Suns 154, Warriors 130 – Fast-breaking heaven

J-Rich and the Suns dunked in transition all night. (AP/Ben Margot)

J-Rich and the Suns dunked in transition all night. (AP/Ben Margot)

I really wonder where Vegas will set the over-under line the next time the Suns and Warriors renew acquaintances.

On Sunday the line was put at 244, a ridiculously high total, but Phoenix and Golden State bettered that with seven minutes to spare in an offensive showdown in which the Suns ran to a 154-130 victory propelled by 56 fast-break points, the most for any team since the league began tracking the stat in 1997.

It’s amazing what happens when two teams featuring powerful running offenses and little commitment on the defensive end get together.

“We played well offensively, but that team is heck of a team offensively, too,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com in the aftermath of the highest-scoring NBA game this season. “At this point we will take wins any way we can get them. I thought we just had a lot of guys that played well.”

In a game that will go down in the record books for the offensive fireworks displayed, it was actually Phoenix’s defense that won this one for the Suns.

The Warriors fought back from a 14-point second quarter deficit like I knew they would, tying the game at 85 five minutes into the third quarter.

At this point the Suns had already started to play a zone defense that ended up forcing the Warriors to chuck up long jumpers that they missed while clogging the lane to prevent the easy baskets that defined much of this ballgame on both ends.

As shot after shot missed its mark, Stephen Jackson lost his cool for the second time to pick up his second technical – at which point I knew the game was over without Captain Jack on the floor – and then Nellie stormed off in a blaze of technicals.

When the dust had settled, the Suns had ripped off 19 straight points in less than three minutes. For those of you scoring at home, that’s better than six points per minute.

Was it really only last week when the Suns were making a habit out of six-minute droughts?

Then again the Warriors aren’t exactly the Magic or the Spurs.

Although that was the crucial spurt that answered a Golden State run and put this one in the ‘W’ column, Phoenix’s offense didn’t stop all evening on its way to a record-breaking night. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Suns raced to the second-best regulation scoring output of the past 10 years, bested only by Denver’s 168-point affair nearly a year ago to the day on March 16 of last year when the Nuggets torched The Team Formerly Known as the SuperSonics.
  • It’s almost more mind boggling that four of the top eight offensive explosions of the past 10 years come from the Gentry Suns of the past month, including a bunch of totals tied at the 140-point barrier. However, besides the aforementioned Nuggets game, only one other contest is within 10 points of Sunday’s output.
  • With a nod to Paul Coro, this tied for the fourth-highest scoring game in Suns history, including third best in regulation when factoring out that 161-157 double overtime win in New Jersey a few years back. Phoenix’s 173 points in November 1990 tops the list of regulation scores in NBA history.
  • The Suns’ 42-point first quarter set a season high, which stood for a little over an hour until the team’s 46-point third quarter broke that mark.
  • The Warriors had not yielded such a point total since 1990, and that’s saying a lot considering the kind of defense they’ve played over the years.
  • Although not quite so earth shattering, the road team broke a nine-game losing streak in this series, as Phoenix had lost four straight by the Bay.
  • And finally with the obvious, this extended the streak of consecutive games in which both the Suns and Warriors score at least 100 against each other in the same contest to 12. Needless to say, I don’t see that NBA high for a series ending any time soon.

Phoenix and Golden State are two of the fastest teams in the league, but the 110 possessions for each team in this game still made this a much quicker than usual contest, if you couldn’t already tell.

The Suns, who shot 62.1 percent from the field, averaged 140 points per 100 possessions in this one to put them within spitting distance of the Lakers for the top spot in the NBA in offensive efficiency, which Los Angeles holds at 110.8 points per 100.

Phoenix also scored 84 points in the paint and made 40 shots that would be considered layups, dunks or tips.

The Suns did all this with only J-Rich cracking the 30-point barrier – and just barely at that with 31 – as this was a total team effort.

Despite sitting out the fourth Richardson did lead the way in his return to the city where he made his name with his 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including 4-for-5 from deep and a litany of highlight dunks, none of which were blocked from behind.

Matt Barnes also showed his former fans what they’re missing with 20 points, a career-high 11 assists and six boards.

But they were only the start, as Shaq dominated inside with 26 points on 11-for-13 shooting in 24 minutes against the size-deficienct Warriors, and Steve Nash and Grant Hill flashed their all-around game, with Nash going for 11 points, nine assists and seven boards in 23 minutes and Hill nine points, eight boards and seven assists.

The bench also did a nice job, led by LB’s 21, Jared Dudley’s 11 and five and Lou Amundson’s nine and four with three steals and two blocks, and his hustle game was on full display as well. The bench was on during the second-quarter run that gave Phoenix its first cushion.

The loss avenges a merciless Warriors victory in this arena on Feb. 4 in which Golden State jumped out to a 17-2 lead 2:38 in and never looked back. The Suns just never had a chance.

This time around Phoenix looked like a completely different team than that version of the Suns that never fought back.

“We knew that we had to hit them first this time, and we did a good job at that,” Barnes told Suns.com.

Phoenix has now won consecutive games after its six-game losing streak and trails Dallas by a tantalizingly close four games after the Suns made up two games in just over 48 hours.

Back in the building that sparked his 2006-07 Golden State Warriors to wins in 16 of 21 games down the stretch and a first-round playoff upset of top-seeded Dallas, Barnes couldn’t help but think about what could be possible.

“Jason Richardson and I are trying to remind everybody that you never know what happens,” he said.

We believe?

Not quite yet.

If only the Suns could face the Warriors’ defense every night.

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