PHOENIX — Just another day at the office for the Phoenix Suns in front of the citizens of Planet Orange at the Purple Palace. The Suns made easy work of the Washington Wizards, 121-95, to become the third team in franchise history to start the season 10-0 at home while remaining the NBA’s only undefeated home team.
Not only have the Suns bettered their competition in US Airways Center, they have dominated their opponents, winning each game by an average margin of 13.9 points per contest. Tonight was no different. After a tough loss in Portland two days prior, the Suns absolutely blasted a struggling Wizards club from start to finish.
“We wanted to get a good jump — you don’t really want to worry about what they’re doing we just wanted to come out and play well and avenge a tough loss in Portland,” Steve Nash said. “I thought we did a good job, we came out and were pretty focused and the second unit did a good job as well. It was a good performance.”
The onslaught started from the opening tip. In the first half the Suns looked like a team that’s hasn’t lost at home since March 12 and the Wizards looked like, well, the Wizards.
They had little flow on offense and it was clear that this team goes as Gilbert Arenas goes. Arenas, who scored a USAC record 54 points in his last trip to Phoenix nearly three years ago, couldn’t get anything going as he finished the game 6-of-21 from the field.
The Suns, on the other hand, were about as efficient as they always are when they take to the US Airways Center floor. Coming into the contest the Suns were averaging 116.1 points per game at home, a byproduct of 51.7 percent field-goal shooting and 48.3 percent three-point accuracy. Although the Suns weren’t as deadly from beyond the arc tonight, 7-of-21 (33.3 percent), they converted on 51.6 percent from the field.
They built a big lead early and actually held on, something they haven’t been able to do the past week. In their last four games, the Suns blew leads of 19, 17 and 15 — two of which resulted in losses — and that’s not to mention a 20-point lead San Antonio chiseled down to one on Tuesday.
Tonight was a completely different story. The Suns built on their 16-point first-half lead with a 39-point third quarter, 27 of which came from Stoudemire (14) and Richardson (13).
“Well, I was real happy because I thought that we did a good job of playing consistent for 48 minutes,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “I didn’t think we had any of the peaks and valleys that we’ve had when we’ve established big leads. After the Portland game where we had a lead it was really important for us to come out and establish ourself, but not only that, maintain the lead, and I thought we did a great job with that.”
Amare Stoudemire was a big reason why, as he dominated the Wizards’ bigs to the tune of his fifth 20-10 game of the season, going for 23 points and 14 rebounds in only three quarters of play. STAT is on a tear during the last five games, averaging 23.8 points per game and 11.4 boards per contest. The big fella’ attributed his rebounding jump to his dedication and improved timing.
“I get out there with the rookies and the young guys maybe two, three hours before the game,” Stoudemire said. “I’m only required to be here an hour, hour-and-a-half before the game, but I’m here three hours and I get a lot of extra work in.”
“Start of the season, my timing was off,” Stoudemire added. “I think just that with playing and experience back on the basketball court, my timing is slowly coming back.”
STAT was a beast, and Steve Nash was equally as impressive, out-assisting the Wizards single-handedly with 15 dimes, all of which came through three quarters. Nash has out-assisted the opponent six times this season, which is simply mind boggling.
The Suns reached the century mark in the third quarter for the second time of the season, as Jared Dudley nailed a three with 1:29 seconds remaining in the third. It was an all-around balanced night for the Suns, with five players in double figures and every player to see the floor getting on the scoreboard.
The Suns have now won 19 straight at USAC, an accomplishment even Stoudemire was unaware of.
“That’s pretty good,” said Stoudemire. “I didn’t know that, but this season, in particular we’ve talked about taking care of home court since training camp, and we’ve all bought into it for the most part. We’re just comfortable at home, and we’ll try to keep it that way.”
But what do we make of this home win streak?
By looking at the splits, it is clear the Suns are much better at home than they are on the road, but it is important to realize the level of competition these wins have come against. Aside from the Suns’ recent home wins against the Spurs and Magic, Phoenix has played zero, yes ZERO home games against teams .500 or better.
The home win streak does date back to March 12 and the Suns are 24-3 at home under Gentry, so obviously it is something to talk about. But the third-best team the Suns have played at home this season is the New Orleans Hornets (12-13), and that says something.
Suns fans will know if this win streak is for real or not sometime in the next few weeks when the Suns host a slew of NBA powerhouses. They will take on the Cavaliers, the Thunder, the Clippers, the Lakers and the Celtics all at home during the remaining month of December.
While the win is nice and the home streak is impressive, the Suns need to win some of these home games against teams like the Cavs, Lakers and Celtics before they can be deemed “dominant” at home. But regardless, the Suns will take it one game at a time, as cliché the goes.
“I don’t think we want to start to start looking at, ‘We’ve got five [home] games left this month, we’ve got to win four,’” Nash said. “We have to win our next game, and if we lose that we move on. I think the process has got to be our focus and not the outcome.”
- Goran Dragic played extremely well again tonight, scoring 12 points in 23 minutes of play. He is averaging 13 points during the last three games. Gentry on Dragic: “I think Goran is getting better every game. I thought he did a great job of controlling the game in the fourth quarter, and I think it’s just been really helpful for him to play those few minutes with (Nash).”
- After missing the Portland game, J-Rich came back with 22 points and six rebounds on 10-of-18 shooting in 25 minutes.
- The Suns have held their last five opponents to an average of 42.1 percent shooting from the field. Phoenix held the Wizards to an opponent-season low 36.4 percent shooting tonight, the best defensive performance by the Suns since Nov 4, 2008, at New Jersey.