Suns 142, Clippers 119 – They’re baaaaaaack

The Clips had no answer for Amare .... or anyone else wearing a Phoenix uniform. (AP/Hector Mata)

The Clips had no answer for Amare .... or anyone else wearing a Phoenix uniform. (AP/Hector Mata)

It’s way too early to say the Suns have regained their status as an elite NBA team, a distinction they’ve held through the past four years of fast-breaking bliss.

But there’s no question that Phoenix’s running and gunning ways have returned for good after slaughtering the shorthanded Clippers for the second night in a row, 142-119.

On consecutive days, the Suns now have posted the fifth- and sixth-best regulation scoring games of the past 10 years.

That’s one more time than the D’Antoni Suns of the past four years appear on the list, and a D’Antoni team never scored more points in regulation than Gentry’s Suns did Wednesday night.

You’d have to go all the way back to November of 1990 to find the last team to score at least 140 points in consecutive games. The high-flying Portland Trail Blazers squad that averaged 114.7 points per game and went 63-19 pulled that trick with a certain starting point guard Suns fans may be familiar with by the name of Terry Porter along with a trio of future Suns in Cliff Robinson, Danny Ainge and Mark Bryant.

Back to 2009, the Suns put up quarters of 30, 37, 36 and 39, shot 58.9 percent from the floor, doubled up the Clips in the paint (80-40) and dominated the boards 47-35.

“Tonight we played very well offensively,” Gentry told Suns.com in the understatement of the year. “I am very happy with the way we are playing and the way our bench is playing together. Steve is moving the ball well and we are getting points in the paint.

“We played with a high tempo over the past four years and (Nash) has been very successful. He does a very good job of screen and rolling and getting out on the break. For us, the spacing has been much better and since then, he has done a great job of finishing at the basket.”

As Bill Simmons said on the Suns’ TV broadcast, “This is what we’re used to.”

Last year the Suns caught a lot of flak for completely changing the roster composition of a team that was leading the West and had been a perennial contender.

It’s just as strange for a team to play one way with great success for four years, decide over the summer they’ll never win a championship that way, and then all of a sudden at midseason decide, “Screw it, this isn’t working, let’s get back to what we do best and worry about the rest later.”

Last week being a great regular season team that at least has a chance in the playoffs with a couple breaks certainly sounded a lot better than being an inconsistent team that doesn’t know what it is and would be lucky to sneak into the playoffs only to be pounded by the Lakers.

At least now we know the Suns are a running team, and it clearly is what they should be for anyone who hasn’t watched the last two games (why did it take until the All-Star break to figure this out?), but if I could ask Steve Kerr one question it would be this: Do you think this style can win in the playoffs?

The reason for his clash with D’Antoni, his hiring of Porter and the way the Suns played earlier in the season is because Steve Kerr among others did not think the Suns’ breakneck style could win in the playoffs.

I don’t exactly agree with that assessment, but how could Kerr just turn a philosophical 180 so quickly? Or was the tempo switch mandated from above or even a condition of Gentry being named the interim coach?

One way or another, it just doesn’t add up that Kerr would just wake up one morning and decide the Suns would be best suited to the old ways, and if he did he would be more of a flip-flopper than John Kerry.

Mind you, I’m not complaining. At least this way I’m fairly certain the Suns will make the playoffs, and watching the next 29 games is guaranteed to be interesting.

That brings us to tomorrow’s Trade Deadline, and I hope to God (or Steve Kerr) that 1 p.m. MST rolls around with no news out of Suns Land. The only news possible would be bad news.

If the Suns were going to trade Amare, it should have already been done when public opinion was fairly ambivalent toward such a deal.

But you just can’t trade a player who last time out absolutely exploded for 42 points on 15-for-20 shooting and 12-for-13 free-throw shooting while grabbing 11 boards and putting up a plus 38 while his next highest teammate was at a plus 14. (Disclaimer: Amare was guarded much of the game by 6-foot-8 small forward Al Thornton). 

“My performance tonight was about wanting to win,” STAT told Suns.com. “It was not about wanting to stay in Phoenix or any trade rumors. It was strictly about wanting to win and getting back on the right track.”

By putting up such an outing there’s no way he can be dealt the very next day, and I doubt that would have happened anyway with all the recent reports of Amare being off the market, especially with the Bulls being confident enough nothing would happen with Amare they dealt away the core of their trade proposal for STAT.

The only other move that could be made would be a money move, and we can only hope Sarver and Kerr were moved enough by the last two games to stand pat, see what this team can do, spend another couple months to evaluate if Amare is their franchise guy and then either extend him and make this “His Team” after next year or trade him away and begin the reloading process.

As for this one, six Suns scored in double figures on a night Grant Hill put up an uncharacteristic zero-point performance on 0-for-5 shooting. Nash looked like MVSteve with 21 points and 12 assists, and even Shaq pitched in with 16 points on 80 percent shooting.

For the second straight night I was particularly impressed with Goran Dragic, who scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and doesn’t appear to be the timid player who earned the nickname “Tragic” for his play over the first few months of the season.

I’m still not 100 percent comfortable with him as the backup point guard, but his jumper is now falling and you’ve got to love his aggressiveness taking the ball strong to the hole.

This was another night in which the Phoenix’s players were all smiles as they continue show the rest of the league that the old Suns are back.

No play sums that up better than a first quarter fast break led by Shaq, who dished it off to Nash on the wing for a layup.

When Shaq is leading a break and Nash is finishing, you know all is well in Suns Land.

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Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

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