The Suns have been spiraling downward with no end in sight for the past couple of months. To make matters worse, they have been plagued by the injury bug, losing all three point guards for various reasons and lengths of time, along with injuries to both power forwards as well.
But even though the Suns were down a total of seven players last night against the Atlanta Hawks, they managed to find a way to win, which is something they haven't been able to do a lot of this season even when the team was mostly healthy, minus Eric Bledsoe of course.
So what was different?
Well...a few things. However, the most noticeable difference was definitely the rebounding. After Tyson Chandler grabbed 20 boards against the Spurs on Wednesday night, he went HAM on the Hawks last night, ripping down 27 rebounds and setting a new Suns record for offensive boards with 13.
Where has this guy been all season?
Well, the new dominant force in the paint that is Tyson Chandler may be the effect of a few different scenarios all coming to fruition at the same time.
One, Tyson is now finally feeling like himself again after a hamstring injury that lingered for months. He said as much himself after the game tonight, and credited the Suns training staff with finding ways to help him. In addition, the pairing with Alex Len in the starting front court has given both bigs an opportunity to complement each other and take turns boxing out, challenging shots, and grabbing rebounds. The Twin Towers Tandem of Chandler and Len combined for 39 rebounds tonight...That's huge!
Here's what Tyson had to say after the game:
In addition to rebounding, the Suns played with effort and intensity all game. Even when their shots weren't falling, and at times it seemed like they never did, the Suns scratched, fought, and clawed their way to holding a lead by getting defensive stops and getting to the free-throw line, where they shot 20/26 overall.
The Suns only shot 40% from the field, and hovered between 35-37% for most of the game. But they never stopped fighting, even when nothing was going their way. This was never so evident as it was on this unfortunate series of events:
This is a sequence of events that occurred between professionals in the National Basketball Association. https://t.co/wCqzGGdOwT— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 24, 2016
P.J. Tucker was back in the line-up tonight, after leaving the Spurs game with an injured sternum. He quickly set the tone for playing with hustle and intensity early on, and the entire team seemed to follow his lead tonight.
Here's what P.J. had to say about the win:
Of course, another big reason for the Suns success tonight was getting a big contribution from a player they hadn't counted on much this season. Archie Goodwin stepped up big time tonight and not only led the team in scoring, but may have inspired a fourth quarter resurgence just when it looked like the Suns may be ready to fold their tents.
Although Archie is definitely playing out of position as a point guard, he is making the most of his opportunities in the starting line-up over the last two games, scoring 20 and 24 points, respectively. Archie has been aggressive in getting to the rim and the foul line as well, where he made eight of his nine free-throw attempts tonight.
Although his game winner was huge, one could argue that it was his vicious dunk in the fourth quarter that ultimately won the game for Phoenix, as it re-ignited the team and woke the crowd, changing the dynamic of the rest of the game.
Archie played very well all night on both ends of the floor. He challenged shots, played aggressively, took open shots, and even managed to dish out four assists. Oh yeah...and he hit the game-winning three-point DAGGER!!
Here's what "The Archer" had to say after the best overall performance of his career:
Of course, the Suns still have more problems than solutions right now. And they are probably going to lose a lot more games than they win (fear not, lottery fans). However, the Suns may have found a few things tonight worth exploring more as the season progresses.
I think Archie has shown that he can be a difference maker as a major contributor on the team, if not a starter, even once Brandon Knight returns. And the Len-Chandler front-court? Well, it's hard to argue against 39 rebounds. I'd be surprised if Hornacek didn't continue to give that a longer look as well.
Time will tell if the Suns find a way to start playing better in the near future, but their game last night shows that they might just have a few aces up their sleeve that they weren't even aware of before.
And...you know...Devin Booker. (You didn't really think I was going to make it through an entire article without mentioning him at least once, did you?)