It was Retro Night at the US Airways Center, as the Suns turned the clock all the way back to 2006-07.
Well, not officially. But it sure seemed like “old” times, with the Suns lighting up the scoreboard at one end and not being too fanatical about turning the lights out at the other end.
But if the 125-ll0 final seemed like old times, it was definitely a new style. And the most significant thing was that the Suns looked really comfortable in their new skin for the first time all year.
In fact, in the first half when they scored a season-high 74 points, it seemed to fit perfectly. Gone was the tentative, clunky pace of old dogs (hey, it’s just an expression) trying to learn new tricks.
There was a smoothness and confidence in the way they moved the ball and spaced the floor. And where in the past, 125 points would suggest a barrage of threes, the Suns blew this one wide open by working the ball inside to Shaquille O’Neal and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Especially Shaq, who was not only as overpowering as usual but also surprisingly nimble and deft of touch around the hoop while scoring a season-high 35 points in just 34 minutes on 14 of 19 shooting. Amar’e weighed in with 22, and the Suns finished with 48 points in the paint. Amar’e, not incidentally, hit probably the biggest single shot of the night – a buzzer-beating trey at the end of the third period that pushed the lead back up to six points.
Another stat indicating taking the ball strong to the hoop was the number of free throws (38) and Bucks in foul trouble (5).
The Suns weren’t perfect. They still had 17 turnovers, but when you’re playing with confidence those mistakes are far less likely to cause breakdowns or even slow you down much.
So be of good cheer this holiday season, Suns fans.
This was yet another indication your team is slowly but surely working out all the kinks in the makeover. And while there has been disappointment over the early stumbling, the fact is a case could be made for the fact the Suns are actually slightly of ahead of any realistic adjustment schedule, not behind.
The bottom line: Happy Days may not be here just yet, but you can see them from here if you stand on a chair.