Sober up. Carlos Boozer didn't play in the Phoenix Suns' two-point win over the Utah Jazz at US Airways Center.
The Utah power forward, who's logged 20 points and almost 12 rebounds a game this season, has missed 11 starts with a quadriceps injury.
But there's good news about Saturday night's game: Suns power forward Amare Stoudemire (pictured) woke up and grabbed 20 rebounds to go along with his 22 points. Stoudemire's defensive effort, including his work on the boards, was a remarkable turnaround from most of this season. Stoudemire's been under fire from the press and from Coach Terry Porter for his lackadasical D.
Forgot to mention: 11 of his rebounds were offensive, giving the Suns second-chance points.
Which is also why they were able to stay with the 13-9 Jazz. The score was tied at the end of each of the first three quarters.
It was a good game for the now 12-9 Suns, and one that should inspire new confidence. Steve Nash had 12 points and nine assists (he was able to go back to what he does best: distribute the ball), and Shaquille O'Neal had 15 points and 10 rebounds -- all the team can expect from the 36-year-old.
The Suns out-rebounded Utah 54 to 37, so even if Boozer had snatched his usual 12, Phoenix would've still won the battle of the boards.
Bench play injected energy into the team: the combination of Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw, and Matt Barnes had 51 points. With 25 of those points, Barbosa had his best game since he returned from Brazil after his mother's death. The team needs him at his Sixth Man of the Year level to be successful.
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Watching this game, we could bring ourselves to believe that (maybe) the Suns can run, which they did when Shaq was on the bench, and play a successful half-court game, which they did when he was on the floor. Maybe Porter was able to ignite some fire into the team. Something sure happened to break the Suns' four-game losing streak, the longest in the past two seasons.
This is to say that we're cautiously optomistic. The Suns did have 16 turnovers to 14 for the Jazz, but it was a vast improvement over the 21 they amassed a few games back. -- Rick Barrs