The Suns didn’t shoot particularly well, but they made the shots they had to make, and, just as significantly, made the stops that had to be made to escape with their 13th straight home victory over a two-season span and 11th straight over the Raptors over a six-year span.
Oh, and might as well get this one in while we still can – the Suns have the best record in the entire NBA!
But it was far from easy.
Even doing all of the above right, plus getting another uncanny performance from Channing Frye (aka The World’s Tallest Sniper), who was 6 for 8 from three-point range, the Suns had to survive a last-minute big-shot barrage by big-shot specialist Hedo Turkoglu, who hit a three and a two to keep Toronto in it, and rimmed out a 25-footer that would have ended his franchise’s long journey to nowhere in the desert.
He might have made that one too except that the Suns did as good a job as can be done on him in those circumstances, with Coach Alvin switching personnel and forcing Turgolu to fall back to fire. It’s not that he can’t make that shot, mind you. It’s just that this time he didn’t.
But in the end this one was more about Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire than the Raptors. Nash dribbled his way to the hoop for the winning three-point play, and Amare had his best offensive night of the year with 30 points.
Impressive as Amare’s numbers were though, Coach Alvin was able to tell us with a perfectly straight face that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Those weren’t Coach’s exact words, of course. After all, he is a college man. But that was pretty much the gist.
And indeed, Amare really isn’t all the way back from the serious eye problem that sidelined him most of last year. But three things have made him very effective while still very much a work in progress: No 1, he’s playing more for wins than numbers. No. 2, he’s contributing more on defense than back in the day when he was 100 percent. No. 3, his work ethic.
Nash, of course has been playing back to his year BEFORE last form. And although he’s been kind of moved toward the back of the class behind a handful of brilliant young point guards, he’s still very much money in crunch time. His winning drive last night was the kind of play he often couldn’t make last year because there just wasn’t as much room for him to somehow dribble to daylight — which is really his signature move.
As for Frye, what we have here is a perfect example of the kind of the good things that can happen when a hitherto unsung (barely hummed, in fact) player finally finds a team that is a perfect match for his specialty and vice versa. And as a bonus, even though truthfully he doesn’t help much as most big men in some other areas, he doesn’t hurt either. He doesn’t take shots that aren’t there, and he doesn’t throw a monkey wrench, or even a small screwdriver, into the offensive flow.
The then there’s Jared Dudley, definitely one of the DoRight Dudleys (sorry ’bout that). He’ll probably never have the numbers that make headlines, but this 6-7 guard is a gritty all-purpose defender with a knack for making things happen at both ends of the court. And as far as I’m concerned, Coach A. was preaching to the choir when he said Dudley “played a whale of a game” against the Raptors. In fact, it was about as effective a 4-point, 2-assist, 5-rebound game as you’re likely to see. And the guess here is you’re likely to see a lot more just like it from him.
The bottom line: Not the smoothest of victories perhaps, but given the caliber of the opposition and the nail-biting circumstances, one of the most impressive ones this early season.