The Suns came out in the beginning of this game with a fire in the belly and a mission on defense. They jumped out to a quick 11 point lead and extend that to 14 at the end of the first. The initial run was sparked by a few bad passes from the Kings and a couple of blocks.
Going in to the second quarter the game looked like it was about over. The Suns apparently felt the same way as the defensive effort dropped off the table the Kings ran off 40 points. Predictably, Coach Gentry gave the team a half time speech that Grant Hill described as, "One of his funnier ones. I don't think he was trying to be funny but it was."
To start the third Gentry went back to the zone not so much to prevent dribble penetration from Udrih but to help Shaq with rookie Jason Thompson. JT looked good facing up on Shaq and driving the ball and put up 12 in the first half. Most of the Kings offense though came from Garcia who had 18 first half points and finished with 29.
The bench came in and closed the game out strong out outscoring the Kings 33 to 18 in the fourth and giving the starters extended rest before the big game Sunday in Dallas.
You might have heard already that Dallas lost tonight to the Grizziles. In Dallas. That puts Phx 3 games back with a chance to cut that to 2 on Sunday. Needless to say, Sunday is yet another BIG GAME.
A game Grant Hill called "The World Cup".
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Dudley and Goran were both solid combining for 26 points but the bench story of the night was the return of Leandro Barbosa. LB got a huge ovation when he came in the game and when he hit a corner three on his first shot attempt the crowd loved it. LB finished with 15 points in 15 minutes.
Having LB back is a huge lift for the team and for rookie Dragic who said, "I like to play with LB. It is much easier for me. Sometimes he takes the ball and sometimes me. He's helping me with organization."
Leandro had this to say about how he felt physically after the game. "I feel well. I didn't feel any pain and I was happy to be there with my team mates and uh, just happy."
We're all happy too LB.
The big story of the night was Steve Nash going 12 for 19 for 29 points in 31 minutes along with 9 assists. He's averaging 26 points and 53% shooting over the past four games now.
Some of us (me) aren't comfortable with Nash taking too many shoots and much rather see him distributing the ball. Coach Gentry isn't one of those people.
Asked if he liked Steve being assertive against sub 500 teams Gentry said, "I like Steve being assertive against Cleveland or anybody else. It doesn't matter. I like for him to be assertive because he's our best shooter. When he's going good it opens up the floor for everyone else so yeah, we like to see him do that. I don't worry about Steve. Steve knows when he needs to score and when he doesn't."
I can't argue with that. Or with 85 points and 40 assists in his last four game.
Finally there's the Big Shaqtus. Shaq shot 100% from the field but only ended up with 11 points. The Kings defense sagged back on him and did a good job denying him the ball which helped open up the floor for Steve and JRich. When Shaq did catch the ball in the post they fouled him quick and hard.
I asked Shaq about Robin's performance thinking specifically about his 3 blocks and more importantly the hard fouls he delivered in the paint.
"Good. He knocked some people on their ass. Blocked some shots. He shot a three. Perfect. That's how you do it. "
I then asked Shaq if he thought Robin had responded to his advise given during the recent Portland game.
"Yeah. You got to do it. As a big man, you've got to come in and establish yourself in this league. Knock somebody on their ass. Get into a couple of fights. Get a couple of flagrants. You got to let 'em know who you are."
To close, I asked Shaq if he would do any special preparation for his match up Sunday with Erick Dampier. He looked at me like I was from another planet and muttered "who is this guy" and just laughed and walked away. He appreciated the joke.
Here's all the post game audio from me and from our partners at Sports 620 KTAR Be sure to listen to all of the Grant Hill interview. He was in rare form. Funny guy. This team has a lot of funny guys.