Suns 118, Rockets 110 -- Back and forth win

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have come to define inconsistency during the 2009-10 season, be it from November to December or from the Lakers-Boston stretch to the Memphis game.

In Wednesday’s win against Houston, the Suns strutted out their inconsistency all game long, turning a 16-point lead into a 16-point deficit in 14 minutes of game time only to come back again to pull out the victory, 118-110 over a tough Houston Rockets squad.

Even when the Suns used a 12-0 run that started at the end of the first half to tie the game up a minute and a half into the second half, Houston countered with an 8-0 run before Phoenix countered back with an 11-2 run of its own to regain the lead.

“It was such a seesaw game, I don’t know if I’ve ever been involved in a game where you’re up 16 then down 16, you’re up 10 and then you’re down five,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “It was such a crazy game, but we hung in there … and did a good job with coming up with plays when we had to.”

It’s not often that a team yields a 51-19 run in the first half yet still finds a way to win by eight, but with this Phoenix Suns team I’ve come to expect that.

Before the season, Suns VP of basketball operations David Griffin told me to expect this Suns team to run up huge leads and probably give a fair share of them up, and he really could not have been more prophetic as it comes to this game and really the season at large.

“I’ve never seen a game like this before,” Jason Richardson said. “It was a back-and-forth rollercoaster game. Both teams got spurts and went on runs and gave up runs. I’ve never been a part of something like this before.”

It was impressive for the Suns to pull out a wild game like this considering their track record in back-to-back games. They entered 1-6 in such contests overall, with four of them being blowouts and two of them being heartbreakers.

When Houston turned a 16-point deficit into a 16-point lead, I figured that the Suns’ legs and a 3 a.m.-ish arrival caught up with them.

Instead Phoenix tied its biggest comeback of the season. Coincidentally the other 16-point comeback was their other win on a back-to-back on Nov. 9 in Philly, and the Suns came back from 15 down to beat the Rockets in Houston on Nov. 17 as well.

In consecutive days the Suns have won a pair of hard-fought games that went down to the wire despite blowing big leads in both of them, ending their seven-game road losing streak on Tuesday and snapping their five-game second game of a back-to-back streak tonight.

“This is a big two days for us,” said Channing Frye. “I think you look at Sacramento and Houston, those are two just hard-nosed teams that are playing good as of late. For us it was definitely getting over the hump on the road and definitely just getting the gut check tonight and beating the hardest-working team in the NBA.”

Frye was a big part of it, scoring eight points in the initial 21-5 run and finishing the game with 22 points and nine defensive rebounds. Frye drilled 6-of-12 threes, missing a career-high seventh by a couple inches on a long first-quarter two.

He became the first player in the NBA to drill six three-pointers five times this year, and his 92 long balls push him past New York’s Danilo Gallinari for the NBA’s three-point lead.

Channing also joined a bench crew at the start of the fourth quarter that turned a one-point deficit into a six-point lead while taking seven minutes off the clock, allowing the rest of the starters precious time on the bench.

By comparison, the starters re-entered Tuesday’s game about three minutes into the quarter after Sacramento tied things up and Gentry felt the game slipping away.

After getting poor play from the bench during the past two games and with the bench being in for a good chunk of Houston’s 23-4 run to start the second quarter, it was very important for that unit to come up big in the fourth.

“I thought they had a lot more energy and a lot more pop, so for us it was a good thing,” Gentry said. “They’ve struggled a little bit, … but they have also been a unit that has gotten us leads. We still totally believe in our bench, and they’re going to be fine.”

Nash went for his usual 26 and 12 (you know you’ve reached lofty heights when 26 and 12 is ho-hum), and Amare put up an equally solid 25 and 11 line off 9-for-17 shooting. He’s now scored at least 20 points in five straight.

But that’s become expected.

What really helped the Suns was J-Rich going for 20 points for the second consecutive night. He scored on alley-oops past Aaron Brooks, three balls and even some drives to the hoop.

Richardson’s effectiveness meant the Suns featured four players scoring at least 20 points, as Amare-Nash-Frye-Richardson combined for almost 80 percent of Phoenix’s output.

“When (Richardson) plays well and he’s feeling it that gives us a lot of options and makes it really difficult for teams to defend us,” Nash said.

Added Richardson, “That frees up a lot for Steve and frees up a lot for Amare and definitely Channing. Teams can’t just play off me. It kind of opens it up for everybody.”

Richardson said he’s behind his December struggles — when he averaged 13.1 ppg on 41.1 percent shooting — in a month that saw his injured hand clearly affect him.

“I definitely feel a lot better,” Richardson said. “I’m just not worrying about it. I know my shot will come back eventually.

“It’s behind me. That’s just the NBA. Sometimes you just go through little slumps and stuff like that.”

It’s too early to say if Richardson is fully back, but a friend of mine sends me an angry Facebook wall post every time J-Rich flubs for his fantasy team, and I haven’t heard from him for at least a few days.

My takeaway from this one is that the Suns’ stars pulled them through a game in which fatigue was a certifiable factor, a game in which the Suns fell asleep at the wheel after a fast start due to weak defense only to flip that switch back on to finish off a victory.

“It’s not how we drew it up,” Nash said.

No it isn’t, and I doubt this game tape will be sent to the Hall of Fame, but the Suns found the resolve to come back on a gutty team and win a game they spent the middle part of the first half trying to give away.

  • Roadster sl

    No room for complacency, it was a very close game and could easily have gone the other way. Good efforts from Frye and JRich, who has changed his work attitude these last two games and battles hard at both ends…his twenty points and Frye’s 22 were necessary to win this game especially because the points contribution from the bench was meager. A pleasant surprise was Lopez’s performance off the bench, although only scoring 2 points his stats were huge, the 4 blocks and 4 rebounds in just 11 minutes is only an indication of what Lopez is able to contribute to this ballclub defensively. LB is still missing game rythm and Phoenix was outbounded by Houston badly on the offensive boards….this weakness continues as does the TO’s. Lot’s of work to be done, tough games comingup against Miami and Milwaukee but they must be W’s.

  • martinez

    good post guyz and welll i think and i do know the suns are lacking toughness and i know people can tell me that we have heard that before but its to the point were the suns dont even want to get in to the paint i mean i watch tape and analyze what i see and we loose rebounds and second chance points cuz no one is even near the paint i mean what happen in the begining of the season? GANG REBOUNDING that was winning GAMES!!!!!!!!! can u say it with me GANG REBOUNDING and that goes to toughness they need to be tough to establish position also it will help them on the offensive end as well tell me how any people are in the paint on when nash comes down THE ANSWER IS NONE and thats a problem AND HOW ABOUT MY POST ON THE KINGS I SAID THAT THE SUNS LOOSE LEADS THE QUICKER THAN ANY TIME IN THE NBA AND EJ SAID IT LAST NIGHT TO and always i have faith in the suns


  • The Z. Man

    Good stuff Roadster.

    Nash can thread a needle behind his back and through the defender’s legs. There is no way he is off the mark on a chest pass. But his team mates are VERY confused as to where Nash expects them to be and it results in just a very bad looking pass. When the ball goes out of bounds, it turns the ball over. He needs to play more WITH the Brazilian Blur. They know each other’s every move. Nash is “credited” with that turnover but I credit Gentry and Majerle.

    Most of last night’s offensive boards and 2nd chance opportunities for the Rockets came not from their missed shots, but, when we would block their shot. More work needs to be done by our coaching staff to either discourage blocks, which also often results in the opponents scoring easy points at the foul line, or to at least drill our Suns in coming up with the loose ball. In the 4th quarter of last night’s game, it looked like LB came out of his recent slump and got his rhythm back. His game is explosive but often needs much more playing time to be its best.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

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