Attention Suns fans: Make sure to keep a copy of tonight’s third quarter against the Mavs handy on your DVR of choice because no matter how many last-second breakdowns Phoenix commits in the coming months, pop that baby in and you can’t help but dream that the Suns’ window is still very much open.
The Suns outscored Dallas 40-19 during their dominant third quarter Friday night, leading to a 128-100 victory behind their best 12 minutes of the season.
And on ESPN no less, breaking an eight-game national TV losing streak.
Everything worked, as you had Steve Nash leading fast breaks, Shaq and Jason Richardson posting up helpless opponents, Grant Hill hitting midrange jumpers, Amare nailing jumpers and flying in for dunks and a suffocating defense that triggered it all.
“It was very fun,” Shaq told Suns.com. “We got out, we stopped them, we ran the ball and that’s how we need to play the rest of the season.
“Consistency wins games. Consistency wins championships. I think that style of game – everybody was involved, playing defense and running – if we can package that and become consistent in playing that way, we’ll be on our way.”
I see that quarter as kind of a tease because theoretically the Suns have the potential to play that kind of basketball each and every night.
They boast seven dynamic offensive players, and when they focus on defense and play well enough on that end of the floor to fuel the offense, we should be talking about the Suns in the same breath as the Lakers, Spurs and Hornets atop the West.
An effort like this really makes me wonder how they could play so bad for most of the Indiana game that it would even be close enough for Danny Granger to win it at the buzzer.
If the Phoenix Suns play this brand of focused, determined basketball with Nash leading fast breaks when they’re there and Shaq dominating down low, I really shouldn’t be writing preview posts like I did for this one about how the Suns need to win because they may be fighting with the Mavs for the last spot in the West.
“I think once we stop giving games away and package (this) game, we can be right up there with the other top-echelon teams,” Shaq told Suns.com.
Anybody who watched the Suns undress the hot Mavs would have to agree.
So long as the Suns are still in the bottom pack of Western playoff contenders – tied for seventh but only three games behind the second-place Spurs – I have to write stuff like how great it is for Phoenix to win this one for potential tiebreaker purposes down the road.
It’s also interesting that the Suns were able to record season highs in points and field goals against a Dallas squad that beat them up in Big D by 15, although the Mavs were playing the second of a back-to-back just like the Suns were the first time around.
“Just like anything, it gives us confidence, especially at home,” Porter told Suns.com. “It gives us confidence. (Dallas is) a team that obviously is a playoff-caliber team. They just really beat us up pretty bad at their place. It was nice for us to come out and respond the way we did tonight.”
The Suns shot better than 80 percent in the third quarter before Nash’s last-second half-court heave and 62.7 percent for the game against a Dallas defense that ranks fourth in the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage (43.7 percent), with its previous season high against being the 50 percent Portland shot on Christmas.
That’s astounding, both that the Suns would shoot that well against such a good statistical defense, and that Dallas’ defense is that statistically good.
What’s also astounding is that the Suns obliterated the Mavs in the paint by a ridiculous margin of 68-18. Shaq made Erick Dampier his whipping boy, J-Rich posted up Jason Terry at will and LB darted into the lane whenever he so wished.
Not surprisingly, the Suns also won the rebounding battle, 43-32, and they committed just 11 turnovers, their lowest total since the season opener.
Individually, Shaq had 19 and eight at halftime before finishing with 25 and 10, J-Rich scored 21 on 9-for-13 shooting, LB chipped in with 20, Nash dished 12 assists and Lou Amundson helped the Suns outhustle the Mavs while adding eight points, seven boards, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
“We just had a lot of good guys contribute tonight,” Porter told Suns.com. “Total team effort.”
And you know it’s a good night when Shaq doesn’t miss a free throw, going 7-for-7 for his first perfect free-throw game since going 13-for-13 on April 17, 2001, as a Laker.
Shaq told ESPN that he was watching video that he googled with Grant Hill of how he used to shoot free throws and switched back to shooting the way his father taught him. The Shaqtus looks like a different shooter now, and I don’t mind seeing him go to the line like so many Shaq fans used to.
This was such a good night that the Suns even played the last half of the fourth quarter with Alando Tucker (season debut), Goran Dragic (first appearance in almost a month), Jared Dudley, Robin Lopez and Amundson. Talk about a victory formation.
Finally, I know I put more stock into John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds than I should, but after tonight’s win the mathematical calculations still have Dallas in the last playoff spot and the Suns on the outside looking in.
I’m now convinced Hollinger’s computers are the same ones used by the BCS, and I’m a little less worried about that whole missing the playoffs thing.
Well, at least until the Suns’ next breakdown in the final seconds.