The Detroit Pistons rolled into town looking for their fourth-straight win but instead found a team with an answer for everything. Terry Porter’s Suns wouldn’t back down from a challenge came through their identity crisis with a new attitude. While they showed traces of the fast-paced, offensive-minded team of previous years, the Suns also brought a “no excuses” edge to both ends of the US Airways Center court.
There were plenty of challenges to go around Sunday night. The team was once again without the services of Matt Barnes who was suspended two games after the altercation against the Houston Rockets. The roster got even smaller in the first half when Shaq was called for a flagrant foul while going for a block and was ejected. The Suns wanted to be a more disciplined team, but that was not what they had in mind. “We knew we were up against it,” said Steve Nash, “It was the perfect opportunity for them to take advantage of a momentum swing, but we responded.”
The understaffed Suns answered with toughness even with one of their most physical players in the locker room. In the closing seconds of the first half, Nash sank a three only to have it immediately answered by Rasheed Wallace. Nash demanded the last word, though, and just seven seconds later gave the fans a live-action instant replay by sinking another three pointer to end the half on a high note. His “refuse to lose” attitude set the tone for the rest of the night.
Nash’s aggressiveness paid off on the defensive end as well. After missing a jumper in the third quarter he chased Rip Hamilton down the court and swatted away his layup attempt. While Nash joked about his defensive prowess after the game, teammate Amar’e Stoudemire said it was just one of the signs that they were willing to do whatever it takes to win. “It was a hustle play. That’s how you win against big-time teams when you have everybody hustling, guys diving on the floor for loose balls and Steve Nash running down for a block.”
The Suns also benefited from the physical play of Louis Amundson off the bench. While some fans may have only known him for his hairstyle, Louis won the crowd over Sunday night playing with passion and relentless energy to spark his team. “That’s what I feel my role is with the team here,” said Amundson, “I try to get out there and hustle, play defense, and do what I can to bring a little energy.”
The game against Detroit was more than just a W in the win/loss column – it was a sneak peek at who the Suns are becoming under Coach Porter. “We responded well tonight,” echoed Amundson, “One of the things Coach Porter has been focused on is toughness. That’s what it’s about.” The Suns have definitely gotten edgier this season. If you don’t believe me, just ask the Pistons.