Off their last two performances you got the impression that, even at this early stage of the season, the Suns were in need of little R & R. But it turns out all they really needed was a little B & B.
Barbosa broke out of his slump to help the Suns win against Orlando.
As in Bell and Barbosa.
These two key cogs in the team’s octane machine have been struggling with various nagging injuries lately, most notably in the loss to Houston Wednesday when they went a combined 5 for 18 from the field and 0-4 from Arc City while managing only 11 points.
But Friday night they combined for 15 of 30 from the field and 6 of 11 from three-point land and totaled 37 points. Raja was particularly impressive in a 35 minute tour, hitting his first four threes to help the Suns build a lead and went on to score 20 points. What’s even more encouraging was how well he moved, although he understandably appeared to tire a tad at the end.
“Raja’s a heckuva player,” said Coach Mike. “He makes a world of difference to our team, and he’ll just keep getting better.”
Leandro, who had cooled off and slowed down (for him) with an ankle problem, got back at least partly into his old groove with 7 for 14 shooting and 17 points.
Overall, this night was something of a mixed bag for the Suns.
They did a lot of things very well early, executing well at the offensive end and playing some solid defense at the other, and really seemed to be in control of the game most of the way.
But they seemed to hit a wall about halfway through the third period, and actually needed plenty of pluck and a bit of luck at the finish to escape with an important victory over a team that came in to town leading the NBA in victories, and that boasts one of the most impressive young players in the game in 6-10 Dwight Howard.
For Howard, “impressive” doesn’t even come close to getting describing his talents. “Awesome” is a lot closer. Friday night he made scoring 30 points and grabbing 23 rebounds as easy as peeling off his warm-ups. True, he also had 8 turnovers and missed 6 free throws, but trust me, those are minor flaws that experience will doubtless smooth out.
The Suns offset his effort with double figure scoring from all five starters plus Barbosa, and got 14 assists from Steve Nash, who took only eight shots and missed six of them, and missed his first free throw on the year after making his first 33.
As luck would have it, that miss was a significant one that left the door ajar for the Magic. But not to worry. He broke out of his slump a few seconds later by making two free throws to slam that door shut.
Coach Mike was half pleased with his team’s night work. Well, maybe three quarters.
“Obviously we won, but we’re still not totally sharp yet. We just don’t seem to have that killer instinct that puts people away. But there was some really good stuff for us out there, especially in the first half.”
The bottom line: The Suns showed enough early to indicate just how good they can be at something still only beginning to approach 100 percent in either the sync or game shape departments. And 12-4 is a fabulous record for the shape they are in.