Amar’e Stoudemire was afire early and Channing Frye was a four-alarm blaze later, and the Suns had very little problem scorching a Celtic team that was minus two of its best players and playing its fourth road game in six nights.
Amare hit his first eight shots from the field and finished with 26 points despite playing only 22 minutes, while Frye continued his deadly sniping from long range with 6 of 20 from arc city in his 26-point production.
Given the fact Kevin Garnett was back in the hotel and Paul Pierce is still sidelined with a knee problem, the temptation might be to affix an asterisk to this romp. Between them they are nearly 40 per cent of the Boston offense, and Garnett is the heart of the Boston defense.
But none the real focus of this one should not be on how tired and hurting the Cs were but on the ongoing evidence it provided that the Suns have recovered from their mid-December funk and are once again looking like the 14-3 team that was the talk of the league in November.
Translation: That 14-3 start was the reality and the 4-8 slump the misperception — or something like that.
This team simply has too many weapons to stay down very long, and has shown marked improvement in its short suits, -i.e. —defense and rebounding. It’s never going to be great at either one, but with Steve Nash driving and dishing to all those other shooters, it doesn’t have to be. Decent and determined will do just fine, thank you.
Frye continues to be a revelation. The rap on him in a hitherto little noticed career was that all he could do was shoot. But it turns out that while he can certainly do that it’s really not ALL he can do — as proved his 21 rebounds over the last two games against two of the biggest teams in the league.
Additionally, he fits much more smoothly into the offense than his Hall of Fame-bound predecessor, and is even an upgrade defensively in some ways.
One other hedge against long slumps is the veteran leadership proved by Nash and Grant Hill, which was likely a factor in keeping the team’s recent lapses from developing into a full blown slide toward mediocrity.
Even with the horses they have you let something like their mid-December go on too long and suddenly you’ve got doubt-raising, finger-pointing, loss of mojo, and an unhappy lockerroom.
The bottom line: Happy New Year to all.