Beating the methodical World Champion Spurs at their game, running up a 39-point lead even against a bad team like the Grizzlies, and then sort of beating the very athletic Warriors at THEIR game will do that for you.

The Suns had just enough speed and a little too much size, even with Shaq shackled to the bench with foul problems, for the trigger-happy, athletic Warriors. And oh yes, too much defense.

It was the second time in two games that a top quality opponent shot far below its average against the Suns. The Spurs misfired at a 36 percent clip Sunday and last night the Warriors missed 62 of their 105 shots (41 percent to save you doing the math). True, Baron Davis scored 38 points, but he needed 30 shots to do it.

Coincidence? I think not!

The difference both times was that the Suns really tightened the defensive screws, especially in the second half of both wins.

This one didn’t start out that way. Golden State, who leads the league in point production by a narrow margin over the Suns, opened with a 39-point blast. But the Suns cranked up their aggressiveness about four notches (from zero to four to be precise), and pretty much shut down the Warriors in the stay-alive second period decisive third. period.

Meanwhile, the Suns happily fired away at a sizzling 55 percent clip, aided by Amare Stoudemire and abetted by just about everybody but Grant Hill, (who played on a sore wrist the second half). And their starting guards, Steve Nash and Raja Bell, were a combined 8-12 from Three City. (Hill, by the way, hurt his wrist in the second period, and had to gut it out in the second half).

Even without Shaq, and Coach Mike consequently “having” to go with small ball, the Suns still were a little bigger than a Golden State team that never met a shot it didn’t like. Because of those foul problems, the debate over whether or not Shaq can be effective against a team like the Warriors was unresolved.

Meanwhile, the Suns got a big lift with from another of their alleged problem areas, namely the bench. Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa combined for 30 points, and the schizophrenic Diaw (sometimes a tiger, sometimes a pussycat), also had seven rebounds and five assists, and also blocked a shot. Grrrr.

The bottom line: Although you can crunch some pretty impressive numbers after this one, the MOST impressive thing for me was the continuing upgrade of the team’s body language.

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