After winning only one game in the last 7 and 1/2 months, you can imagine the Phoenix Suns were pretty excited to have a runaway win at home over the Portland Trail Blazers.
And it was the starters that set the tone.
After fitful preseason/gm 1, the @Suns starting lineup had a 116 O-rating vs. 79 D-rating, +37 per 100 possessions vs Blazers #thatsgood— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) October 31, 2015
"Well the guards were really low when they came off their (pick n' rolls)," Hornacek said of Bledsoe and Knight. "And saw a little opening so maybe it was the Steve Nash-effect of being out there. These guys made some great passes and Tyson (Chandler) finished on a couple and they had to foul him on others or he is going to dunk it. So that's what we need, when we can get that going then it's going to open up other things."
It helped that they won in front of Steve Nash and a sellout crowd, but the most important thing was the win itself.
"No," Bledsoe said of whether the Suns won for Nash. "Steve is one of the best point guards to play the game. I tip my hat off, but we were already in the locker room ready and you can tell by how we came out. We were going to play like this regardless."
The Suns only hit four three-pointers in this game while sitting their best shooters (Devin Booker and Mirza Teletovic) for most of the game, likely to shorten the rotation a bit and save them for the back-to-back tonight.
The Suns who played continually ran themselves off the three point line much of the game, just not confident in their catch-and-shoot abilities. The coach knows this needs to improve for the Suns to succeed long term.
"Well you kind of have to be strategic with that," Hornacek said. "I think some of our guys didn't feel that they were shooting the ball as well so they wanted to try and drive it, but we need to make some threes. The effect of our guards penetrating, if we don't keep teams honest with us making threes, then they are just going to clog the lane on us. Brandon (Knight) hit a big one in that stretch, you know, we just need more of them."
But even without the three-point makes (the Suns shot 4-18), they hustled and ran their way into winning the rebounding battle (Suns are 2nd in the league after two games) and getting 11 steals to blow the game open.
It was a nice win.
Eric Bledsoe scored 22 points and dished 3 assists, playing with passion on offense and defense all night.
"We just came out aggressive," he said. "We didn't want to let one game dictate how we played the next. We came out aggressive and played hard on defense and had a sense of urgency."
Chandler was for forthcoming about how important this win was to the team.
"I think all of us didn't get much sleep after that first game," Chandler said. "There wasn't much to even say. We came out a lot more aggressive, pushing the tempo and us bigs, we rolled harder and gave the guards some better looks. So just collectively, we came out ready to play tonight."
Chandler had 15 points and 11 rebounds in only 25 minutes, really controlling the paint on both ends. His backup Alex Len played quite well too (10 and 4), and the two of them only sat when the game got out of hand.
Knight had potentially his bast game since the trade to Phoenix, at least to our memory. But then we are forgetting he hit a game winner for the team before getting injured, so maybe this was only second-best.
Knight had 18 points and 4 assists and 3 steals, against only two turnovers.
"I felt like we responded fine," he said of the long halftime break. "At the end of the day, it's about us winning the game and that's what we did. Me and Bled(soe) are confident in our ability, our individual abilities and our chemistry together. We believe we are one of the best backcourts as well, so on our end we have to stop them and then they have to try and defend us as well. Like I said, it's not even really about that, it's really just about our team gelling, getting stops, getting out in the break and playing as a unit."
Good win at home on Friday.
Now on to Portland for a back-to-back against them.