PHOENIX — Suns head coach Alvin Gentry often talks about the importance of winning home games because of how difficult it is to win on somebody else’s home floor in the NBA.
Phoenix has not exactly had the most difficult home schedule to start the year, but the Suns routed another victim nonetheless Sunday night at US Airways Center, this time taking down the road-weary Detroit Pistons, 117-91.
The Suns remained one of three perfect home teams in running their home mark to 5-0, winning games by an average of 15.4 points per contest with three of the five wins being 20-point blowouts.
The Suns have also won 14 straight home games overall, with their last home defeat coming on March 12, and 19 of 22 since Gentry took over the head seat.
“It’s just as we say, we have to try to hold serve at home every game because it is so tough to win on the road,” Gentry said. “It was a good win.”
With the victory the Suns bounced back from their first real disappointing loss of the season, an effortless game against an overmatched New Orleans squad that just outhustled Phoenix to a major rebounding advantage.
Gentry expected such an effort from New Orleans after the Suns tagged the Hornets with their best half of the season the week before, but this time around energy was no issue for Phoenix against a tired Detroit squad that lost last night in Utah in overtime. It was, however, for the Pistons.
The Suns stayed about even on the boards (losing the glass battle 39-38) but shot the lights out to take down the Pistons.
Phoenix shot a season-best 57.5 percent from the floor and 61.1 percent from beyond the arc (11-for-18) to score a bounce back win by a season-high margin. This against a Detroit squad that entered the game allowing 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 30.2 percent shooting from distance, both good for No. 3 rankings in the NBA.
“I knew we were going to respond well,” said Jason Richardson, who chipped in with 17. “It was a letdown in New Orleans, but we’re playing good basketball. I knew we were going to pick it back up.
“We came out here, we did the job. We did everything right. We shared the ball on offense, we helped each other on defense, and the most important thing is we rebounded tonight, so it’s a great win for us.”
The Suns played a dominant second quarter (winning it 29-16) and cruised from there after the Pistons hung around in the first. The bench once again played a major part, streaking out to a 7-0 run early in the quarter before the starters ended it with a 9-0 spurt of their own to help the Suns open up a 16-point halftime advantage.
Phoenix had fallen behind by double figures in its past four games, and although the Suns won two of them and nearly won a third in New Orleans, they didn’t want to have to fight another uphill battle even if they have proven adept at doing just that.
“Tonight there was definitely an emphasis on starting the game early,” Amare Stoudemire said. “We don’t want to keep fighting back. There were a lot of times this year we were down eight or so points and had to fight back into it. We wanted to come out early and create the lead early and then prolong the lead as opposed to coming back from a deficit.”
Steve Nash looked for his offense in an aggressive 10-point, four-assist first quarter, and Amare brought the hammer in the first half as well, going for 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
For the game Amare scored a game-high 21 points. He’s now recorded four straight 20-point outings since his stinker in Los Angeles, his longest such streak since pulling the trick 11 consecutive times Nov. 30-Dec. 25 of last year. Amare is averaging 24.3 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting the past four games and is starting to resemble the Amare of old.
“Again, going seven months with no basketball is the longest I’ve ever went, so it’s slowly getting myself back into a rhythm out there, but it’s improving,” Amare said.
Added Grant Hill: “I thought early on in the season he was settling for jump shots, and now he’s attacking. He’s getting to the rim, he’s getting to the free-throw line, he’s dunking on people. He’s mixing it up. Early on he was relying on his curveball. Now he’s mixing it up with his changeups, his curve, his fastball, and when he does that he’s hard to stop and we’re hard to stop as a team.”
With the win the Suns improved to a Western Conference-best 11-3, and with four winnable games on the horizon they aren’t done yet.
It’s encouraging to see this squad dismantle a team that it should on its home court, but the Suns’ captain doesn’t want his teammates to take too much stock in the standings board displayed in the corner of Phoenix’s locker room.
“This team has to remain hungry and humble and not get caught up with where we are in the standings,” Nash said. “We feel like we’ve arrived, but that’s probably the kiss of death, so we have to continue to feel like the underdog and continue to work every day this season to get better and better. If we do that we’ll continue to improve, and then if that’s the case I think we’ll have a really fun year, a year with a lot of wins.”
Beware of falling fans
Midway through the fourth quarter with the scrubs in and the game securely in the ‘W’ column I heard an ear-shattering “THUD” right next to me.
I looked down and there was a fan face up on the floor between myself and the Suns’ Spanish radio broadcasters.
It was an eerie sight as the fan, who had to be in his 20’s, kept his eyes closed and seemed to be unconscious with a huge welt on his head. The paramedics rushed in and all of a sudden he was strapped into a stretcher and eventually carried off as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
This guy, who may or may not have had a few too many, was standing high on the railing behind me trying to catch a T-shirt. It really is amazing how much fans want a cheap shirt that they’ll probably never wear.
I’m not sure if he fell and hit the ground first or if his head knocked my table first, but hearing the blow was really scary. Scarier is the fact that if our press section was full, I would have been one seat over and he probably would have landed right on top of me, sending both of us to the hospital with concussions worse than what Kurt Warner suffered today.
I chatted with this victim and his friend a couple times earlier in the evening, which made the whole thing more real to me. They were good guys about my age who were curious about what exactly I was doing on Daily Dime Live during the game, and his friend won a Flip Cam exactly like what I use during postgame interviews for correctly answering a trivia question in front of the entire crowd. Minutes before the fall they were telling me what a great night they were having.
The moral of this story is clear: don’t drink and stand on a ledge during the T-shirt toss.
But seriously, my prayers are with this fan. I hope to see him cheering his lungs out at a Suns game soon, and hopefully I won’t need to bring a hard hat next time I head to US Airways Center.