You probably wouldn't have guessed it by looking at the final score of 127-101, but the Phoenix Suns' blowout against the Los Angeles Clippers last night was actually a fairly tight contest at one point.
In fact, Chris Kaman and his crew were clinging to a one-point lead at halftime, having outmatched Planet Orange in the opening quarters with 50 percent shooting. In the remaining periods, however, it was a different story altogether.
Phoenix kicked off the second half with a 15-2 run and proceeded to break things open, with a 39-point third quarter. Most of the highlights were provided by Amar'e Stoudemire, who was absolutely unmerciful to the Clippers as he hit dunk after titanic dunk en route to a 30-point, 14-rebound evening.
And while Big STAT was punishing Los Angeles from the paint, Channing Frye was doing it from downtown, hitting seven separate three-point bombs (a career high). Jason Richardson was equally as deadly with his shooting, firing off 22 points over such Clips defenders as Bobby Brown and Baron Davis. Jared Dudley (17 points) and Grant Hill (16 points) were also in double figures.
Steve Nash, on the other hand, had an off night for the first time in a while, contributing a single bucket to his team's effort. But he compensated for his scoring inefficiency with 13 assists. Although a slowdown is to be expected, given that he's still recovering from back ailments, we're hoping Nash will be back to top form for tonight's game against the Utah Jazz at home.
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As we discussed earlier this week, it's an important contest (TNT's broadcasting it nationwide): the Suns are vying for fourth place in the standings. After Wednesday night's victory, Phoenix (29-24) is only a half-game behind Utah (38-22) and has been on a bigger roll than their opponents.
The Suns have won eight of their last 10 games, including impressive victories over the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Conversely, the Jazz are only 6-4 in their previous 10 and have been beaten by teams that the Suns have made mincemeat of, including Atlanta, Sacramento, and most recently, the Clippers.
Las Vegas oddsmakers are pegging Phoenix as the favorite, but that doesn't mean the game is going to be an easy win. The Jazz are led by the lethal Carlos Boozer, who averages 19.6 points per game and was named the Western Conference player of the month for February. Meanwhile, his teammate Deron Williams has been in a tailspin in recent weeks; his shooting has been impaired by an injured wrist. But, much like Nash, point guard Williams has been making up for it with a slew of assists.
Tonight's game will be the first of three meetings between the Suns and Jazz, including both teams' final game of the season on April 14. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. TV: KUTP My45 HD/TNT. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. More info: www.suns.com.