I’ll tell you that as late as halftime, I texted a friend that I hoped to never see the combo of Frank Kaminsky and Abdel Nader again in a Suns lineup.
The pair had missed nine of their 10 first-half shots and nearly replicated the awful 10-point quarter that doomed the team against the Thunder the night before. Frank and “Dulie” (his name is pronounced like “Abdul” even though it’s spelled differently) have gotten minutes lately in the Suns rotation due to a combination of injury (Devin Booker, Cameron Payne) and COVID (Dario Saric, Damian Jones, Jalen Smith), experiencing a three-game losing streak along with the rest of us.
But then the second half happened.
Frank came in for Deandre Ayton (who got his fourth foul) with the Suns up 72-63 at the 4:49 mark of the third. I began to sweat a bit, recalling the Suns up 69-61 over the Thunder at about this time the night before, leading to a Suns collapse.
Nader joined Kaminsky at the 2:44 mark with the Suns still up 79-67 after a rare Langston Galloway drive into a three-point play.
They didn’t lose the lead! Didn’t build on it, but didn’t lose it either.
Then the Frank-Nado hit landfall. Still leading 91-81 at the 8:18 mark of the 4th quarter, with the game still in reach, the Suns exploded on a 17-2 run in just over three minutes to take a 25-point, 108-83, lead with just 5:05 remaining in regulation. Frank Kaminsky scored or assisted on 13 of the Suns’ 17 points during the run.
In the second half, Kaminsky and Nader combined to make 8 of 14 shots, including 3-5 threes, grab 12 boards and dish 7 assists.
Final stat lines for the game:
- Frank: 12 points (season high), 14 rebounds (career high), 8 assists (career high)
- Dulie: 16 points (season high), 5 rebounds (season high), 3 assists (tied - career high)
The Suns desperately needed their unique kind of contributions too, including Nader’s hard drives to the rim and Frank’s high post passing off the dribble to keep the offense flowing.
Frank got thisclose to a triple double, falling short by two assists, and joked about it afterward: “Well when you’ve got teammates like Mikal missing layups when they should be dunking it, and Dulie smoking layups,” he said to media with laugh.
“I love playing with Frank,” Mikal Bridges said, citing Kaminsky making the game easier with his willingness to find cutters to the rim from the high post.
Nader’s drives to the rim were a breath of fresh air from a team that’s last in the league in shooting fouls drawn and consistently out-scored each night in the painted area near the rim.
“I’m just trying to read the game,” he said later. “If I think I’ve got a slower defender on me, I’m gonna try and take him to the basket.”
Nader also began taking an ownership stake in the left corner for catch-and-shoot threes, making a pair in that fourth quarter run that the Suns really needed.
Don’t get misled by this storyline: the Suns starters were very good in this game too, handing the bench a 10-point lead late in the third quarter. All five starters finished in double figures scoring, Ayton had a double-double (12/13) in just 23 minutes and Jae Crowder almost did too (16/9) in 29 minutes. But only one starter played in the fourth (Cameron Johnson, then Mikal Bridges), as the rest of them spent the time cheering on their teammates.
The team as a whole had 34 assists on 41 made baskets, returning to their ways of getting great shots by passing the ball around “from good to great” as Monty puts it.
“That [bench] group really solidified what we were trying to do,” Williams said. “I thought the starters came out with great purpose and sharing the ball. And then the second group came in, and the body movement was taken to another level.”
Here are their whole postgame interviews...
This was just one win, against a probably overachieving Golden State team, after a gut-wrenching three game losing streak. The Suns have not solved all their problems yet. They can’t count on Frank-Nado every game. They need Booker, Saric and Payne back.
But a win is a win. And the Suns are above .500 again at 9-8 so life is good.
Suns play the Mavericks twice in Dallas starting this weekend, on Saturday and Monday.