Everything that’s been wrong with the Suns is right again! At least for now.
Execution, defense, rebounding, ball handling, and energy, all the minuses that have plagued the team during its’ six-week slide, were almost magically turned into the very plusses that enabled them to get one of the oddest monkeys in professional team sports (i.e., 18 straight losses on TNT) off their backs.
Since I don’t pretend understand this team’s past, I won’t pretend to know whether this victory means the 14-3 team is back or was just making a cameo appearance. But what can be said is that it pulled the Suns back from the ledge of the cliff they’ve been teetering on lo these many losses.
A defense that has been able to make even “slows”, let alone “stops” down the stretch held the Mavericks to 16 fourth period points. The turnovers that have been killing them late? The Suns had only two in the fourth period, leading to only one Maverick point. Rebounding? The Suns had a 37-34 edge, including 9-7 I n the fourth period.
Energy? The level hasn’t been this high, especially at crunch time, for more than a month.
As far as individual performances go, there were so many good ones it’s hard to decide where to start, but I’m going to go with the tremendous job Grant Hill did on All Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, frustrating the Maverick star all night. Dirk did manage 19 points, but that’s six below his average, and he never came close to getting his devastating game going.
Then there was Goran Dragic, who not only scored some huge points, but led a bench brigade (Dragic, Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Louis Amundson, and Earl Clark) that twice brought the Suns back into the game. Good as his numbers (13 points and 4 of 6 shooting) were, the transfusion of instant energy he provides is even more important.
Obviously nobody told HIM the season’s is already half way down the drain. (Either that or he didn’t get the memo).
Dragic, who won’t turn 24 until May, is still very much a work in progress, and there are those who grumble the kid can’t play the point and isn’t big enough to play two guard. But he’s got spunk and he’s got a shot. And while I admit I’m not quite sure exactly what it is yet, he’s got game too.
Amundson, who is just as tireless and spunky as Dragic but not blessed with quite the talent, came up big on the boards in the clutch, blocked two shots, and contributed 7 of the team’s 28 fourth period points. And they don’t win this one without Dudley’s 8 points and 6 boards either.
In case you’re wondering about the usual heroes, Nash had 19 points and 11 assists and hit his usual quota of critical shots late, and Amare returned somewhat to form with 22 points.
Indeed, just about everybody made a significant contribution, including Coach Alvin, who I though had one of his better games.
The bottom line: There’s no such thing as a bad win, but some are better than others. And all things considered this was the best one this season.