What did the Suns’ win Wednesday over the Spurs have in common with Saturday’s victory over the Blazers?
Amare Stoudemire dominating in the second half.
Stoudemire scored nine points down the stretch in San Antonio to seal a Suns victory and exploded for a 16-point third quarter on 6-for-6 shooting Saturday night as the Suns pulled away to win their 10th straight game over Portland, 107-96.
“I had my mind set that I wanted to dominate, I wanted to go out and dominate the third quarter to set the tone for the second half and I was able to do that with the help of my teammates,” Stoudemire told Suns.com. “They were there to cheer me on and I just went out there to dominate. As a team we did that tonight during the second half.”
Stoudemire’s game-high 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting led a balanced effort that saw Steve Nash and Matt Barnes join him in the 20s and every Suns starter score at least 13.
Stoudemire’s scoring spurt helped the Suns take control at a time Nash rested, an otherwise uncommon occurrence in the team’s two wins.
In the first half, the Suns outscored the Blazers by 16 points with Nash on the floor yet still trailed by one at halftime when the bench fell apart without him. That was much the same story in San Antonio, as the Suns were a plus 17 with Nash and a minus 12 without him.
Phoenix also played a clean game by committing just 11 turnovers after that ugly 24-turnover outing last time out. Nash turned it over just once in 31 minutes after committing seven against the Hornets.
“We did a much better job of taking care of the ball, so that was nice to see,” head coach Terry Porter told Suns.com.
The Suns also mixed in a 2-3 zone to keep Shaq on the floor for his offensive advantage when Portland went small. It led to some open shots but overall wreaked havoc on the Blazers’ offense by providing a different look.
Not much of a bench
Porter continued to toy with his rotation Saturday night, relying on and getting more production out of his starters.
After the bench scored 42 points in 86 minutes against the Spurs and 21 in 87 minutes against the Hornets, Phoenix’s reserves managed just 14 points in 70 minutes against Portland.
Boris Diaw was the only effective reserve with nine points, and in the second half Porter used an eight-man rotation with Diaw, Leandro Barbosa and Grant Hill, channeling his inner D’Antoni after using hockey-style shifts in the first two games.
Robin Lopez did not take off his warmups with this being a bad matchup for him, and Goran Dragic did not leave the pine in the second half.
This could be a bad sign if Porter is starting to lose faith in his rookies, who frankly haven’t played that great, but he seems to be the type of coach who will give them chances to succeed, unlike D’Antoni.
On the flip side, every starter played at least 30 minutes and Amare saw 41 minutes of court time.
But a win’s a win, and 40 minutes for Amare and 30 for Nash and Shaq may be what the Suns need to do to be elite.
Bayless and the Spaniards
Yes, I have a man-crush on Portland’s third-string point guard Jerryd Bayless (but I swear it’s purely platonic).
I’ve followed him since I was a senior and he was a freshman in the same region in high school, I visited his campus for a feature on him being the next great Arizona point guard as a high school junior before he had decommitted and recommitted again, and finally I covered him as the freshman star of Arizona’s basketball team.
He’s about the most competitive person I’ve ever covered, and it’s got to be killing him that he only saw six minutes of action Saturday after not even playing the night before, although if the team is winning he’ll still say all the right things.
As for the Spanish duo of Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez, wow! To think the Suns gave away both players for cash (not to mention the Luol Deng trade and the Kurt Thomas deal) really makes me want to throw my computer against a wall.
Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire