Suns 112, Mavericks 106 — TNT streak ends at 18

Jared Dudley and the Suns' defense shut down the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki late in the game to help seal a win at home. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — The streak is over.

The Suns finally won a game on TNT after losing 18 straight on the network. But much more important than breaking the streak was the Suns breaking their two-game losing streak (two is significant when you’ve gone 3-7 in your last 10), handing the Dallas Mavericks a 112-106 loss Thursday night.

“It feels great,” Suns guard Steve Nash said after the game. “We’ve had a tough road lately, especially on TNT, so it’s nice to have that behind us.”

There’s little doubt that the Suns breathed a big sigh of relief after this game, as they’ve stumbled lately and sat just five games over .500 entering the night. But one breath is about all the Suns get. The win was crucial, as it was the start of a grueling stretch that now takes the Suns on the road (where they are 9-15) to Houston, New Orleans, Denver and Sacramento.

A win over the Mavs is simply puzzling. The Suns blow a 17-point lead to the Jazz, then lose at home in overtime to the Bobcats, and they follow it up with a win over a top-five team?

The Suns have been on another planet lately, but it appears that they returned to Planet Orange Thursday if only for one night.

“It was a win that reminded me of November,” said Nash, who finished with 19 points and 11 assists. “We had a real balanced effort and a real spirit and energy about us.”

The Suns trailed until tying the game at 62 two and a half minutes into the third quarter. From there, the Suns kept it close, but the Mavericks kept pulling away, building small leads of four, six or eight. But come crunch time, the Suns really turned it on.

The Suns entered the fourth quarter down 90-84. After a Goran Dragic three-pointer and Earl Clark’s first career three ball, the Suns made it 92-90. As it seemed they had been doing all game, the Mavericks pulled ahead again with a small lead, but the Suns didn’t quit.

“We had grittiness and just refused to lose,” said Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “I thought we played really well the way we did the first month of the season.”

With just over six minutes left, the Mavericks were up 98-97, but a Josh Howard jumper clanged off the rim and hit the top of the backboard, giving the Suns a crucial possession. And they made sure to capitalize, taking a 99-98 lead on a Louis Amundson dunk. After that, it was all Suns.

It was only fitting that what seemed to be the dagger in the Mavs’ heart was a Nash drive past former teammate Dirk Nowitzki for a layup to make it 109-104 with about 30 seconds to go as the masses in US Airways Center roared with approval.

“Their second group was a lot better than the guys that were on the floor,” Mavericks guard Jason Kidd said. “They got those guys in the game and got the lead, and their starters come back in and go from there. They gave them energy and life.”

Kidd wasn’t the only one complimenting the Suns’ bench, which contributed 43 points, including 13 from Amundson and 12 from Dragic. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said the Suns’ “bench was the difference.”

Phoenix’s second unit prowess is a trend, as it has averaged 41.8 points per game since Channing Frye and Jason Richardson were removed from the starting lineup Jan. 18 at Memphis (J-Rich subsequently returned three games later with LB out).

“I thought it was probably the best total team effort we had all year from the standpoint of guys stepping in the game and doing something positive for us and just playing good, hard basketball,” Gentry said.

The bench was most crucial in the fourth quarter, as Amundson, Jared Dudley and Dragic shut down the Mavericks’ three-guard lineup. Nowitzki, who finished the game with 19 points, did not make a shot in the fourth quarter.

“You cannot ask anyone to do a better job than Jared and Grant did on Dirk,” Gentry said. “He’s such a tough matchup, and they made him work for every single thing he got.”

The most amazing thing about this win was the resiliency the Suns showed on defense. This uncharacteristic showing of defensive prowess was no doubt the X-factor in a game that saw the Suns cough up 15 turnovers for 20 points. The Suns of late have not shown this kind of late game efficiency and refusal to let their opponents get easy baskets.

“We made the people shoot the shots they didn’t want to shoot,” Dudley said. “We switched on Terry and Nowitzki to make it hard for them.”

Terry was particularly pesky all night, finishing with 21 points after scoring 12 in the first six minutes of the game. Every Dallas starter scored in double figures, including some former Suns. Shawn Marion netted 15 points and Kidd dropped 13 points and six assists.

Before the game, Gentry said the Suns could not put Nowitzki on the free-throw line because he would make his shots, and nine of Dirk’s 19 points did come at the charity stripe. But the fourth quarter saw the Suns foul just three times — one of many key adjustments that led to the win, the most crucial being first half to second half turnovers (10 in the first, five in the second).

The Suns looked like the team of old when it came to shooting three-pointers as well, hitting 9-of-15 (60 percent). Probably more crucial, though, was the Suns’ efforts in the paint despite being somewhat overmatched size-wise. The Suns outscored Dallas 50-36 down low.

The story of this game was the Mavericks bringing it, but the Suns bringing it just a little bit harder when it really counted. Both teams shot very well in this game, with the Suns notching 54.8 percent shooting on a 40-of-73 effort and the Mavericks shooting 50.0 percent (41-of-82). But again most important was the Suns bringing it on the defensive end against a potent offensive team.

“I think we showed what we’re capable of doing defensively for the most part,” Suns forward Amare Stoudemire said. “We played well and got after it defensively.”

If only the Suns would do that every night, we’d be debating how high of a playoff seed they deserve instead of whether or not they will make the playoffs at all.

And 1

  • After contributing 22 points and a lone rebound (off his own miss no less) in a quiet effort through three quarters, Amare Stoudmire sat on the Suns’ bench for the entire fourth quarter. But after the game, Gentry said that there was nothing to it, he just felt that Amundson was matching up really well against Dallas on defense. Stoudemire said it was the first time he’s sat out an entire fourth quarter in his career. “It’s all good,” Stoudemire said. “It’s just a matter of the guys doing a great job and we got the win, which is most important.” Stoudemire admitted to TNT’s Cheryl Miller before the game that he has been distracted the past few games because of trade talks. “The previous few games it did [distract me] a little bit, but I got over it, and I’ve just got to keep playing and put that aside. [The talk] doesn’t hurt me at all. It’s the nature of the beast.”
  • The win snapped the Suns’ three-game losing streak against the Mavericks. Their last win came in January of 2009. The Suns are now 11-2 against Western Conference teams at home.
  • Robin Lopez had his worst game as a starter, scoring only four points to go with six rebounds.

  • Jake

    I hope they keep this momentum to the road trip.

  • KJ Loyalist

    It's only a matter of time before bloggers and ESPN employees start talking about how PHX is saving Stoudemire for his potential suitor by sitting him out.

    Sweet Lou with another ferocious game outside of the stat sheet and Dragon keeps bringing it.

    I honestly think all of this Amare trade talk is masking the real trade talk going on in regards to Jason Richardson. I think the PHX front office is confident in Dragon moving forward, enough to make J. Rich expendable.

  • Hersey

    Good win but the stuff with Amare is a little confusing. Gentry coached his team to victory tonight though. When the team needed stops, even Nash was getting subbed out. I like the scrappy Suns. The offense is there so earn the extra possessions on D.

  • Abhishek D.V.

    Didn't get to watch the game, but the ESPN boxscore says that Amare had only 1 rebound, and not the 10 you credited him with.

  • Roadster sl

    Finally Gentry did the right thing, it took him a few weeks to figure out how to use his players, especially his bench, to their full potential. I'm not reading anything into this win other than that it's been proven once more that tough D wins games, not offense. I hope Gentry takes this lesson back into the practise court and focusses on defensive game strategies – how the Suns can keep opponents under 100 points. This win doesn't mean the Suns have fixed their problems, I still think JRich has to go, if only to free cap space so you can sign a couple of tough defensive guards and a pure rebounder which will give you more bench options at the defensive end. Amare is totally unfocussed, his 22 points – 8 FT's look like STAT but his 1 (!!!!) rebound and 5 TO's tell a different story. Clark had 2 rebounds in only 12 minutes!!! Gentry says not to read anything into it, but the truth is that with Amare on the floor in the last Q the Suns would probably have lost. Gentry realized that and acted accordingly, finally showing some guts.

  • Jason Ellis

    Agree with Shawn. Change of scenery will help Amare refocus. Great win for the gang. Gentry finally just put in whoever is getting the job done, instead of automatically sending in Stoudemire in the 4th.

  • Asani

    i have always felt gentry should be more of a coach instead of trying to be so well liked with the team. he should have a mentality where if you are in the game and you refuse to play defense and refuse to hit the boards then you will be on the bench point blank. that kind of mentality will make these guys give that kind of effort every night. i am probably the biggest amare fan but if he had one rebound last night then you have to question this man’s seriousness on this team. that is unaccepetable

  • Shawn

    Great win and on TNT!! LOL @ Amare being benched for the entire 4th qtr, such a good move! He needs to get his game focused and sadly a change of scenery will likely be the only thing to do that. Amare is broken.. move him out of phx, he wont be worth how much money he will want if he stays with the suns.

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  • Tyler Lockman


    Good catch on the typo–or maybe it was just wishful thinking!

  • Mike Meez

    The key difference: I was at the game. The Suns are undefeated in the six games I've attended this year.

    I agree with what a lot of people have said. Not that Amare has ever been particularly motivated on defense but he seems especially lackadaisical these days. I think we need to trade him but I don't want to give him up for nothing. There aren't many players that I would want that we could get. It'd be great if we could get a 1st round draft pick as we don't have one right now.

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  • Roadster sl

    If the Suns can carry over the momentum to the game @Houston they will do themselves a huge favour. Their competitors for playoff berths all have tough games ahead as they are locked in matchups where some of them wil shed 1 or 2 games. With a win in Houston Phoenix could propel itself right back into contention for the playoff spot 4-7.

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  • Abhishek D.V.

    @Tyler Lockman: Which begs the question: HOW???? I mean, we all know Amare's a below average rebounder, but 1 rebound in 27 minutes is pushing it… even for him.

    Like I said, I didn't watch the game; so how DID Amare end up with just one rebound? Did the ball just not bounce in his direction throughout the game? Was it because both teams shot a high percentage? Was he more lackadaisical than usual rebounding the ball? Or was it a combination of all those factors?

  • Michael Schwartz

    Abhishek, when Amare doesn’t rebound I think it has to do with a lack of aggressiveness. Take tonight’s game, when he pulled down 11 boards. He was focused and aggressive from the tip. When you’re a 6-foot-10 freak of nature, you should get more than one board by chance, so his porous boarding game can only be blamed on effort. Maybe Gentry’s benching lit a fire under him??

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