2 pt attempt that missed. Grant rebounded the ball and that was it.
- Now, Billups doesn't have the foot speed of a guy like Parker or Ellis so it is a easier cover for Nash for sure, but give it up to Captain Canada for making the stops because if Billups had gotten open and hit a three to win the game we certainly would be dogging Nash for it
- Nene of course got tossed at 7:25 in the 4th and not in the 3rd like I mis-remember. Nene was huge for the Nuggets to start the 2nd half and as I said in the preview, when they went to him he was able to take advantage of Shaq by facing him up and both hitting jump shots and on one occasion pump faked Shaq and drove by him.
- Nene picked up his 4th foul half way through the 3rd qtr which sent him to the bench and that allowed the Suns to get back in the game. He had 3 fouls at that point because the Suns went to Shaq earlier in the game
- The incident with Lou was pretty lame and deserves a suspension. They were going at it for a few possessions in one on Suns free throw Lou got called for a foul but it was Nene that was swinging his arms back at Amundson. On another play after StuDley dove out of bounds to recover a loose ball back to Tucker who was fouled on his attempt (no call) and when Lou was going for the rebound Nene reached his around Lou's neck and threw him back. No call. Then came the next Nuggets possession in which Lou chest bumped Nene a bit to show is displeasure with getting tossed around by the Brazilian only to then have Nene raise his arms and elbow Lou earning the ejection. If the leauge reviews not just that play but the one or two before Nene will be sitting for a game.
- Gentry once again went to the zone defense for most of the second half. The Nuggets busted it a few times but overall it worked well. I am not thrilled with it and certainly in the playoffs against better teams (Lakers) it would be a disaster. But for now it is working and keeping Shaq from getting exposed on the high pick and rolls