Don't look now, but the Phoenix Suns are on a roll. Okay, it's might only be a two-game win streak (which includes last night's 107-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena), but it's still something to get enthused about.
Thursday's evening's win brought the team back up to the .500 mark and also offered a few rays of sunshine gleaming through the dark clouds that have constituted this dismal and dreary season thus far.
In particular, the Suns stepped up their weak defensive game by leading Golden State on the boards, limiting its scoring, and containing a few of its key players. More importantly, they also didn't back down during the later periods after things got crazy and the Warriors started to bounce back.
That's not to say the Golden Staters didn't cut through Phoenix's screens at times like a killer from an '80s slasher pic, particularly Monta Ellis (who slipped past Suns defenders with aplomb to total 38 points). His powerful performance was minimized by the activity of Channing Frye and seven-footer Earl Barron, whose sole purpose was to keep Golden State's Andris Biedrins from rebounding throughout the evening and grab a lion's share of Planet Orange's 37 boards (six better than their opponents).
The Frye-Barron tag team allowed plenty of offensive opportunities for the triumvirate of Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, and Grant Hill. J-Rich's performance was particularly monstrous, as he led the Suns in scoring with 25 points while sticking it to his former team.
The combined efforts of Phoenix's starting five resulted in two relatively solid quarters of basketball where the Suns led by 11 in the first period, but stumbled just a bit during the second. Goran Dragic's four turnovers were just one of the reasons why Golden state got back into a groove in the second stanza, allowing them to cut the lead to three at halftime. The Purple and Orange Gang continued to slip in the third period as Ellis stepped up his scoring, tying the game at one point. Dragic then redeemed himself by leading the Suns' bench players on a 10-0 run, only to see the Warriors battle back to within three after a flurry of treys from Dorell Wright.
Then came the fourth, when everything went nutso.
It was the very definition of a see-saw battle that saw plenty of steals, turnover, and second-chance shots. The Suns managed to keep it together, however, with well-timed three-pointers from Hedo Turkoglu, frentic fadeaways from J-Rich, and a series of scintilating jumpers and layups from Hill and Nash. Going into the closing minutes of the game, the only thing that Golden State could do was foul Phoenix players. It ultimately proved to be their undoing, as Hill and his teammates were solid from the charity stripe and put the game into the deep freeze.
The Suns return home after their one-game road trip to face off against Indiana. The Pacers (9-8) are hovering around the .500 mark themselves, and have done reasonably well for themselves during their current swing through the Western Conference. Despite getting spanked by the Utah Jazz two nights ago, Jim O'Brien's team is off to its best start in five years behind the stellar play of forward Danny Granger (who's averaging around 22.2 points per game).
Phoenix will be playing five of their next six games at US Airways Center starting, so hopefully they can kick off this homestand of sorts with a win. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. For more information, visit www.suns.com.
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