(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

Okay, so it was like shooting at fish in a barrel. And okay, it was a small barrel and the fish were dead. But even adjusted for inflation caused by Minnesota’s 29th ranked defense, 152 was still a very impressive number.

What with the Suns not exactly in a lockdown defense themselves this was a fun night all the way around. The Wolves got as many good looks at the basket as did the home team, and even though they don’t see as well still scored 19 points above their average.

And more importantly the assault on the stat sheet enabled the Suns to keep pace in the frenzied seeding scramble in the West while serving as a nice little confidence builder for Friday’s game against powerful Utah. (Of course, it was so easy it could also lead to overconfidence, but I’m a glass is half full kind of guy).

But enough with the jokes already.

Minnesota’s prone position should in no way detract from the fact the Suns, with Amare Stoudemire taking his game back to the level it was before all the injuries, are in a position schedule-wise and playingwise to make a strong seed run in the final 14 games.  The game against the Jazz will go a long way toward determine just HOW strong, but in any case the Suns have established themselves as a team nobody wants to meet in the playoffs. (Of course, the deck is so stacked in the West there’s no team anybody really WANTS to meet, but it’s still nice to be in that number).

Stoudemire’s post All Star breakout is being attributed by some to his desire to get a maximum contract SOMEWHERE, but us glass half full guys prefer to think the return of the explosiveness that once made him one of the half dozen most talked about players in the league had more to do with health than money.

Going into the season everybody agreed it would take time for him to get back where he was before all the injuries. It was unreasonable, after all, to expect him to pick right up where he left off just like that, they nodded understandingly. But then as he struggled everybody promptly forgot about that and started muttering about his lack of game. And those were the moderates! The bloggers wanted him under the next train out of town!

But now he’s back putting up some of the most impressive offensive numbers in the league, his defense has improved noticeably, and his free throwing (21-21 in last two games) has improved dramatically. And it’s no coincidence Suns’ prospects had improved right along with him.

This team has never been short of offensive weapons in recent years, and this year has developed more defensively and depthwise than any of its recent predecessors. And the depth figured to get even deeper with Leandro Barbosa back in the mix.

Along the way, they’ve fixed some of the nagging little problems, like playing down to the level of weak opponents. And thus, where they struggled early against the sub-.500 teams, they have improved to 21-9 against tem, and are working on an 8-0 streak.

Obviously it’s not a flawless team, but it doesn’t have to be to go far in the West, because while the conference is indeed stacked, there is no 900-pound gorilla in it. (I make the Lakers no better than 800, tops).

The bottom line: It’s going to be a fun ride the rest of the way, one tantalizingly filled with equally great perils and possibilities.

  • JOHNSERPE

    It looked like the Timberwolves imploded Joe, but it’s sweet either way. Suns chemistry and body language hasn’t been better and the flow is nearly perfection. With so many Suns peaking at the same time it’s hard to imagine a collapse at this point. Defense which used to be a dirty word in Suns land has become a weapon now. The bench can hold it’s own with any in the NBA. Put it all together and you have to wonder how we don’t make the West finals? My opinion, Suns are going as far as the energy and concentration level takes us, bar some sort of curse moment again.

  • JOHN SERPE

    Spurs and Thunder lose last night, Suns inch farther away from a first round facing LA or Dallas. I would rather take my chances playing the Jazz, Thunder or even Denver. Upcoming Jazz game is huge. Suns can’t afford to go 7 games in the first round, we just don’t have the energy reserves with Nash and Hill. If it’s going to be a war with someone, make it the series that decides who plays in the West finals.

  • helix

    When A Suns-hater like Charles Barkley starts to praise them, everybody got to watch out for this team.

  • http://cox terryg

    it,s so important for the suns to win tonight against the jazz we have the horses to do it. just hope everybody plays up to their game terrg

  • JOHN SERPE

    Just read that Earl Clark was great in his D League debut. Congrats to Clark for the high praise he recieved from the coach. He could have hung his head and pouted, instead he showed that he can help in the Suns playoff run. Won’t be suprised if we see more of him real soon. Good draft pick.

  • tricky

    Charlie is a Suns-hater and the only time he piles on compliments is when we are most likely not in contention for a championship.

  • JOHN SERPE

    Big statement against Utah. It’s official, Amare is now a Superstar. Lopez and JRich came up big. Awful lot of weapons in the Suns lineup and can you believe the effort on defense? If we clean up the turnovers, limit the passing to within human ability and remain healthy Suns are sure peaking at the right time.