As woeful as the Phoenix Suns' fortunes have been over the past few weeks -- losing four straight games, staging repeated scoring collapses, you name it -- the subpar squad has at least one saving grace.
At least they ain't the New Jersey Nets.
The cellar-dwelling Alantic Division team has been the very definition of hapless this year, amassing a beyond-pitiful 3-37 record, which will ultimately go down in the history books as one of the worst starts by an NBA franchise ever. Their scoring efforts have been utterly deplorable. Their defense, even worse.
So does that mean that Phoenix's victory over the Nets on Wednesday night at US Airways Center was a forgone conclusion? Hardly.
In fact, until the middle of the third quarter last night, the Suns were barely keeping up with the East Coast squad and very well could've lost the game. At home. To the worst team in the entire league.
But thanks to the clutch play of Goran Dragic and Jason Richardson, Planet Orange avoided that unthinkable outcome.
The game started out in typical Suns fashion, with Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire running up a 10-point lead in the first quarter. After the starters checked out in the second and let the bench take over, New Jersey's Yi Jianlian and Courtney Lee helped fuel a 14-4 run to take the lead back at several points.
Phoenix finally pulled away in the second half, by way of the aggressive play of J-Rich in the paint, who provided 26 points and seven rebounds. Dragic also caught fire at the start of the final quarter, going on a five-minute scoring spurt and serving up nine points to help put the game in the deep freeze.
The contest also featured a rather entertaining matchup between Robin Lopez and his twin brother, Brook. Sibling rivalry was in full effect as the pair of centers engaged in one-upmanship all night long, whether it was facing off for the opening tip, banging against each other on the boards, or trading dunks. (A few Suns fans even referred to it as the battle of "RoLo vs. BroLo" on the Internet). And while Brook wound up with the better stats (26 points, 13 rebounds), his hermano had a good night with 20 points, his NBA career high and one better than the 19 he had against Memphis on Monday.
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Hopefully, Suns coach Alvin Gentry will allow Lopez to keep his scoring hot streak by keeping the center in the starting lineup versus the Chicago Bulls, who are coming into town on Friday night. The Chi-Towners (18-22) are in the middle of a long Western Conference swing and have struggled in their last two games, falling to both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors.
A handful of Bulls' starters have been battling the flu bug recently, including Kirk Hinrich and Sudanese small forward Luol Deng. With any luck, road fatigue and influenza will give Phoenix another win and keep them from slipping back into their losing habits.
Tip-off's at 8:30 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. More info: www.suns.com.