The Suns played about as balanced a game as they could Wednesday in their 110-102 win at Minnesota.
All five starters scored at least 12 points, and eight Suns went for at least eight while leading scorer Steve Nash put in just 20. The starters all took at least eight shots, and aside from Amare Stoudemire’s 39 minutes, every starter logged between 28 and 33 minutes.
With the victory, Phoenix improved to 9-0 when scoring at least 100 point to sweep a two-game trip against teams the Suns expect to beat.
“To get those two wins against teams – we should get the wins, but to finally have them, it feels great,” Amare told Suns.com. “We played a team game tonight. Everybody was able to chip in and play well.”
Overall the Suns did a lot of things well in a game they never trailed, shooting 53.6 percent, including 63 percent in the first half. They committed just 13 turnovers (five in the first half) to turn it over less times than their opponent for the first time all year.
On a night when turnovers weren’t as much of an issue as they usually are, the Suns’ biggest weakness came on the glass, where the Suns were outboarded 49-36 overall off the strength of Minnesota’s whopping 21-3 edge on the offensive glass.
Al Jefferson grabbed 12 of his 17 boards on the offensive end of the court, an issue that prevented an easy Suns rout.
“They really hurt us on the boards tonight during stretches,” head coach Terry Porter told Suns.com. “That was the difference when we didn’t turn the ball over, we were able to have some good possessions. When we turned the ball over, we allowed them to get on the boards and that allowed them to get back in the game.”
Jefferson added 28 points, as the Suns continue to be unable to defend him after the forward averaged 30.5 points and 15.3 boards per game against Phoenix last year.
A rested Shaq is a good Shaq
The Daddy played a characteristically strong game coming off three days’ rest, going for 18 points and 10 boards, while shooting 53.9 percent (7-for-13).
Shaq is now averaging 19.0 points and 9.8 boards while shooting 62.1 percent shooting in his five games on multiple days’ rest as compared to 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest in his other nine games in which he’s shot 56.0 percent.
This disparity is even worse in the two games Shaq has played on consecutive nights, Oct. 30 against New Orleans and Nov. 17 in Utah, as the Big Cactus averaged a mere 8.5 points and 4.5 boards in those contests while shooting 40 percent.
Shaq was OK in the New Orleans game with eight points and eight boards in a game the Suns were playing catch up in and couldn’t just pound the post, and how much could Shaq really be affected by fatigue in the second game of the season?
But the Utah contest was by far Shaq’s worst outing of the year, as he went for nine points and one rebound on 3-for-11 shooting (27.3 percent) in 32 minutes. Shaq has shot below 50 percent in just one other game, and he has only once grabbed just one mere rebound when playing more than five minutes, back on March 29, 1999, for the Lakers against the Grizzlies.
So when combined with the fact Shaq has been relatively injury-free in the early going, it’s easy to say the resting Shaq idea on back-to-backs has paid off thus far.
I still worry about the psychological edge the Suns provide an opponent with when Shaq is rested specifically against them to get ready for the next game, but you’ve got to believe the Suns can run their way to a couple victories without the big man.
Based on Shaq’s stellar play with extra rest and his struggles in back-to-backs, something the Suns clearly anticipated going into the year, the resting Shaq idea appears to be for the best.
And a little rest for Nash, too
No, Steve Nash hasn’t shown any signs of needing to rest on back-to-backs, especially after he put together two of his best games of the year with 40 points and 21 assists during this set, but it was great to see Porter play Nash just 28 minutes after his 43-minute day on Tuesday.
Sean Singletary’s strong outing allowed Nash to rest almost 12 consecutive minutes of game time during Wednesday night’s first half, something that used to happen about as often as Nash would tally 43 minutes in a non-overtime game.
Singletary ended up playing 20 minutes for the contest, scoring a career-high eight points while tying a career high with five boards.
That might not sound like a ton, but Singletary held his own and did nothing to prevent the Suns from ballooning their lead up to 16 in the second quarter. If he can keep that up, Porter won’t be so tempted to over-extend Nash.
Speaking of Nash, the two-time MVP was more aggressive looking for his shot coming off the heels of Tuesday’s 12-point outburst in the fourth quarter. That’s a good sign going forward since Nash has been tentative much of the year with his own offense despite still being as good of a pure shooter as there is in this league.