Take yourself back for a moment to when Taylor Griffin was still a Phoenix Suns and the Derek Anderson era was just a gleam in my eye. Yes, I'm taking you way back to those halcyon days of March of 2010. March 6, to be exact -- the day Danny Granger and his basketball playing pals from Indiana invaded US Airways Center.
On that day, you probably said to yourself, "The Pacers? Pfft. What possible problems would we have with those delightful scamps?" But you would have been wrong. Dead wrong.
The Suns came into the game having won 11 of their last 15 and were a strong candidate to roll the 20-42 Pacers, taking revenge for a 24-point blown lead in January, which was around the time the Suns had blown leads down to an art.
This game began like you'd expect a game between a good team and a bad team to go. Phoenix held a 12-point lead close to halftime and, though the game was tied on multiple occasions throughout the third quarter, it never really felt like Indiana could win the thing. Call it the calm before the storm.
With under a minute to go in the third quarter, Channing Frye and Earl Watson (he of causing Steve Nash's bloody lip in the January meeting) got into it and well ... I'll let the video do the talking after the jump.
As you can see, Frye and Watson had a cute little slap fight going, but it was Danny Granger coming to Watson's aide that escalated matters. J-Rich was displeased and appeared ready to do physical harm to Granger.
Once the melee settled down, the Suns settled in and closed the quarter with a 7-point lead. But ol' Mr. Granger was just getting started.
With the emotions of the game riding high, Granger hit an early fourth quarter jump shot and raised his index finger to his pursed lips to simulate a hush sound. That's right, friends, the bastard was hushing the crowd and Suns fans certainly weren't going to stand for this.
A chorus of Granger sucks (and enough hateful vitriol from one BSotS columnist to nearly get him thrown out of the arena ... whoever that was) rained down from the US Airways Center faithful for the remainder of the contest, one which the Suns won 113-105. Eat that, Indy.
Due to the Granger-hate, this seemingly innocuous March game with a non-conference opponent immediately turned into a playoff atmosphere. For my money, this was the most delightful in-arena regular season experience in all of last year (and I only missed two games).
Now, almost nine months later, the Pacers are coming back to Phoenix. Though Earl Watson may now be a member of the Utah Jazz, Danny Granger's stupid face still remains.
I, for one, hope the USAC crowd can summon up some of that hateful enthusiasm that was present last March. Boo Granger, chant that he sucks, just generally hate him. You know I will. I bet if we work hard enough, we can show Cleveland fans how anger is done.
If that isn't enough, you should know that last March wasn't the first time the 6'8 forward from New Mexico came into USAC and disrespected the Suns. He's also responsible for this during the 2008-2009 season:
What a jerk.
So consider this a call to arms, my Suns fan friends. Let's get some solid hate going for a team that we should not otherwise hate. You're going down, Indiana. Down to the ground.
If you need help getting angry, go ahead and listen to this. It'll help.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 12/03/10 12:54 PM MST ]
Since this has turned into the game preview, I'm gonna add some more preview stuff. Like this:
Phoenix Suns Host Hot Indiana Pacers, The Bitter Rivalry Continues At 7:00 P.M. AZT - SB Nation Arizona
The Suns will likely keep Earl Barron in the starting lineup to match up with Hibbert who is averaging 9.2 rebounds per game. That will let Channing Frye play against the bruising but shorter Josh McRoberts.
Barron grabbed four rebounds in 25 minutes in his first start with the Suns last night but his impact was felt on the overall team effort thanks in large part to his solid box outs of the opposing big man as can be seen below.
IC Cold Links: Pacers look to improve to 3-1 on their west coast trip against Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns - Indy Cornrows
This should definitely be a fun one to watch tonight, but can the Pacers continue their improved defense against an offensive heavyweight? Also, we need to watch the rebounding match up tonight....the Pacers struggled against the Jazz on the boards and need to get re-focused.
See, defense and rebounding aren't just curse worse in Phoenix.
Phoenix Suns' Earl Barron starts vs. Golden State Warriors
"I try not to reminisce, but I miss those guys," Amundson said. "I know I could do my thing there right now." Amundson has not played this season after fracturing his right-index finger during the preseason and having Oct. 18 surgery. He wants to return for his birthday Tuesday. "I don't want to put on a deadline on it, because then it seems like I'm not making progress," he said. "It's just getting better. It's just going to have to be something where I see how my legs feel and how my hand is. I'm shooting with my hand now, and that's progress."
Here's more examples of Barron's impact on the glass:
1) You can see that Biedrins has inside position on Barron right before the shot goes up.
2) But Earl out works Andris and gets inside and uses his length (Robin Lopez, please take note of the use of both hands when rebounding) and gets the ball.
3) On this one, you can see how well Barron is doing with his box out on Biedrins which allows Frye to easily get the ball. He's in a good low position so he can't be shoved in the back and his arms are wide to prevent Beidrins from going around him. Solid play.
Compared to this where Warrick has all the inside position in the world as the shot is going up from the far corner.
2) But completely ignores JR Smith streaking in to grab the ball.
I think Gentry is sending a message to Warrick that he needs to play hard on both ends of the floor if he wants to play at all. With Barron, there's a sacrifice on offense and I doubt he would play in the fourth quarter, but if he continues to bring this kind of energy and solid play on the glass he's going to be hard to get out of the rotation.
It's not always flashy, but the basics matter...and yes, so does size. And yes, I am well aware that's what she said.
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MAN OH MAN! Did you guys catch the crrraazy action in the first 7 minutes of the game!? Apparently the Suns had scored 20 and the W's 17 and Nash had 6 assists.... but It was seen only by our own PanamaSun on some special feed to select areas of Latin America, so maybe he can fill the gaps. For the rest of us schmucks forced to watch TNT, our 2nd night of Hanukkah gift from that horrid network was an awful LeBron interview instead of a game that would actually be entertaining. Did I mention I hate TNT?
From the 85% of the game I was able to see I - I definitely saw the Suns walking some walk after talking a lot of talk. It wasn't perfect, but definitely a sign of progress as the Suns were able to hold the offensively gifted Warriors to 101 points in their victory tonight. And get this, the Suns beat the W's in the rebound battle by +10 and neither Lee nor Biedrins pulled down double digits. Though the picture on the right is from last weeks blowout, I'm super creative and artistic - but not fruity - and I'm pretty sure it tastefully integrates both games seen (one more than the other...) on TNT tonight. Thank you, I bring the aesthetics and profound beauty that makes you click refresh minute after minute.
But back to Ball.
Lets jump it foolios!
Let me get this out of the way - I think I'm developing a man-crush on Monta Ellis. It sucks to be on the other end of things, but wowzers that kid is fun to watch! Despite a somewhat improvement defensively - Ellis was going to score when he wanted and he did just that dropping 38 points tonight.
It was a Half where Quarter 1 with Unit 1 the Suns Were Dr. Jekyll... then in Quarter 2 with Unit 2 they were mysterious Mr. Hyde.
With the continued improved play of Frye in the starting line-up, Barron's big man presence and energy at the 5, and the lead-by-example 'fire' of the Tri-Force (Nash, Hill, Richardson), the Suns starting 5 tonight started the game right as they usually have this year so far with a solid first and second quarters. Hill's mystery injury (Was it an ankle? Was it an infected toe? Was it a sprained foot gracias to Garret Siler? We may never know) obviously didn't slow him down. He came out shooting well and playing defense and making energy plays as usual. Can't take him for granted, if Nash says he respects Grant Hill more than any other NBA player (via twitter) then we should really appreciate how lucky we are to have him on our side night in and night out.
Jason Richardson also continued to light it up and our own Seth Pollack called it before the game... it's hidden in one of the trillion comments in the game thread (I'm too lazy to find it).
After one quarter the Suns had an 11 point lead and it was 31-20 Suns.
Then the second quarter came in and we saw that lead slip and slide with a sort of discombobulated 2nd Unit. Dragic lead the way with 3 fast turnovers. He didn't look good and neither did the other bench guys, I'm guessing if anybody was still lacking some 'fire' it might of been Hakim Warrick. Not only might that be the reason Earl Barron started this game but it also might be the reason he only played 9:12 minutes. This is also about the time that the Monta Ellis show began. He swooped, he skated, he slithered, he flew, and he drove the lane and hit from the perimeter with ease. Mr. Hyde definitely showed his dark and crazy habits of sloppiness. When Nash (with 11 assists in the first half) and the starters came in they brought the game back under control but the Warriors outscored the Suns 29-21 and our lead was whittled to 52-49 at the half.
This time in the 3rd Quarter the 1st Unit came out and played the Mr. Hyde and the 2nd Unit followed with the Jekyll. Switching the madness up.
Well it's a bad habit the Suns have developed. Whether they have a lead or not, the 3rd quarter has been hard on the Suns this year, they seem to give up leads and let teams build dangerous confidence, making closing out the game a more difficult task.
It was the 1st Unit this time that played the role of discombobulation to start the quarter out. It was ugly, Ellis scored at will, Earl Barron couldn't finish around the rim, and pretty soon the game was tied.
Then in came a more energized Goran Dragic and 2nd unit who went on a 10-0 run to push a lead to just that at one point. But Ellis and some key 3-pointers from Dorell Wright brought the W's back to within a few possessions. It was a crazy see-saw of ups and downs for the Suns through 3 quarters which set up the exciting finish in the 4th. It was 75-72 Suns after 3.
It was a back and forth affair with a number of very questionable calls from the officials which prompted me to chant along with the GS crowd on several occasions, "Referees Suck! Referees Suck!"
There were definitely some questionable calls on both ends of the floor no doubt. But when it came down to it - the Suns used their experience and the leadership from the Tri-Force to seal the deal against a very young and talented Warriors team. It was Jason Richardson hitting step back turn-around fade-aways, Hedo draining a three, Nash cutting into the lane and floating his shots on San Fran rainbows, it was Grant Hill hill creating space for himself and sinking his mid-range jumpers. Frye was blocking shots and I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out but ultimately the Warriors committed untimely fouls and the Suns hit their shots and played solid defense and secured their rebounds.
Suns Win - 107-101.
Not a typical Golden State v. Phoenix game, but it was entertaining none-the-less and it was encouraging from Phoenix's standpoint. We did see the fruits we were hoping to see before the game and throughout this week. The lineup is still seeing some changes... but at least we saw an improvement in communication and penetration defense. It was even so noteworthy that TNT even highlighted the good penetration defense and how the Suns were forcing the W's into taking outside shots by loading up on the penetrating players side. It brought a tear to my eye, did it bring one to yours?
Now let's see if we can't figure out how to limit the peaks and valleys of in-game flux. A little less topsy-turvey a little more consistent 'fire' and 'effort' for a complete 48 minutes.
If there's anything else you think I missed, or you disagree with something I filled your mind with - give it to us in detail down below!
Phoenix Suns Rack Up Solid Road Win Over Golden State Warriors, 107-101 - SB Nation Arizona
The defense might not have looked great at times, as Warriors guard Monta Ellis sliced his way past Suns defenders as if their feet were glued to the floor, but holding Golden State to right at their season average of 101 points has to be considered a step in the right direction.
Rebounding was another success for the Suns as the surprise insertion of seven-foot Earl Barron into the starting lineup paid dividends. Barron played 25 minutes and recorded only two points and four rebounds, but he held his opponent, Andris Biedrins, to only three boards. The Suns combination of Channing Frye and Barron out-rebounded the glass-eating Warriors tandem of Biedrins and David Lee, 14-11.
Steve Nash brings 'da FIRE!
(Barron and Nash photos by by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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