Two things we’ve always known for sure about these Suns. Number one, big deficits mean nothing to them. Number two, neither do big leads.
Thus it really was no surprise that at one point in the first period last night they were up 16, and at one point in the second period they were down 16. It also didn’t raise so much as a single eyebrow when their superior firepower, aided and abetted by a late boost from the bench, enabled them to finally put away Houston’s undermanned but overachieving Rockets 118-110.
The Rockets may not have many names, but they are not short on spunk, nor are they as deficient in skills as their anonymity would lead you to misbelieve. When Yao Ming went down and Tracy McGrady followed the Rockets were consigned to the lottery heap, but they rolled into town last night five games over .500.
And the Suns needed to have all their big guns firing plus that above mentioned much needed late boost from their bench to overcome superb efforts by Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry. Brooks, a 6-foot guard, scored 34 points, and Landry, a 6-10 forward who is really a load, added 31 and 10 rebounds for the Rockets.
Coach Alvin rightly labeled this a “quality” win, and praised the Rockets as “a blue collar team all the way.” And off their surprising record to this point Rick Adelman certainly deserves to be in any Coach of The Year conversation.
But the Suns showed a little spunk of their own in finally getting the back-to-back monkey off their backs, although snapping a five-game losing streak in the second game of such a scheduling tandem might have to be asterisked to denote that the Rockets also were in the aft end of a back-to-back.
Fortunately, they got 20-point production from four of their five starters, including 6 of 12 threes from Channing Frye and another typical MV-Three performance from Steve Nash (26 points, 12 assists).
But perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the victory was that the bench snapped out of a slump that had lasted two and three-quarters games and had the faint hearted (you know who you are) starting to wonder if the earlier stretch of high productivity from the subs had been a fluke.
Going into the fourth period last night they were still in a funk, having delivered only four points and six rebounds and playing a key role in digging the above mentioned 16-point.
But it was the bench brigade that lit the fuse for the winning explosion, turning a one-point deficit into an eight-point lead in the first five minutes of the fourth period, with Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, and Jared Dudley all hitting big threes. All told the subs accounted for 13 of the team’s 33 fourth period points, and 4 of the 7 rebounds, and also blocking three shots.
If you’re looking to add some nits to your diet, you could munch on those 17 turnovers leading to 25 Rocket points and that 4-22 deficit in second-chance points.
The bottom line: Nits and all, the Suns are now 10 games over .500, and only the Lakers and Mavs have more wins in the West. And only the Lakers are undisputedly better.