The Phoenix Suns kicked off the second half of their season last night in arguably the best fashion possible: By upending one of the Eastern Conference's better teams and earning a much-needed win in their quest for a playoff berth.
Buoyed by Channing Frye's 20-point performance, Planet Orange defeated the Atlanta Hawks 105-97 at US Airways Center on Wednesday night in resounding fashion. They're still firmly in 10th place in the Western Conference (a game-and-a-half behind Utah) with a 28-27 record.
Such concerns are now the raison d'être of the Suns organization, as everyone from head coach Alvin Gentry on down to the ball boy is now focused on making the playoff come hell or high water.
The Suns came out strong in the first half and amassed a 18-point lead behind the strong play of Frye and bench players like Marcin Gortat and Hakim Warrick. True, they weren't the best of defense (natch) but compensated by busting out with their usual run-and-gun scoring theatrics.
Though Atlanta was playing without Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, and Maurice Evans (as all three were traded to the Washington Wizards recently), Phoenix managed to let their opponents whittle away at the lead (big surprise) and permitted the Hawks to go on a 14-3 run late in the game and tie things up at 92-92 in the fourth quarter.
To their credit, the Suns kept Atlanta from taking the lead and opened up an eight-point run with two minutes left (which included two clutch jump shots by Frye) to secure the win.
Next up for Phoenix is a six-game road trip that starts on Friday in Toronto. The Raptors are hurting badly this season and are playing the role of cellar dwellers with a dismal 16-42 record. It should be an easy win for the Suns and should help to further their momentum in their drive for the postseason. Tip-off is at 5 p.m. TV: KUTP My45. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. For more info, visit www.suns.com.