Suns 106, Magic 103 -- A magical rebound

PHOENIX — Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard both came into the league as supremely talented and athletic high schoolers who could dominate games with their tools alone.

Howard has grown into a dominant presence on the boards and the defensive end, but he doesn’t have much of an offensive game to speak of outside the lane. Stoudemire features a diverse offensive repertoire, but his defensive and rebounding skills leave something to be desired on most nights.

On a evening in which the Suns bottled up Howard, limiting him to a single field-goal attempt by sending him to the line 17 times, it was Stoudemire who picked up the game-winning rebound in the final seconds to all but seal a 106-103 Suns victory. He then finished the play off with a follow slam to extend a one-point lead to three with 6.9 seconds left.

“He wanted that rebound more than anybody else, and he just went and got it,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “It was a great putback.”

A play after Amare fumbled away a pass from Nash that may have been a touch behind him, the Suns had planned to go back to Stoudemire trying to ice the game up by one. But Howard defended Hill and Nash decided to freestyle, finding Dudley in the corner for a three that Superman defended.

That left Amare alone in the paint without Howard around, and he ferociously grabbed Dudley’s carom and gave it a home, ripping it away from Rashard Lewis in the process.

“We definitely put an emphasis on getting the loose balls and rebounds in the last two minutes of the game,” said Stoudemire, who went for a game-high 28 points on 12-for-21 shooting to go with a team-high 10 boards. “I saw the ball go up, and I just went after it.  Once I grabbed it I figured I might as well finish it.”

Added Nash, “It was nice for us to get a bounce like that at the end of the game.”

The play was the finishing blow of a strange final minute after Hill gave the Suns a lead they would never relinquish by hitting a 12-foot bank shot on Nash’s 18th assist, this one of the behind-the-back variety.

After Anthony Johnson — who torched Nash for 11 points in the fourth — just missed a three, Stoudemire fumbled away Nash’s pass to lead to an Orlando fast break that was thwarted when Johnson dribbled the ball off Mickael Pietrus’ leg, something that couldn’t happen to a team more than a couple times a year.

Following the Dudley miss and Stoudemire putback, Lewis missed a fadeaway corner three badly that I swear I saw him hit a few times in the playoffs, leading to the first of two jump balls between Amare and Pietrus with just a couple seconds left.

It looked like Amare tipped the first one out of bounds, but for some reason they decided to re-jump with only 0.6 taken off the clock and Amare swatted it all the way to the other end to polish off an important victory.

“It was a win we desperately needed with the schedule we have coming up,” Gentry said. “It is really important for us to try to keep this thing going at home.”

The Suns avoided their first three-game losing streak since March and maintained their perfect 8-0 home record, keeping them the only undefeated home team in the NBA. They haven’t lost a home game since March 12 (a span of 17 straight wins), and Gentry is 22-3 in the Purple Palace. The Suns have struggled of late, but all the damage has come away from the 602 area code.

Granted their home schedule to date had been about as easy as getting sunburned in Phoenix in the middle of July — Orlando is the only team the Suns have hosted that currently boasts a winning record — so it was important to get a statement win against a team that had previously not dropped consecutive games all season before doing so the last two nights. These were also the first two games the Magic had lost when hitting the century mark.

“All wins are great wins if you ask me, but playing against Orlando it can definitely be a confidence builder for us,” Amare said. “We know how good we can be, and if we play well and keep our focus we can beat a lot of these teams in the league. That confidence is going to carry over.”

Nash once again was phenomenal as well, but what else is new?

MVSteve went for 20 points, 18 assists and seven rebounds for good measure, giving him the team’s second-best total in the latter department. This was his league-high third game of 18 or more assists, and only one other NBA player has done it once this season. With Orlando dishing 18 assists as a team, Nash at least equaled the opposition’s assist total for the fifth time this year. And yes, it’s only Dec. 11.

“Steve Nash, best point guard I’ve ever played with, lots of wide open shots,” said Suns forward Jared Dudley.

OK, so of course Nash is better than anybody Dudley played with at Charlotte or BC, but I’m not sure if there’s any current or former Nash teammate who wouldn’t feel the same way.

Nash helped Dudley to a career night, as the man behind JMZ scored a season-high 19 points to match his previous career high set April 12, 2008, for Charlotte at Indiana. Dudley has already scored at least 17 points four times this season after previously only doing so three times in his career.

Jared also shipped in with five boards and a couple steals while hitting four long balls and playing 33 minutes, including crunch time. There’s a reason Gentry can’t keep him out of the lineup, and it’s because he’s addicted to big plays. Tonight he did it with his shooting, drilling a couple big shots during a 10-3 Phoenix run at the end of the first half and nailing a three at the 3:30 mark of the fourth to put the Suns up one.

Just the fact that Nash would give Dudley a shot in a clinching situation — the shot Amare rebounded — shows how much confidence the Suns have in Dudley even if the play wasn’t designed for him.

“It was big for me to hit shots in the fourth quarter to let my teammates know, ‘Hey, not only can I do it in the first half, I can do it in the second half,’” Dudley said.

And 1

  • I know, huge surprise, but the Suns were at their best when they played fast. They built up a 19-point first-half lead, including a 17-0 run in the first quarter in which they held the mighty Magic scoreless for over six minutes, by pushing the tempo. They did so again during the 10-3 run at the end of the half, but the game lulled at times as well.
  • Nash on winning a game that featured a 22-21 Orlando advantage in the fourth quarter, a quarter in which the Magic shot just 35.0 percent from the floor: “You’ve got to be able to win in different ways. It’s important to sometimes win it at the foul line, sometimes win it with the three-point line, sometimes you’ve got to win it defensively, sometimes you’ve got to win it on the boards, so you’ve got to be able to turn it up in different areas to try to win games, especially down the stretch.”
  • Almost a year ago to this day the Suns beat the Magic in a one-point thriller in downtown Phoenix capped by a game-winning bucket by Grant Hill. Hill once again hit the game-winner in this one after doing so in the debut game of Jason Richardson and Dudley last season.
  • Amare, laughing, on whether he took any of David Spade’s advice while taking a charge against an out-of-control Ryan Anderson in the fourth: “I try to make sure weakside I’m in the right position to take charges or block the shot, but David Spade, yeah, he definitely teaches you how to flop a little bit.”
  • Dwight Howard has yet to win in Phoenix, going 0-6 in the Valley of the Sun(s). The Magic have not won in this city since Nov. 14, 2001. … The Magic were the only team not to have lost consecutive games before losing last night in Utah and tonight in Phoenix … The Suns are 11-0 in games they lead by double figures.

  • Michael Nardi

    Although it was Orlando's second game of a back-to-back, this was a great win for us. I am a suns fan in Los Angeles, and i cannot stand these laker fans. Always giving me hell. But i have stood by the suns in all 18 years of my little life. I'm glad they were able 2 get some stops and pull out a W. Lets hope they get work done in Denver tonight.

    P.S…. the 2nd jump ball had 1.9 seconds left on the clock i think… but who cares? :)

  • asani

    What do the suns have to do to get Channing Frye to play consistent? I am having reservations about having this guy on the team he should at least go to the bench if he keeps it up.

  • KJ Loyalist

    Frye needs time. People forget that the guy barely played any minutes at all for his entire pro career and now he's being asked to play major minutes in a totally different way than he's been used to. It's going to take time for him to get fully comfortable.

    I, for one, hope they keep playing him. he' great for the spacing on the offensive end.

  • Kyle Fleeger

    I am happy the Suns played at home.

    It was star power in effect. Nashty had 20 Points, 18 assists and 7 rebounds! He was in complete control.

    There were at times where the Suns let the Magic back in the game by missing easy shots and not playing sound defense. It’s obvious when our second unit is in that we move into a one on one offense and it doesn’t work.

    Amar’e Freaking Stoudemire was incredible tonight. Early in the game, he only took the open looks given to. He ended the game with a dominant offensive rebound and Dunk to seal the victory. I am pretty sure Gambo and Ash will be giving Amar’e a Yes for Friday’s episode of Amar’ecan Idol. He finished making up his turnovers with steals. 3 of each. Oh yeah, he also had 28 points and 10 rebounds and two assists!

    Big Shout out to my BOY! Jared Dudley. You had 19 Points, and 5 rebounds. But more importantly you played GREAT defense against Vince Carter and their other shooters late. You hit TIMELY shots! Thanks J Dud! I loved watching your hustle!

    This was a big win even though Channing continued to shoot cold. I am confident he is going to help us win a close one soon with his shooting. opponent this season. Go Suns!

  • KyonoRocks

    Was a horrible game to watch! Throwing away our solid lead at the start, I really thought Orlando were gonna claw it back. But daaaamn Amar'e… I literally shouted "F*CK YEAH!" when he dropped that bomb, probably the favorite moment of this season so far when he got that rebound and slammed that basketball home.

    Dudley impressed me the most though. It's weird to think that he's a bench player, his contribution was massive

  • Pingback: Preview: Suns (16-7) at Nuggets (16-7)| Valley of the Suns

  • Michael Schwartz

    @Michael Nardi That’s right I just said 0.6 was taken off the clock, as the time went from 2.5 to 1.9 in the official stats.

  • The Z. Man

    Went to the game.

    Suns needed this one. Magic have been VERY good (wins vs. Hawks and Suns) when they lose the front end of a back-to-back in the following game.

    J-Dud totally bottled up a much taller Rashard Lewis at the end of the game. Lewis had something to prove after the controversy of the previous game. Glad I was able to help fire up J-Dud – he loves it when I tell him "Dud is a dad" – and STAT (who becomes more and more aggressive when I yell "way to grab those boards Amare" like I did the previous home game when he pulled down 21). Suns need 35 minutes a game from J-Dud, particularly on the 2nd game of a back-to-back and, when he gets healthy, we need 40 minutes per game from the Brazilian Blur. These are the guys that bring competitiveness and energy to each game.

    MUST start and ALSO finish with BOTH. Let's go SUNS!!!!