(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

Steve Nash’s MVP-3 campaign picked up a few more votes here last night.

Amare Stoudemire scored 28 points and clinched the win by converting a monstrous rebound, and Jared Dudley’s season-high 18 points included a clutch three, but like so many other victories, this one really came down to Nash’s superb orchestration.

You wouldn’t see better conducting than this at Carnegie Hall. His numbers were impressive enough, 20 points and 18 assists, but as always with any true artist, numbers can’t really begin to capture the magnificence of his performance.

The way he creates scoring opportunities is the main reason the Suns lead the league in offense. Maybe the only reason. His last assist of the evening, an almost nonchalant little flip to Grant Hill for a 12-foot bank shot put the Suns ahead for good with 69 seconds to play, and he had a major hand (and head) in all the Suns final three hoops.

And when he wasn’t conducting he was going solo for a three just when the Magic appeared to be about to pull away halfway through the frantic fourth period. It’s amazing how often he delivers a momentum-breaking shot.

Insular proclivities to the contrary notwithstanding, there isn’t another player on the plant who does more for or means more to his team than Steve Nash. Not Kobe, not LeBron, not anybody! And it didn’t hurt Steve’s MVP-3 chances that this one was nationally televised.

Thanks to his latest display of virtuosity the Suns stretched their home court winning streak and remain the only team in the league with a perfect record at home.

The Suns needed him at his best for this one as their offense continuing to miss the extra boost Leandro Barbosa provided. They are averaging close to 10 points fewer per game since he was sidelined with an injury six games ago.

Mostly, his absence makes it hard for them to sustain their scoring, and Friday night was a case in point. They played an almost perfect first period, scoring 33 points and building an 11-point lead that would grow to 19, but from then on they found points uncharacteristically hard to come by, and the Magic hit on enough of their 38 three-balls and grabbed enough rebounds to almost overcome 21 turnovers and 12 missed free throws.

The operative word there, fortunately, being ALMOST. In fact, turnover 21 sealed their doom. They were on a fast break down one with 37 seconds to play when Anthony Johnson lost the ball out-of-bounds.

Dwight Howard had 18 rebounds for the Magic, but he also had 5 turnovers and missed 9 free throws, including six straight at one point. And five of those came in a four-minute span when the Magic was making a charge in the third period.

The bottom line: Given the quirkiness of their schedule and the injury to Barbosa the Suns’ 16-7 record is quite remarkable, and gives reason to hope for bigger things when they get to stop living out of suitcases.

  • JOHN SERPE

    Yes Joe, I will agree, Suns record almost qualifies as amazing given the ridiculous schedule the NBA somehow can justify. Lets be honest though, were not playing anywhere near the level of intensity of the first 12 games. Tired, come on, these are trained, conditioned athletes, not your over 30 after work league. My take on it, it must have been heart, but it’s over now, it sure was good but we lost it somehow. Okay, I know, it’s a song and right now it’s not “pretty”. Bottom line, Suns have a good team, one of the top 2nd tier, but any talk of deep into the playoffs or a title are way past reality.

  • Benjamin De Mers

    Jared Dudley = Raja Bell? Not yet, but if he keeps working on his pick and pop and keeps tightening his defense we could see him pass up Raja and head towards RIP territory. Yes, he is that good. What a deal we got with this kid.

    Steve and Amare back at it again with the addition of a Grant Hill that “gets it” and has a much better shot and court presence than Marion will ever possess. Thank God the desert is doing wonders for him.

    I have to admit that I am impressed with this win without Barbosa. I am as impressed with this win as I am worried about the long term Suns with a fragile Barbosa. History tells us this guy is just fragile. Yet he plays with such speed and brilliance that it would seem a shame to look at his game and see where his court presence is causing him to get hurt. Landing on the wrist or stepping on a shoe can end a career just when it is flashing into genius. My opinion is that the coaches need to talk to Barbosa about his court presence and awareness on plays. Even the GREAT Manu Genobilli got beaten up so badly that he now plays HALF the game he used to. His career was remarkable but short. There is no argument that the Suns need Leandro until Earl Clark can become him and perhaps better than him. Earl may not ever have his speed but he has his explosiveness with more court presence. Leandro plays out of control sometimes because he is so fast. I have no idea if the coaching staff is aware of this but on all of his injuries especially the hyper extended knee it is because he goes into the basket or shoots out of control. Unless the Suns find a way to take the recklessness out of his game and place more finesse into his game they are going to see many stretches without Leandro. I am a firm believer that the main reason they did not make the playoffs last year was NOT the loss of Amare but the loss of Leandro in the critical stretch in the battle with Dallas.

    Enough said. With the scheduling the way it has been I agree that these Suns without Leandro have done remarkably well to not fall apart and still find ways to retool the machine to work with what it has. This has always been a part of Suns history and what makes this team special. They never tank and they never quit. They do get whipped here and there but the talk about it and they find ways to learn from it.

    Nash is playing the best ball of his career because he knows this is it. HE has to make superstars out of talented nobodies (excluding Hill and Amare). IF this team stays healthy (and that never happens) and IF they can continue to play decent D while working the pick and pop, the down and out and the pick and roll with Steve relentlessly driving the basket while ALL the other teammates continue to MOVE without the ball this team will make the playoffs and make some noise there.

    Final and most important question: What makes a team WANT to move without the ball? Team chemistry and identity and BUYING into that 110%. This rag tag team of vets and greenhorns could do something special if they fool themselves into shutting out all the noise and hype and focus on just playing 40 minutes of basketball every night in every town on every stop on the tour.

    Do I beleive? You bet. Do I see enough to tell me that these Suns can believe? You bet. I am excited for the fans and for this team because nobody expected them to come out this strong and nobody would have thought they would have figured out something pretty impressive. But that is precisely what happens when you are off the radar and working hard. Keep it up and keep adding more sets and getting more diversity guys. NEVER, EVER GIVE UP and NEVER EVER LISTEN TO ANYONE other than your teammates and your coaches and your true fans.

    I wish you health and all the best because if you can pull this off it would be a wonderful heart felt story of success against all odds. That is what truly special situations can make of an ordinary life. The perfect storm is never common. This is the chance of a lifetime. Buck the odds. Four forwards and a guard? Genius. Switch back to full speed three guards and two forwards? Genius. Roll into Center, Two Forwards and Two Guards? Genius. Rotate all sets and configurations with clockwork precision? Genius. Keep it up? Motivation and faith. If you guys can believe you can achieve. Nothing can stop you. I can’t wait for you to play the Lakers at home. I would not want to be the Lakers at US Airways. Nope.

    Best always,

    Benjamin De Mers

  • Addu

    I’m an italian fans of the PS and I cannot see all phoenix’s match but only the sunday’s midday…You are certainly most informated of me and I want ask you: how is the athletics situation of the team? because I think that The win on the magic is an important injection of affiance, but the most unknow factor, is the energy that the phoenix’s player has in the legs…if they play all the regular season, at the higgests rhythms,on which form they arrive at the play-off? If there are some phoenix’s supporters that can answer me…

  • doc howl

    Nash is out of this world. His play makes up for Amare’s lack of playing. That guy frustrates me so much. No way is he a max guy the way he doesn’t play defense, and lack of effort. There is no excuse for lack of effort. He needs 10+ rebounds every night.

  • CarlaP2

    All I have to say is Amen, Benjamin! What an awesome post! LOVED IT! And thank you Joe for another wonderful Blog! If nothing else everyone have a Happy and Joyouse Christmas and a better economic year!

  • JOHN SERPE

    Suns once again ran out of “wanting it more than the other guy” against Denver. The obvious no call at the end was a foot note, typical NBA, the home of the worst officiating anywhere. The real fact is we couldn’t hold a double digit lead. After 12 incredible, inspiring games to start the season which showed what this team could be, we have reverted back to the old Phoenix Suns. You know, the one that makes excuses for embarrassing losses and sloppy play, putting the blame on back to back games, the schedule, tired legs, anything but the truth. The Suns have the talent to rise to the next level, we all saw it early on. Trouble is the inner fire, that burning desire to be the best flickered and went out. Kobe keeps it burning, so does Lebron and Garnett, and they will it on their teamates. Suns would rather shrug their collective shoulders, hang their heads and remain an unfinished work of art.

  • JOHN SERPE

    After a string of lackluster performances which followed our Suns phenom start the flame of desire was rekindled against the dreaded Spurs. Oh, if only we could have two or three days between every game, Suns might play themselves right into a contender. Except for a brief point in the 3rd period Suns looked like the same team that started the season. Amare even ran the floor and actually played defense. If he ever played like that for more than one game out of 10 he could actually be the superstar we don’t have. Dragic has shed his shell and this kid can play, he could be the real thing. The Suns, a mystery wrapped in a puzzle. Who really are these guys, wonder or blunder?