Keep ballin', Steve

Happy birthday, Steve Nash. 38 might seem like a ripe old age to some and in terms "basketball years" he's certainly up there, but if we've learned anything from watching Steve it's that good eating, hard work and quiet determination can defy the logic of both age and even sometimes gravity.

After a slow start to the season that admittedly had me worried, Nash has bounced back with a shooting show for the ages. Steve is hitting on 45.2% of his threes, 55.6% from the field (a career high) and leads the NBA with 10 assists per game playing with....not Amare Stoudemire.

If you take the first four games of the season out, Nash is shooting 60.5% from the field. 60.5%!! That's an incredible number for a guard. Chris Paul is the next-closest guard and he's shooting 51.5%.

We've already heard plenty this season about "Trade Steve Nash" or "#FreeSteveNash" and there's no doubt that we will hear more before the March 15 trade deadline is over.

But for today, let's just celebrate Steve Nash for being Steve Nash and giving us all these years of great entertainment. He's got at least a few more left in that hairy Canadian body.

Go out and exercise a bit and think of Steve Nash.

Put down the hamburger and eat some veg and think of Steve Nash.

Or just do your job a little better today and think of Steve Nash.

Happy Steve Nash Day.


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How awesome is Steve Nash?

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There are many reasons why the Phoenix Suns’ offense has slipped from the heights of the elite all the way down to the bottom third of the league, but Channing Frye’s struggles have...

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Frye got it done tonight! (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Phoenix Suns got a much needed win over the Atlanta Hawks on the road to improve their record to 10-14. The Hawks lose their third game straight, and their fourth consecutive game to the Suns to drop to 16-9 so far on the season. This was the Suns' second win in a row after beating the Charlotte Bobcats at home on Saturday night. The Suns appear to be playing with more confidence on both the starting and the second units, and head coach Alvin Gentry seems to have finally found the right fit to maximize chemistry and production on each of them.

Steve Nash led the Suns with 24 points and 11 assists, and Channing Frye pitched in with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Markieff Morris also had a very efficient and effective game tonight scoring 7 points with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Marcin Gortat had an unusually quiet night tonight and seemed to be a bit off of his game. He only tallied 8 points and 9 rebounds tonight, ending the15 game double-digit rebounding streak that he and Kevin Love had been tied for as the league leaders.

As for Atlanta, Josh Smith led the Hawks with 18 points and 5 rebounds, and Joe Johnson was held to 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Atlanta struggled to find any scoring help from anyone off the bench besides Willie Green, and although Jeff Teague got off to a nice start in the game in the first quarter he fell quiet the rest of the night.

Read on after the jump for more on the Suns win.

Keys to tonight's victory:

- Steve Nash is simply amazing. He opted to score more than he usually does tonight and registered 24 points off only 9-12 shooting and 11 assists. Happy 38th birthday tomorrow to the best player to ever wear a Suns uniform!

- Channing Frye had his best game of the season tonight scoring 19 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. He shot the ball fairly well from three tonight going 3-8, but many of his points were scored inside as well. We need more of this from Frye. Very nice game tonight.

- Sebastian Telfair and the rest of the bench were great. The 2nd unit appears to be developing some real chemistry together as they logged between 12-20 minutes of playing time each. Telfair ran the 2nd unit with 9 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds tonight in his 17 minutes of play. Solid numbers for Bassy!

- Grant Hill only scored 2 points tonight, but he once again took on the opposing team's best player in Joe Johnson and limited him to 17 points on 6-13 shooting. In the game preview earlier today I mentioned that the Suns would need to hold JJ to under 20 points tonight to get the win (pats self on back), Grant did that and was definitely one of the unsung heroes of the evening.

This was one of those games where everything was working for the suns tonight, except for Marcin Gortat who struggled from the field with only 8 points on 4-10 shooting and only grabbed 9 rebounds. Despite the lack of production from their most consistent player besides Nash, the Suns were able to out play the Hawks in nearly every aspect of the game, and at nearly every position as well. For more about what happened, have a look through the game notes below:


Game Notes:

First Quarter:

Frye hits a jumper and then a three to start the game…First five points to Channing!

Grant guarding Joe Johnson as expected

Nash with a three!

Josh Smith going to work now on Frye….also as expected

Dudley with a three.

Suns now 3-4 from beyond the arc to start the game

Frye with another make…Already has 7 points.

Teague with a SAVAGE dunk after getting free from Nash and then Frye

Teague putting on a show now…another nice move on Nash to score in the paint.

Dudley with an and-1…Atta boy JD!

Score tied 16-16 midway through the first

Frye with a very weak move inside…Gets blocked

Nash still on the money…Now with 5 points 1 assist

Gortat with his first bucket of the night…Need to find him more when matched up with Zaza

Channing Frye blocks J-Smith!!! Yes, you read that right!

Get this…Frye with 4 rebounds for the Suns…The rest of the team 0.

Markieff subs in for Frye

Nash with another bucket…7 points 2 assists

Nash with a bounce-in 3! 10 points

Markieff with a block to force a 24 sec shot clock violation

Redd in for Dudley, who misses easy layup at the rim.

Suns lead 27-23 at the end of the 1st quarter. Suns shooting 61%, Hawks 39%. Suns with 7rbs, Hawks with 14rbs. Suns with 4 TO’s, Hawks with 4 TO’s. Nash leading the Suns with 10 points, Josh Smith leads the Hawks with 6 points.


Second Quarter:

Telfair, Morris, Redd, Childress, Gortat in to start the second.

Ugly first possession for the Suns…Redd misses the basket by a mile.

Morris comes back to muscle in for a bucket

Redd with another miss, this time from three…this one looked better though.

Childress with a phenomenally athletic play on an offensive put back!

Michael Redd head fake and gets to the basket for his first basket of the game. Nice move!

Suns bench getting it done so far…Suns lead 33-25 with 8:50 left in the half

Morris with a block on Ivan Johnson…Then Robin gets the bucket down low!

Suns now have 5 blocks in the first half!

Telfair now blocks Teague…6 blocks and counting for the Suns!

Redd earns a trip to the line and sinks them both.

Telfair hits another jumper…Suns up 41-27 halfway through the 2nd quarter!

CHILLY WITH THE OOP FROM BASSY!!!

This is the best I’ve ever seen the Suns bench play together this season…They are putting on a show!

Pachulia hits a jumper to end the Suns’ run

Lopez looking active again tonight…Misses the shot but gets his own rebound to keep it alive.

Telfair gets his 2nd foul and Nash returns....Gentry also puts Dudley and Hill back in for Redd and Chill…But he leaves Robin and Morris with the first unit.

Morris fouls J-Smoove on the fast break…good foul to prevent the easy dunk

ATL starting to gain a little momentum…Suns still up 46-33 though with 3 minutes left in the 1st half

Lopez with the athletic hook shot off a Nash assist…Robin must feel good to be playing with MVSteve again.

2 more free throws for Josh Smith to cut the Suns lead down to 10

Gortat and Frye come back…Gentry trying to hold onto the lead going into the half

JJ cuts the lead to 7…Frye with an up and down to turn the ball over again…Alley-oop to J-Smith. Hawks making their run

Steve Nash with a three at the buzzer to keep the Suns’ lead over the Hawks 55-48 at the half! Suns shooting 57%, Hawks shooting 40%. Suns with only 12 rebounds, Hawks with 24. Suns with 7 TO’s, Hawks with 6. Nash leads the Suns with 17 points & 3 assists. Josh Smith leads the Hawks with 13 points 5 rebounds.

Third Quarter:

Gortat with a poor first half…Only 2 points and 3 rebounds. Let’s see if he can get it going in the 2nd.

JJ opens up the 3rd with a basket…Frye answers with one of his own.

Frye with another 3!

Johnson with a three and then Josh Smith with another…Hawks closing the lead.

Gortat still can’t find the basket…

Nash with a three to save a sloppy offensive possession! Suns 7-13 from three so far.

Josh Smith abuses Frye for another basket inside.

Suns keeping a 7 point lead midway through the third. 67-60. Nash now with 20 points 5 assists

Radmonovic at center was the best thing the Suns could ask for!

Nice shot by Dudley to bring the lead to 9.

Nash with the layup high off the glass over J-Smith…Suns up by 11. Nash comes back with another jumper !

Nash with the beautiful behind the back pass to Gortat for an easy basket!

Nash is putting on an absolute clinic in every way. He now has 24 points and 7 assists with just over one minute left in the third quarter.

Morris, Redd, and Chill come in to join Nash and Gortat

Morris now hits a three as the buzzer sounds on the shot clock!

Gortat with the big time dunk…Where’ve you been?

Redd with the 3!!!

At the end of the 3rd the Suns push the lead up to 20…84-64. Suns shooting 57%, Hawks 38%. Suns now with 36 rebounds, Hawks with 32. Suns with 8 TO’s, Hawks with 9. Nash leads everyone with 24 points and 10 assists. Josh Smith leads the Hawks with 18 points and 5 rebounds.

Fourth Quarter:

Telfair, Redd, Chill, Morris, and Gortat start the 4th quarter.

Gortat with another missed jump shot…Not his game tonight. Maybe Gentry just waiting for him to get his 10th rebound before allowing Lopez to close it out?

Morris with another jumper…7 points and 5 rebounds

Telfair skies for the offensive rebound…but Gortat with a moving screen to turn it over.

Lopez coming in for Gortat despite only having 9 rebounds so far

Lopez turns the ball over immediately…hmmm

Telfair with a three! Suns now shooting 53% from three with 9-17

Suns lead down to 14 points.

Telfair with a much needed basket! He is now 4-5 from the field so far with 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists…What a game for Bassy!

Morris is eating up the boards right now…7 boards now to go with his 7 points and 3 blocks in 18 minutes of play. Solid game for Keef!

Redd with the big 3! Redd now has 10 points, his second consecutive game with double digit scoring. Suns up 94-75 with 5:39 to go in the game.

OMG! Jerry Stackhouse is checking in the game…You see this Scott Howard?

Suns have to be careful…the lead is down to 14 points. Will Gentry put Nash back in now?

Willie Green hits a 3 to bring the Suns lead down to 11 with 3:53 left to play in the game…The starters will be checking back in after the timeout.

Nash turns the ball over and Ivan Johnson has a thunderous dunk over Channing Frye.

Frye answers back with a 3, but Pargo answers back with a three of his own.

Hill with a miss but Frye with a put back dunk! Suns still up 11.

Suns close it out with a high quality win in Atlanta 99-90! Suns shoot 52%, Hawks 39%. Suns with 45 rebounds, Hawks with 35. Suns shoot 45% from three, Hawks 25%. Suns with 15 TO’s, Hawks 9.


Summary:

This was a much needed, quality win for the Suns who beat their fourth team with a winning record for the season. The Hawks were without Al Horford, but the Suns managed to win based off their energy and intensity even when Marcin Gortat had an off night. The story of the game was the play of Steve Nash and the production of the second unit. If the Suns can count on consistent production from their bench like this then they could compete with most of the teams in the league. I can't help but notice that ever since Josh Childress has been freed from his spot on the bench the second unit has been playing much better overall. Coincidence? Who knows, but if it isn't broke don't fix it.

Let's hope the Suns can get another win on the road tomorrow against the Milwaukee Bucks!

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Poll
Who Deserves the Game Ball For Tonight's Win?

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Can the Suns take advantage of yet another opponent without a key player and get another much needed win? So far, they've failed to do so despite many opportunities...Let's hope they can change that with a quality win tonight.

Let's go!

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Who wants it more? (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Tonight the Phoenix Suns will take on the Atlanta Hawks at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia at 5:30 PM MST.

The Phoenix Suns are coming off of a home win against the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night to improve their record to 9-14. The Suns have been struggling to find the right mix of players in their starting line-up and off the bench, specifically at the shooting guard position. After Michael Redd's impressive return to an NBA starting line-up while filling in for the injured Jared Dudley, and his first start for the Suns in which he scored an impressive 17 points on Saturday, the Suns will go back to Dudley in the starting lineup but will likely give increased minutes to Redd tonight as well.

The Atlanta Hawks are coming off two straight losses in large part to the absence of a reliable post player since the injuries to both Al Horford and now Jason Collins as well. The Hawks are currently sitting at 16-8 on the season and will be looking to avoid their third straight loss tonight. They have also lost their last three consecutive games against the Suns, and will be looking to snap that losing streak as well.

Read on after the jump for an analysis of what to look for from each team tonight.

Here's a look at the Hawks:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Joe Johnson 24 35.8 7.0 16.0 43.5 2.0 5.1 38.2 2.8 3.2 85.7 1.1 2.9 4.0 3.6 1.8 0.8 0.3 1.5 18.6
Josh Smith 24 33.5 6.2 13.5 46.0 0.1 0.8 16.7 2.4 4.7 51.8 1.8 7.2 9.0 3.2 2.4 1.3 2.1 2.5 15.0
Jeff Teague 24 33.1 5.0 10.3 49.0 0.9 1.9 46.7 2.0 2.7 72.3 0.4 1.8 2.2 5.2 2.3 1.9 0.4 2.0 12.9
Al Horford 11 31.5 5.2 9.4 55.3 0.0 0.1 0.0 2.0 2.7 73.3 2.4 4.6 7.0 2.2 1.5 0.9 1.3 1.9 12.4
Marvin Williams 21 23.8 3.5 7.8 44.5 1.1 2.3 49.0 2.3 3.0 76.2 1.3 4.2 5.6 1.2 0.7 0.7 0.2 1.3 10.4
Tracy McGrady 20 18.9 2.5 5.4 46.7 0.3 0.5 60.0 1.6 2.1 73.8 0.2 3.1 3.3 2.5 1.0 0.3 0.4 0.7 6.9
Zaza Pachulia 24 21.4 2.5 4.5 55.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.3 75.9 1.8 3.8 5.6 1.0 1.4 0.4 0.3 2.4 6.6
Willie Green 24 15.7 2.5 5.8 44.2 0.8 1.8 43.2 0.5 0.6 78.6 0.3 1.2 1.5 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.1 1.1 6.3
Ivan Johnson 20 15.7 2.1 4.7 44.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 2.0 82.1 1.3 2.7 4.0 0.6 1.2 0.6 0.4 2.2 5.8
Vladimir Radmanovic 23 18.0 1.7 4.4 37.6 1.2 2.9 40.3 0.8 1.0 78.3 0.9 2.3 3.1 1.4 0.8 0.7 0.4 1.2 5.3
Kirk Hinrich 6 18.8 1.7 5.0 33.3 0.7 1.7 40.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 1.5 3.0 1.3 0.5 0.0 1.5 4.0
Jannero Pargo 22 11.3 1.6 4.0 39.8 0.5 1.9 28.6 0.2 0.2 100.0 0.0 1.2 1.2 1.5 0.7 0.2 0.0 1.3 3.9
Jerry Stackhouse 10 5.6 0.8 2.1 38.1 0.2 0.4 50.0 0.9 0.9 100.0 0.3 0.5 0.8 0.6 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 2.7
Jason Collins 13 10.5 0.4 1.2 31.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.3 75.0 0.5 1.2 1.6 0.2 0.5 0.2 0.1 1.1 1.0


Without Al Horford who is out for at least two more months with a torn left pectoral muscle, and also Jason Collins who sprained his left elbow last Thursday in a loss at home to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Hawks will rely on Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson to carry the load at center. Pachulia is averaging 7.8 points and 6.5 rebounds a game since he took Horford's spot in the starting line-up. But their biggest x-factor could be rookie Ivan Johnson who has been very impressive off the bench, even racking up a double-double (14pts, 13rbs) in Saturday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Other than that, the Hawks will mostly rely on the production of star players Joe Johnson and Josh Smith to carry them through tonight's game, as well as contributions from fellow starters Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams. Former Suns' player Joe Johnson is the teams leading scorer, and he's stepped it up even more since Horford's injury...averaging 20.2 pts, 4.7 rbs, and 3.8 asts over the last 13 games.


Key Match-Ups:

Steve Nash vs. Jeff Teague - Nash is still defying all odds as he approaches his 38th birthday tomorrow and continues to play at one of the highest levels of any point guard in the NBA. Nash still leads the league in assists on a team with no real go to scorer other than himself; a testament to his truly remarkable ability and skill. Jeff Teague is no Steve Nash, however he is having a very nice season thus far and is being talked about as a potential candidate for the most improved player award. His stats of 12.9 points, 5.2 assists a game are pretty good, but Nash is simply in a league of his own. (Advantage - Suns)

Grant Hill vs. Joe Johnson - Joe Johnson is one of the best two-guards in the league who still makes Suns fans upset at the thought of what could have been if only he stayed in Phoenix. If Gentry sticks with his usual approach, Grant Hill will likely be asked to guard Joe Johnson again tonight in an attempt to keep him as quiet as possible. Even with Hill's uncanny ability to successfully guard even the best players in the league, it's hard to imagine JJ not having another great game against his former team (Advantage - Hawks)

Channing Frye vs. Josh Smith - This is about as one sided as a match-up can be. Frye has been a disappointment in the starting line-up this season but the Suns really don't have a better option at this point. Josh Smith on the other hand is an athletic scoring and rebounding machine who is also a very effective passer. His only drawback is his tendency to take ill-advised jump-shots at times, but he's been doing much better in that regard this season. (Strong Advantage - Hawks)

Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez vs. Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson - This is one of the more difficult match-ups to predict based on the play of both reserves Lopez and Johnson. One one Hand, Robin can be a force in the paint as we saw on Saturday night when he scored 13 points and closed out the game. However, Lopez has been anything but consistent and could follow up a very good game with a non-existent one. Ivan Johnson on the other hand has been playing great in the minutes he's earned. He's a tough, mean, physical player who has mad the most of his opportunities and even started in the second half over Pachulia in last Saturday's game. Marcin Gortat is obviously better than Zaza Pachulia though, so the Suns should use this to their advantage as often as possible. (Advantage Suns)

Suns' Bench vs. Hawks' Bench - The Suns' bench has the ability to be very good at times, but in other instances they can be downright awful. However, lately the Suns' bench unit has been playing fairly well, especially since Josh Childress has been freed and has found a way to help the team with his athleticism, slashing, and rebounding. Outside of Tracy McGrady and Kirk Hinrich, and maybe Willie Green, the Hawks don't get much contribution from their bench. If Shannon Brown, Ronnie Price, Markieff Morris, Michael Redd, Josh Childress, and/or Hakim Warrick can continue to play well together, they should have an advantage tonight. (Advantage Suns)


Summary - This is a game the Suns can win tonight, but they will have to play at their best in order to do so. Even without Al Horford, the Hawks are still a very good team and one of the contenders in the Eastern Conference. This is the perfect chance for the Suns to seize the opportunity to build on their recent success and continue to work toward getting better. If the Suns can take advantage of their favorable match-ups, hold Joe Johnson to under 20 points on the night, and get increased production from their bench, then I like their chances.


More Game Links:

Suns vs Hawks coverage

Suns vs Hawks preview

Peachtree Hoops


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