For now, at least, Amar'e Stoudemire doesn't look like a defensive liability, and the Phoenix Suns played like they give a damn as they endured the second game of a four-game road swing in New Orleans, posting a 109-100 win Monday night.
Sure, the Hornets were without the services of their best player, Chris Paul, but it still can was an important victory for the Suns.
Two days after scoring 36 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against the Houston Rockets, Stoudemire put up 25 points and collected 12 boards against the Hornets. The back-to-back, rock-solid performances came amid rampant trade speculation and a fourth-quarter benching on January 28 against the Mavericks, against whom he had just one measly rebound. The All-Star had been taking a beating by just about everyone who posted up against him last month. Before his one-board showing against the Mavs, the Suns' big man tallied just five boards in each of the previous four games, dating back to January 22.
It was pretty pathetic and it seemed as though Suns fans' love affair with STAT was on the rocks.
What a difference two good games make. Now, we love the guy again and would hate to see him go. Against the Mavs and Hornets, Stoudemire has shown why he's worthy of starting in the All-Star game on February 13. Now, if only the 6-foot-10 power forward can keep the intensity level up for the season's remaining 31 games. If that happens, we may be willing to take back those one-and-done post-season predictions we were making a couple of weeks ago.
Speaking of the postseason, with their 29-21 record, the Suns are currently hold the seventh seed in the Western Conference but are a mere two games behind those nasty Mavericks for the third seed.
Elsewhere on the court, Steve Nash was his usual self, scoring 18 points and dishing out 12 assists, and the continually surprising Robin Lopez scored 18 points, too. The second-year center from Stanford started again, played 25 minutes, and went 8-for-11 from the field. It was Lopez's second straight game scoring in double figures, and he's now averaging 11.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in his past five games. Channing Frye played a nice game, too. Off the bench, he scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds in 25 minutes.
The Suns look rejuvenated at this point, and they'll have to stay that way as they head into Denver on Wednesday for what will be their toughest test in a while. At 33-15, the Nuggets have the second-best record in the Western Conference and 9-1 in their past 10 games. Of course, they are led by the NBA's scoring leader, Carmelo Anthony, who's averaging 29.7 points per game. But Anthony is listed as questionable for Wednesday's game with an ankle injury that has kept him out of the past five games.