Now THAT was impressive!
“THAT” being the best 12 minutes of the Terry Porter Era – a 41-19 third period blast that blew the Mavericks away and started the Suns on the way to 128-100 romp.
And the best part was they did it with the kind of flair and panache that brought back fond memories of the way they used to put teams away in the days of yore (yore being an ancient word meaning last year) when they were known as the NBA’s most entertaining team.
There are all kinds of gaudy stats to illustrate just how much the Suns had going for them against a Dallas team that seemed to run completely out of gas after hanging with the home lads for a half, but perhaps the most telling one is that Shaquille O’Neal hit all seven of his free throws.
He also had 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks in less than 27 minutes, of course, but those numbers are pretty much par for the course in his second (or is it third?) coming, and if you’re the other guys you might manage to live with them. But when The Big Clanger turns into Mr. Perfect at the line you know it’s not your night.
The Suns had this one wrapped so tight that Coach Terry was able to clear the bench with seven minutes left, and even the back benchers got in on the fun, as Jared Dudley, Alando Tucker, and Goran Dragic combined for eight points.
The temptation is strong to leap to the conclusion this was the kind of performance that will jump start the team and propel it back into the ranks of the elite (at least the second rank).
But while this is not to say it won’t, you have to be a little leery of carryover effects from any performance, however good or bad. After all, the Suns were coming off a painful loss to the Pacers that stirred up all kinds of finger-pointing and second-guessing, but that hangover obviously didn’t last long.
One significant difference between last night’s offensive show and those of the past is that much of this was one powered by the inside game, with the Suns piling up 68 points in the paint. Not that there was anything wrong with their outside game or their fast break, mind you, what with 19 fast break points and 50 percent shooting from arc city.
So one thing you could reasonably take from this game is that it seemed to be evidence that Shaq Ball and Steve Ball can profitably co-exist. O’Neal continues to be a revelation, and it is unthinkable that he won’t be in the All-Star Game here next month. At this time last year nobody besides Shaq himself thought he would ever be this dominating again, and I second the motion for his candidacy as Comeback Player of The Year. (Okay, so it was my own motion).
The bottom line: Enjoy this one and don’t sweat what it means. Sufficient unto the night is the fun thereof.