Tuesday's 111-105 win over the Chicago Bulls did more than just clinch a playoff spot for the Suns -- it was also the culmination of a Count of Monte Cristo-style revenge tour. Sure there was another game -- you know Wednesday's forgettable win over the Nets (I wrote this into before the game happened and I think it still holds up) that capped off a 12-2 month -- but this post isn't about that; it's about revenge. Sweet, tasty revenge.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Suns opened the month with a win over a Nuggets team that had previously defeated them (the teams had split the first 2 meetings), the revenge tour began in the wake of a 116-108 defeat at the hands of the Jazz in which the Suns blew an 11 point lead with 7:43 remaining in the game. Five of the Suns' final 11 games of March featured opponents that had defeated Phoenix in all previous meetings during the '09-10 season. Throw in a visit to Golden State, where the Suns had lost the day after Christmas, and you had 6 chances for bloody justice.
Victim 1: Indiana Pacers
Reason revenge was required (January 13th): In what I'm convinced is the Suns' worst loss of the season, the Pacers rallied from 24 down in the 2nd quarter behind 70(!) second half points for a 122-114 win. This loss triggered a disastrous 0-4 road trip and a 2-7 stretch overall.
Revenge! (March 6th): By the time the Pacers finally decided to show their faces in the Valley, the Suns were a different team. Not only were they winning but they also decided they liked fighting. I'm sure you remember this game as Channing Frye was ejected in the third quarter after reaching near fisticuffs levels with Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert ,and Earl Watson. Although the Suns did make this one interesting for parts of the third and fourth quarters, they still came out with a 113-105 win behind 30 from STAT and 22 from Grant Hill.
Victim 2: Utah Jazz
Reason revenge was required (January 25th and March 4th): Utah not once, but twice literally stole wins from the Suns. In the first meeting in Utah, the Suns had nearly perfected lead-blowing as they made a 17 point lead with 2:28 remaining in the third turn into a 9 point loss. Phoenix shot 56.7% from THREE (17/30), got 32 from Goran Dragic and still lost by 9. I already touched on the second Jazz game above, but let's just say I did some rather unfriendly yelling to a nearby Utah fan who I felt wasn't being particularly nice (read: I was pissed).
Revenge! (March 19th): This time the Suns put together a lead they couldn't give back and defeated the Andrei Kirilenko-less Jazz by 10. Behind Amar'e Stoudemire's 44 (on an obscene 14/16 shooting), Phoenix carried a 15 point lead into halftime then padlocked the thing until late in the 4th when Utah made the result more respectable and competitive than the game actually was.
Victim 3: Portland Trail Blazers
Reason revenge was required (December 17th and February 10th): Like the Jazz, this was another Western Conference playoff foe that had taken two games off the Suns already, each rough in its own unique way. The first game in Portland saw the Blazers take their horribly hobbled team and yet somehow rally from down 13 with 11 and a half minutes remaining in the fourth for a win. Jerryd Bayless had 29 to lead Portland and in another fun fact, Anthony Tolliver was on the injury-depleted Blazers roster at the time. The second game was the Suns' last before the All-Star break and, although they were on a 5 game winning streak, they look woefully uninspired in a 7 point loss.
Revenge! (March 21st): Yet another in a long line of grind-it-out victories for the scrappy Suns. Wait, what? While this wasn't a pretty win by any means, the Suns rallied from down 6 in the third quarter to beat the Blazers 93-87. Jared Dudley was key in the 4th quarter, scoring 10 points to help the Suns overcome a 38.8% night from the field. Just like they drew it up.
Victim 4: Golden State Warriors
Reason Revenge was required (December 26th): It was the day after Clips-mas and the Suns had just finished their Clips-mas celebration before heading off to face a bad Warriors team in the midst of a 7 game losing streak. What could possibly go wrong? You could lose 132-127. Yeah...that happened. Keep the name "Amar'e Stoudemire" in mind, as he had only 9 points for the Suns in the loss.
Revenge! (March 22nd): Driven solely by what I can only imagine was a fiery hot desire to destroy Golden State, the Suns returned to Oakland -- again on the end of a back to back -- and pulled out a nail-biting 133-131 win. Although Phoenix missed 7 free throws in the closing minutes the real story of the game was that Stoudemire fellow who posted 37 points and did this. You had your chance to make amends Tolliver.
Victim 5: New York Knicks
Reason revenge was required (December 1st): Over the course of an NBA season, it's pretty difficult to be just floored with a result. While sometimes a team may pull an upset or lose a game they shouldn't, you can generally count on things being relatively normal. This game was the exception. The Suns came into NYC with a shiny 14-3 record and the Knicks were the exact opposite at 3-14. What followed is something I still can't figure out. Mike D'Antoni and his Knickerbockers gashed the Suns from the very start, leading by as many as 31 in the 4th before closing out a 27 point win. Steve Nash put it best really:
"I'm embarrassed. Obviously just a disastrous effort. We just have to wash it away and pick it up tomorrow."
Revenge! (March 26th): With the revenge tour already in full swing, the Suns let the Knicks hang around for a quarter before blowing the doors off of fat T-Mac and company. No Suns player played more than 27 minutes in the 132-96 rout. When Earl Clark puts up a +7 for the game, you know it didn't go well for the opposition. You embarrass us, we embarrass you -- it's only fair.
Victim 6: Chicago Bulls
Reason revenge was required (January 22nd): The Bulls came into this game a pathetic 4-15 on the road; they left 5-15. A virtuoso performance from Derrick Rose (15/21 32 points) helped lead the Bulls to a 10 point half-time lead, and despite the Suns grabbing a 1 point lead late in the 3rd quarter, things ended quietly for Phoenix. Unfortunately for Goran Dragic, things ended like this. The loss led the wise sage known as Scott Howard to tweet the following:
Turn off the lights Suns fans. The party is over. You can't beat a 4-15 road team and you aren't making the playoffs.
Surprise -- I'm not good at gambling. I hit the panic button hard...and I'm not proud.
Revenge! (March 30th): Although the Suns trailed by 4 with 4:50 remaining in the game, mighty Steve Nash simply shrugged his shoulders and got involved in 17 of the Suns last 18 points (9 points and 3 assists) to lead the Suns to victory. Take THAT, Bulls playoff hopes.
Some of the revenge took place at home and some of it took place on the road but it was all pretty sweet. Unfortunately the remainder of the schedule doesn't offer much in the way of revenge. In fact, it's quite the opposite. We haven't lost to the Pistons, Bucks, or Rockets, while Denver, Utah, and Oklahoma City all fell to the Suns last time out. At least we've still got the Spurs, right? Oh and then the playoffs -- I feel like we owe the playoffs roughly 41 seasons of revenge.
Edmond Dantes lives...and apparently is ORNG.