Wow! For the first time all year, the Phoenix Suns touched the 120-point barrier, turning the game into a chuckler in the final stanza on the way to an easy 17-point win.
And in the process, Steve Nash set the Suns all-time assist record in his 17th "30 and 10" game of his career, but for the first time in more than 2 years. He was ready to play tonight, wasn't he?
(Digression: can you guess the top 5 Suns career assist leaders? Bet not! Jump to the bottom for the answers...)
If Suns coach Alvin Gentry hadn't already played 12 guys before the Suns took the lead for good, he might have been able to clear the bench in the final couple minutes. But for some reason, one of the best-shooting guards in the history of the game (Michael Redd) never took off the warmups. Where is Pat Burke when you need him?
How did this happen? How did it take 20 games for the Suns to score 120 points in a single game? Who knows. We'll just take what we can get, and enjoy it in this otherwise lackluster season.
The first half was nothing to write home about. The Phoenix Suns played with no energy on defense, allowing 59 points and 20 assists in the first 24 minutes to a team that only averages 87 and 18 per 48. Somehow, they were only down 3 points, thanks to the Hornets equally bad defense by wanting Nash (one of the best shooters in the history of the game) to shoot. He scored 19 points.
The second half was a little better, highlighted by the Hornets changing their defense a bit (or Nash finding the holes) and allowing Nash 7 assists in the first 6 minutes of the second half. At that point, we were all looking at the guy with the most career assists of any player in the history of the Phoenix Suns franchise, beating out Kevin Johson...
Of further note, three of Nash's third-quarter assists went to the recently freed Josh Childress.* By the end of the third quarter, the Suns had retaken the lead even with another last-second score at the end of the quarter by an opponent. Yet despite the lead, the Suns had allowed the Hornets to EXCEED their season scoring average by the end of the third quarter. With TWELVE minutes left to go!
The fourth quarter was even better, as the Hornets scoring magic went poof while the Suns started pouring it on like it was 2010. In fact, the Suns ended up scoring more points than any game all season. First time they scored more than 100 in a win since they were 4-4 overall and 2012 had just dawned over the horizon. And it's gotta be the first time they had 3 different 30-point quarters in the same game.
*by the way, for all those clamoring to amnesty Childress at the beginning of the season no matter what, please note that Childress has been an energizer bunny the last couple of games. Tonight it was 8 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist in 18 minutes.
Suns all-time assist leaders:
- Steve Nash: 6,522 and counting
- Kevin Johnson: 6,518
- Alvan Adams: 4,012
- Walter Davis: 3,340
- Jason Kidd: 3,011
I decided the only fair way to do an illustration of a dude who has the nickname ‘Polish Hammer’ was to superhero-ize him.
As always, you can find more here.
If you are looking for a team struggling even more than the Suns, then watch the New Orleans Hornets tonight. The Hornets are coming off a franchise-worst 2-16 record in January. The Suns' 6-10 January record looks positively gaudy by comparison, though they've only gone 3-9 in their past 12 games overall. These two teams have split the season series so far, both winning on the other's floor.
There are other similarities between the teams besides their bad records.
Neither team is particulary athletic. If we see two dunks in tonight's game, I will be surprised.
Both teams' front offices have a closer eye on the calendar and the upcoming NBA draft than their current rosters. Trade season is a month away (after the all-star game), and after that there's just 6 more weeks until the relief of summer break.
Both teams are disenchanted with their somewhat-talented backup centers. Chris Kaman is not playing while the Hornets openly search for a trade partner. Robin Lopez is only playing mopup minutes while the Suns stew over his attitude and lack of offensive progress.
And finally, both teams' owners tightened the purse strings before offering max guaranteed money to their most talented but too-often injured superstars (Chris Paul/Eric Gordon vs. Amare Stoudemire), further dumping them in the muck of the bottom of the Western Conference.
Game notes: Steve Nash WILL play tonight despite a sore quad, according to Paul Coro via twitter this morning. All Nash needs is 7 assists to eclipse Kevin Johnson for the all-time Suns franchise record in assists. It's really, really, really too bad he couldn't have set the record on his home floor Monday night against his "other" NBA employer and Mark Cuban in particular. But then, that's how this season has been going, isn't it? Sigh.