Things were grim for the Phoenix Suns, down by 12 to the Mavericks midway through the third quarter and looking tired in their second game of a back to back, but the Suns blitzed the Mavs with strong defense and sharp shooting from Jared Dudley and Steve Nash to end an eight-game losing streak against the Mavs with a 96-94 win.
Vince Carter led the Mavs, along with Dirk Nowitzki, with 18 points and it appeared the former Sun would haunt his old team in much the same way Shawn Marion did in a previous Suns loss to the Mavs. But the Suns were able to overcome Carter's performance with their Nash and Dudley-led third quarter barrage. The duo combined for 20 third quarter points as the Suns went on a 31-8 run to bridge the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter.
Hakim Warrick, who has been nailed to the end of the bench for about a month, provided a much-needed lift as well. Markieff Morris struggled again and instead of trying to outsize the Mavs as they attempted in the first half, the Suns went to the slight, athletic Warrick. He provided good energy and took it to the hole, scoring 9 points to go with his 4 rebounds as he made it to the FT line 10 times in only 17 minutes of action.
Another much-maligned Suns bench player who played a nice game was Shannon Brown. He was Alvin Gentry's first player off the bench, replacing Grant Hill when Nowitzki rested, and looked more in control with the starters. He scored 7 points with 3 rebounds in 18 minutes of play as he continues his recent solid play.
The Suns continued to struggle from behind the arc, shooting only 3-14, but made up for it by taking it inside and getting to the FT line, winning the FT edge 27-13 and holding the Mavs to 41 second half points.
Phoenix led 91-80 with 6:34 remaining before the Mavs rallied and the Suns needed to eke it out in the end as Rodrigue Beaubois missed a couple of open jumpers in the last 6 seconds of play after Marcin Gortat was called for an offensive foul on a made shot inside, and Grant Hill missed two FTs, each of which would have sealed the game with under a minute left.
This was a gutsy performance by the Suns. It was easy to leave them for dead in that third quarter as the game looked eerily similar to previous losses to the Mavs, but they would not go down without a fight, and the Mavs looked more like the team that had played last night, losing steam as the game went on.
Now winners of 6 of their last 8, dare we dream of a run at a playoff spot for the Suns?
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Fun quote from Gentry:
"We got the pace of the game up where we really wanted it (in the third quarter). Once again we came up with stops which is really important to run off misses as opposed to taking the ball and running off makes...The second unit did an outstanding job. My hats off to Sebastian (Telfair) who played well. Robin (Lopez) did a really good job for us posting up there. Shannon Brown came in and did well."
Dudley pointed out, correctly, that Warrick changed the game with his energy and that starting Grant Hill on Vince Carter in the second half helped cool him down.
Video to come...stay tuned.