Suns 102, Wizards 90 -- Takin' care of business

Amare Stoudemire can score with the best of them, but he is getting his hands dirty this season, finally rebounding the basketball. (AP Photo/Nick Wass).

Amare Stoudemire can score with the best of them, but he is getting his hands dirty this season, finally rebounding the basketball. (AP Photo/Nick Wass).

Coming off a huge win in Boston, today’s game against the Washington Wizards could have very well been one of those games that the Suns lose. The whole emotional high-low aspect was definitely in effect, but the Suns stayed strong en route to a 102-90 victory.

Last year’s Suns would have most likely lost a game like this, feeling satisfied with their win over the Celtics and losing focus against a team like the Wizards. But that doesn’t happen as often with a team that isn’t even in the playoff conversation according to most NBA analysts. Expectations are low amongst the NBA world, and the Suns like it that way.

“The minute we start to say we’re a certain caliber team, there’s a danger,” Nash told The Associated Press. “We just got to keep being humble, keep treating this as a project. It’s going to take the whole season.”

They don’t take any game for granted, which is the mentality of a winning ball club. That mentality helped the Suns do something today that they didn’t do often enough of last season against mediocre teams — take care of business. It wasn’t pretty, but against a team that the Suns should beat, they did exactly what they needed to in order to get a win.

“I don’t think anyone is going to ship it to Springfield to the Hall of Fame, but it was a good win for us,” head coach Alvin Gentry told Suns.com. “I haven’t seen a bad win in the NBA yet.”

Like Gentry said, a win is a win, but it didn’t come without some struggle. Heading into the game the Suns were averaging 16.7 turnovers per contest. The Suns nearly matched that total in the first half alone, committing 16 turnovers that resulted in 19 Wizards points.

Despite the lackadaisical play, the Suns were able to head into the locker room up by five, mostly a product of nine first-half threes. The Suns tightened things up in the second half by committing no turnovers in the third quarter. The Wizards got within six with about five and a half minutes left, but a huge Channing Frye three followed by an Amare Stoudemire “wam bam slam” just about ended the game.

The Suns have now matched their best start in franchise history, 6-1, and continue to show the world that they are certainly more than an afterthought.

The most impressive part of tonight was the Suns’ stellar defense. Despite turning the ball over so frequently, the Suns only allowed the Wizards to score 90 points, 6.5 points below their season average.

They held the Wizards to 39.1 percent shooting from the field and 25.0 percent shooting from distance. The combination of Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Steve Nash and even some Jared Dudley limited the always-dangerous Gilbert Arenas to 20 points on 7-for-22 shooting. The Suns are also slowly silencing the rebounding critics, as they outrebounded their opponent for the fourth time in seven games.

Grant Hill is playing like he’s 26. Tonight he posted his fourth double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Hill had only five double-doubles all of last season. Amare Stoudemire continues to improve his rebounding, finishing today’s contest with 12 boards. Even Channing Frye wandered from the three-point line into the paint, grabbing a season-high 10 boards.

Although rebounding was thought to be a glaring weakness for the Suns, their gang rebounding approach is working, mostly because of the effort that Hill has put forth — averaging 8.7 rebounds per contest through seven games. Their rebounding should only improve once Robin Lopez returns to full health.

While the defense and rebounding were solid, the offensive efficiency aside from some first half turnovers was equally impressive. As has been the case all season, there was a terrific balance of scoring today. Every Suns starter was in double figures, and four of them posted double-doubles.

“If you look at the season, each person has done something to help this team win,” Frye told Suns.com. “We don’t rely on just one person, we rely on everybody to do a little of everything, assists, rebounds, blocking shots, steals. Everybody has to do their part, and that’s what makes it fun.”

J-Rich, coming off of a 34-point, 10-rebound effort against the Celtics, once again led the Suns in scoring with 22 points. He looks much more comfortable in a Suns uniform this season and the Suns are going to him often. He scored three times in the post in the first four minutes of the game, and the Suns were virtually running their offense through him for a couple minutes.

STAT once again looked aggressive on offense, with a few thunderous dunks and strong finishes on the way to 17 points and 12 rebounds. Steve Nash was once again Steve Nash, scoring 11 points and dishing out 17 dimes. Two Time is now averaging 17.9 points per game and 11.9 assists per game, both better than his MVP season averages.

Channing Frye looked comfortable for the first time on the road, finishing with 18 points, four triples, and 10 boards. Every Suns starter is averaging better than 13 points per game, and the offense is looking exactly as advertised — lethal.

They have been shooting the ball lights out, especially from three, going 12-of-27 tonight. In fact, the Suns are actually shooting better from the land of plenty than the majority of NBA teams are shooting from the field. After today’s game the Suns are shooting 46.5 percent from long range. Only 14 NBA teams are shooting a better percentage from the field than the Suns are shooting from three.

This Suns squad is the epitome of a team. They have great chemistry on the court and off. That chemistry hasn’t resulted in anything but success seven games through the season.

It is still early in the season and the last thing the Suns want to do is pat themselves on the back, but their resume is shaping up quite nicely: four road wins, a win against a solid Miami Heat team that has not lost a game other than to Phoenix, and a victory over a Boston Celtics team that may be the NBA’s best.

But the Suns do need to play a few games against Western Conference powerhouses before any assumptions can be made. Although they take on the Sixers tomorrow, it will be upcoming games against the Hornets and Lakers that will tell the NBA world and Suns fans more about the prospects of this Phoenix team.

But as for today, it wasn’t pretty, but the Suns got the job done. If they can take care of business against teams they should beat and simply steal a few from the NBA’s elite (like the Celtics win), than this team should be in great shape when it’s all said and done.

And 1

  • Leandro Barbosa returned to the lineup and scored nine points, on 4-for-7 shooting in 18 minutes of action. He looked active and aggressive, driving to the basket and making plays for himself and his teammates. The wrist didn’t appear to be an issue.
  • Goran Dragic once again looked extremely confident and comfortable, going for nine points and three rebounds in only nine minutes. Dragic was flying all over the court, getting to the basket quite easily and even skying for rebounds and mixing it up for loose balls. As of now he is playing like a solid NBA backup, but the question is, will he develop into anything more?
  • Earl Clark played only five minutes and will apparently only be used in situational substitutions.
  • The Wizards haven’t beaten the Suns since Dec. 22, 2006.

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