Tonight, the Suns shot 44% from the field, withstood a 14-35 combined shooting performance from Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, blew a 12 point first half lead, and still beat the Chicago Bulls 111-105. In doing so, the Suns clinched a playoff birth from the 19th time in the past 22 seasons.
Jason Richardson led the way with 27 points and 6 boards, while Steve Nash, battling through back trouble and a cold, took over late in the game to finish off the Bulls with 9 4th-quarter points.
This may be one of the most gutsy, gritty victories you'll see the Suns grab all season. But if there is a trademark of the Suns 2009-10, it's that they never give up.
Phoenix surrendered an early 12 point lead after outscoring the Bulls 36-25 in the first quarter. In the second, the Suns gave up 35 Chicago points while managing only 21 for themselves. Ronald "Flip" Murray dropped in 14 in the quarter and was complimented by 6 from both Joakim Noah and Jannero Pargo.
At the half, the Suns trailed 60-57. After 3 quarters of play it looked as though the Suns would have a difficult time pulling a victory out as the Bulls played like a team with a lot to lose, out-muscling and hustling the Suns.
But your beloved squad in Orange decided they had something left in the tank as Jared Dudley sank two quick 4th quarter threes. Jason Richardson added a long two, and with 6 minutes left, the Suns found themselves down only 3, 94-91.
The sign of the apocalypse struck with less than 5 minutes left when Brad Miller hit a 3-pointer. Yeah Brad Miller, he of 7 foot stature and career 32% shooter from beyond the arc sunk a three, putting the Bulls up 4, 97-93. That may have been the moment that the game thread collectively threw their hands up and considered the loss of the brief beauty that was the 4th spot in the WC.
But the Suns weren't done. Jason Richardson hit a 3 and Steve Nash hit a short 2 to take the lead 100-99. After two Derrick Rose free throws, Steve Nash decided it was time to make up for his off night from the field. Left with Brad Miller on a defensive switch, Nash took on Miller for his patented one handed layup and drew the foul for the and one, to which Suns analyst Eddie Johnson stated: "Brad Miller's feeling like he's on that show, Lost."
With less than a minute to go, Derrick Rose was the beneficiary of a very, very questionable foul call on Amare Stoudemire and made both free throws to tie the game up at 103 with 58 seconds left. But Channing Frye drained a 3 from the top of the key off of a Nash dish and the Suns led 106-103 with 41.6 ticks left. Derrick Rose drove past Grant Hill on the ensuing possession and the Suns led106-105 with 30 seconds left.
But you see, you don't make Grant Hill look bad. It's just not smart, because, even at 37 years of age, the man has pride, talent, and most importantly, UPS! Hill took a Nash feed for a dunk to which our very own Eddie Johnson stated, "...The 35 YEAR OLD TO THE 37 YEAR OLD...GIVE THE CREDIT TO THE OLD MAN."
After a Derrick Rose miss, it was a free throw shooting contest. Nash hit two, Pargo missed a wild three-BALL GAME, PEOPLE. SUNS ARE BACK IN THE PLAYOFFS! CELEBRATE, Y'ALL!
- With nine regular season games left, the Phoenix Suns are in fourth place in the West, trailing third seeded Utah by a half-game and second-place Dallas by a game. The Suns lead the 5th place Nuggets by a half game.
- Bolstered by Flip Murray's 23 points, the Bulls bench outscored the Suns 53-28.
- Both teams shot 44%, the Suns were 14-28 from three point range.
- Both teams pulled down 44 rebounds.
- Steve Nash shot 8-20. Yeah, that's right. But managed 22 points and 10 assists.
- Grant Hill pulled down 8 big rebounds to go along with 10 points.
- Jared Dudley's 6 points came off of 2 huge 3-pointers at crunch time.
- J-Rich was 10-19 from the field. (Think his alma matter's success is on his mind? If that's the case, go Spartans!)
- MAX went for 21 and 11 off of 6-15 shooting, and 7 offensive rebounds.
"They're getting stops. The defensive confidence is there...They're going down and executing their half court offense as good as anyone in the league."
"Amar'e struggled a bit because they were willing to give up 3-point shots and not let Amar'e isolate and go one-on-one...the great thing about our team is we'll take whatever you give us."
"It doesn't surprise me that (Nash) can struggle along and not quite be right and when we need him most, that's when he'll step up..."
"Two months ago we were a team that had big leads that we would end up giving back...This half of the season we're really focused on the defensive end and helping each other out. The way we are playing now is huge."
"If I'm honest, I was taking so many meds for my back and my cold that I kind of felt a little loopy through most of the game...but it helped my back. I was just a little dizzy out there."
works for me, Steve!
And now, as an extra special corny treat to all of us Suns fans who live and die with our team, a little something to enjoy the moment:
Kool & The Gang - Celebration (via KoolAndTheGangVEVO)
Suns vs Bulls coverage
Next Up, New Jersey, Wednesday March 31.