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.