But given that Grant Hill was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy, Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, and Shawn Marion were battling a bug which eventually forced Nash out of action in the third period, Amare Stoudemire was in early foul trouble, and the Suns had to dig out of a hole that reached a depth of 16 points late in the third period, “remarkable” is le mot juste.

Oh, and did I mention that for three and a half periods the Pacers shot les lumieres out?

Stoudemire tied the game with a short jumper with 26 seconds left in the fourth period and he and Raja Bell combined for 15 of the team’s 17 points in overtime. But the man who turned the game around was Barbosa, who led a 12-2 surge with eight of those points in the closing minutes of the third period to cut the deficit to four. He added five more in the first 90 seconds of the fourth period to cut it to one.

Barbosa finished with 27 points, as did Bell. And despite his discomfort, Marion toughed it out for 47-plus minutes and delivered 23 points and 12 boards.

Coach Mike delicately sidestepped a description of the exact location of the damage done by bug problem. But in reply to a question about whether the players in question would be ready for the Jazz in Salt Lake City tomorrow night, he did say, “We’ll be okay. We’ve got plenty of corks.”

You could say the Suns were saved by threes and frees. They hit 14 of the big shots, many of them that kept the Pacers within at least shouting distance, and attempted 42 free throws to only 17 for the visitors.

But while this might lead some conspiracy buffs to the conclusion that the Pacers were “homered” by the refs, the fact of the matter is the discrepancy was due almost entirely to the fact the Pacers had nobody big enough to cover Amare or fast enough to cover Barbosa, who between them accounted for 26 of those frees.

Of course, another explanation is that the Pacers paid the price for at least trying to play defense, whereas the Suns shrewdly kept the Pacers off the line by staying out of their way. But personally I think that’s a bit far fetched (not to mention smart-alecky).

One thing that helped the Suns escape with a “W” after being outplayed most of the way was that the Pacers finally started missing some shots, managing only one field goal over the last 5.5 minutes.

Coach Mike was generally pleased with his team’s effort, especially considering the circumstances, and noted the defense got better as the game went along, although he conceded it had no way to go but up after those first 12 minutes.

The victory improved the Suns’ record to a Western Conference best 25-10 and kept them a game and a half ahead of the Lakers in the Pacific Division.

The bottom line: Sweet are the uses of adversity.

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