After a rough first half, the Suns played well enough to let the bench, including DJ Strawberry, log some minutes.

(NBAE Photos)

Barbosa, as befitting the fastest man in sneakers, got off the mark quickly, hitting his first three-pointer just three seconds after coming off the bench at 4:48 in the first period with the score tied at 14. He went on to hit two more treys and finish with 11 points in the period, and hit eight straight Phoenix points in one stretch before coming out of the game at 5:44 in the second period. That’s 19 points in just a tad less than 12 minutes if you like keeping track of such things.

L.B. finished the night with 30 points on 11 for 15 shooting, including 5 of 9 from Arc City.

Bell, who had only six points at halftime, scored 15 of his 24 points in the third period, hitting four of five threes to finish seven for 12 in that category.

The Bobcats, who have never beaten the Suns, are bogged down at 18-30, and were without leading scorer Gerald Wallace, still managed to stay neck and neck most of the first half of what was a very slow race. In fact, it took a running 30-foot three-pointer at the buzzer to send the Suns into the locker room with a 54-51 lead.

But after halftime it was as advertised — all Phoenix, all the time.

“We started a little slow and were sleeping a little bit most of the first half,” said Coach Mike, “but we finally got warmed up, and while this wasn’t one of our better defensive efforts, we played good defense when he had to.”

Given the combination of three days off, the distractions of Super Bowl week, and the fact that the opponent was Charlotte, Coach Mike wasn’t too upset that his troops didn’t exactly charge out of the gate with fire in their eyes.

Actually, they seemed a bit confused by the Bobcats’ defensive scheme in the first half. The biggest surprise probably being that the Bobcats, who rank in the bottom portion of the league and have now given up 127, 117, and 118 points in their last three games, had a defensive scheme.

But once the Suns figured out that the kind of zone the Bobcats were playing was so named because it basically created a free shot zone at the three-point-line, it was open season on the hoop.

Steve Nash had a some uncharacteristic problems finding the basket (missing seven of his 10 shots), but he very characteristically had no trouble at all finding his teammates, as he handed out 11 assists in just 29 minutes.

This was the Suns’ 15th win in the 20 games since they lost to the Lakers in Los Angeles and fell briefly out of the lead in the Pacific Division and improved the team’s record against the NBA Least to 20-2.

The bottom line: With apologies to Hallmark, sometimes you don’t have to care enough to give your very best to get the job done. And this was one of those nights.

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