Yes, there was a little extra spring in the ol’ step today, and the sky seemed even sunnier than usual.
That’s because tonight’s game had a little more personal anticipation attached to it. Namely, Suns.com finally got some front-row love at the game… okay second row, but for the first time the official online home of the Suns got to see things up close and personal with lower-level press box seating.
For us, that’s big, especially during the regular season. Usually relegated to the upper press box (or occasionally our office, in some cases) I was seated right behind the Suns radio duo of Al McCoy and Tim Kempton and had sort of a high-definition TV view of the game – minus the TV.
While the game itself didn’t exactly end on a positive note with Jason Richardson’s potential game-winning three bouncing off the rim as time expired, it was good to see the Suns extend their triple-digit scoring streak to a season high of nine. Phoenix is averaging 109.7 ppg since their 90-point showing vs. the Spurs on Christmas Day.
Speaking of scoring, selfishly, I was really hoping Grant Hill was going to get his 14,000th point tonight. That’s because writers love stories that write themselves. A slow first half shooting-wise for the veteran sort of iced that, even though he had a burst of scoring to open the third quarter. He finished the game with six points, leaving him with just 14 to go to become the 17th active player to reach 14,000. Barring anything crazy, he should have little trouble getting that during the team’s upcoming six-game East Coast road swing.
Amar’e Stoudemire weathered a four-point, three-rebound first half to finish the game with 19 points and seven boards. A couple of his “Vote for STAT” All-Star videos ran up on the big-screen throughout the game, and watching him rip down an offensive board and follow it up with a put-back slam after halftime almost made me wish I had a ballot in front of me to fill out on the spot.
Louis Amundson continues to see big minutes, which is night and day compared to the last few seasons when it comes to the younger Suns seeing playing time. It also doesn’t hurt when No. 17 starts his Tasmanian devil routine out on the court. Even though he only scored six points in just under 25 minutes vs. the Timberwolves, the backup center collected six boards, a block and a steal and was the recipient of a pretty sweet bang-bang double pass for a slam dunk in the second quarter.
I don’t know how many he set during his playing days, but Head Coach Terry Porter certainly utilized the screen tonight… on me. Between the requisite sideline pacing that goes along with being an NBA head coach, Porter seemed to stop right in field of view more often than not. A vocal coach, it was hard to NOT hear him share his opinions with the referees on a plethora of topics that I will leave to your imagination.
Hopefully, Leandro Barbosa has the phone number of a good chiropractor. He hit the deck more often than a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas. Give him credit, though, he still found the resolve to post 22 points in almost 23 minutes.
What weighs 590 lbs. and is joined at the hip? Minnesota’s Al Jefferson when he’s draped all over Shaquille O’Neal for a no-brainer foul. Returning to action after last night’s game off in Denver, Shaq did extend his 15-plus-point scoring streak to 13 games after posting a game-high-tying 22 vs. Minnesota. The Suns fell to 8-2 when the center scored at least 20. Mixing in a team-high 11 boards, it was Shaq’s ninth 20-10 game of the year. And yes, he looks even bigger up close.
Hopefully Suns.com will be entrenched in row 2 for all home games here on out. And who knows? We can always aspire toward row 1. Now that would really be something if Shaq hurtled full-speed into the press box, diving for a loose ball…
Now that I think about it, second row is fine.