(Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

(Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

If someone had only watched the first six minutes of the Suns vs Thunder game on Monday night and then was asked which team had only three wins to their name this season, it would be a toss-up on which team they would choose.  But by the end of the quarter, the Suns had gathered themselves enough tie Oklahoma City at 32 apiece.

For the next three quarters, there were great moments (like Jason Richardson’s break-away 360-degree dunk) and not-so-great moments (Steve Nash leaving because of back spasms).  There were also some scary moments when both Jason Richardson and Matt Barnes went down in separate incidents toward the end of the game.  Richardson got up after a few moments and didn’t seem to have any lasting problems.  Matt Barnes, on the other hand, ended up going to the bench for several minutes.  At least, until Amare got his 5th foul with about nine minutes to go in the 4th quarter.

But the most important thing is that Phoenix won the game.  Despite missing Steve Nash and Goran Dragic (flu-like symptoms), the rest of the team pulled through.  The bench received a lot of minutes (Dee Brown, Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson played a combined 36 minutes) and the entire bench scored 35 points, compared to only 13 points for the Thunder bench.

Shaquille O’Neal continued his better-than-average free throw shooting, making eight free throws out of 12 tries.  He also made 10 out 12 shots to score 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Amar’e Stoudemire was in foul trouble most of the night, playing only 23 minutes.  Despite the limited minutes, STAT still scored 14 points and tied for the team lead in assists with five.

Overall, the game wasn’t pretty for Phoenix but it still ends up as a W in the standings.  While the Suns are still in 8th place in the West, they are only 2.5 games out of 2nd place.  Compare that to the Eastern Conference where the Bulls are in 8th place but are 12 games out of 2nd (3 games out of 6th place).  With the schedule the Suns have over the next week or two, this is the time for them to pull ahead in the standings.  And they need to win the games they’re supposed to win – which they started on Monday night.

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