The NBA's top two scoring teams did exactly what was expected of them Monday night in Oakland, where the Phoenix Suns escaped with a 133-131 win over the Golden State Warriors.
The Suns moved to 19 games over .500 and maintained their hold on the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoff race. Unfortunately for the Suns, the Utah Jazz upset the Boston Celtics on Monday to stay one game ahead of the Suns.
Now with 11 games left in the regular season, the Suns have an outside shot at finishing as high as the second seed in the West, but they'll need a lot of help to get there. Tonight, the teams with the second and third seed, the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks, respectively, play crummy teams in the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers. The Suns need one of the Eastern Conference patsies to pull an upset. Next up for the Suns, who are on a six-game winning streak? The Knicks on Friday at US Airways Center.
On Monday, Amar'e Stoudemire continued to show why he's been one of the best players in the league since the All-Star break. He scored 37 points and pulled down eight rebounds in 34 minutes of action. He also was 12 of 15 from the field and scored seven straight points during the final two minutes of the game, including probably the most spectacular dunk of his career to tie the game with 2:33 to play.
After the game, Suns coach Alvin Gentry told reporters, "He's come through for us, big-time. Over the last month and a half, I think he's been the best player in the league." Indeed, Stoudemire has averaged 30.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in his previous 10 games. In short, Suns vice president Steve Kerr is looking pretty brilliant for going against conventional wisdom by not trading the superstar in February.
Five other Suns scored in double figures on Monday, including Jason Richardson, who tied his season high with 34 points, including 15 in the first quarter. Steve Nash had another 12-assist game but scored only 12 points. Oddly, Nash grabbed seven rebounds and even missed two free throws. Jared Dudley had 14 points off the bench, and Grant Hill and Channing Frye each contributed 11 points.
Speaking of missed free throws, the Suns nearly blew this one in the closing minutes when, in addition to Nash's misses, Hill missed four in a row from the charity stripe. The old guys must've been worn out from playing two nights in a row.
The Suns will attempt to make it seven straight wins on Friday night against New York.
Tipoff: 7 p.m. here. TV: My45 (channel 9). Radio: KTAR 620 AM. Info: www.suns.com