For most of this season, the Phoenix Suns have been in need of some serious heart. Fans have lost count of the number of games lost because Planet Orange let winnable games fall out of their reach.
During their past two games, however, Phoenix seems to have recovered that fighting spirit. Last Thursday, the Suns survived an overtime battle against the New Jersey Nets. And then on Friday, they managed to bounce back from a 13-point deficit against the Portland Trail Blazers for a nice 115-111 win at US Airways Center.
It provided the Purple and Orange Gang a slight winning streak, allowed them their first back-to-back victories in more than a month, avoided a season sweep by the Blazers, and (we can only hope) gave them a little momentum.
Steve Nash once again was the team's savior. He not only came up with a double-double (23 points, 13 assists), but also nailed a crucial three-pointer with less than 90 seconds left in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. Nash seemed particularly fired up for the game, as exemplified by the profanity-laced tirade he unleashed following the technical he received in the second period after kicking the ball in frustration.
His energy must've infected his teammates. Hakim Warrick was hustling with both shots and rebounds, while Channing Frye was also great on the boards and stuffing Blazers left and right. Vince Carter also shone, contributing some killer defense and making key shots.
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It was also a memorable night for Grant Hill, who exceed 16,000 career points by scoring 21 during the winning effort. Hill was a key component of the win, making big buckets in the second quarter to fuel Phoenix's comeback in the second quarter. Down 13 points at that point, Nash and the Suns' starting lineup kicked things into high gear. The lead would swing back and forth between the two teams over the first three quarters, until a rather evenly-matched final period. Three-pointers and clutch foul shots from both Nash and Hill proved to be the difference maker and gave Phoenix the W.
Next up for Phoenix is a five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference that begins later today with a visit to Madison Square Garden for another battle against one-time comrade Amar'e Stoudemire and the rest of the New York Knicks. Big Stat dealt out big pain to his former team a mere 10 days ago, scoring 23 points in a 121-96 massacre that saw the Knicks rain down a total of 17 three-pointers. Planet Orange will have to somehow find a way to counter for both Amar'e and the Knicks' sharpshooters if they hope to escape New York with an unlikely win.
Things get a bit easier for the Suns after leaving Gotham, as their face off against four of the weakest teams in the East (none of which have a winning record). On Wednesday, Phoenix will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-32), followed by a visit to D.C. to meet the Washington Wizards (11-32) on Friday. Then it's on to the Motor City on Saturday for a game with the Detroit Pistons (14-26) before wrapping up the road trip a week from tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers (16-23).
All four contests are winnable, provided that Phoenix doesn't get too bruised up in what's certain to be a drubbing against Amar'e and the Knicks. Tip-off is at 11 a.m. TV: KUTP My45 HD. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. For more information, visit www.suns.com.