Steve Nash to return vs. Sixers

PHOENIX — After missing his first game of the season last night against Oklahoma City, Suns All-Star guard Steve Nash will return to the starting lineup tonight against Philadelphia.

Nash missed the trip to Oklahoma to rest his ailing back and abdomen, which Suns head coach Alvin Gentry reported feels better than it did before the quick trip.

“We just want to be sure that this doesn’t develop into something where all of a sudden he’s missing five or six games instead of the one game, so that’s why we just thought it was best we wouldn’t take him when we’re riding five hours there and back on the plane,” Gentry said.

With the Suns stealing a win in Oklahoma City even without their engine, it was more than the right move. It goes without saying that it’s much smarter to take caution with a banged-up Nash than to risk something serious down the road even if the Suns would have lost to the streaking Thunder.

Gentry does not plan on putting any restrictions on Nash’s minutes tonight per se, instead deciding he will let Nash tell him if he needs a blow.

Here’s more of what Gentry had to say in his pregame chat with reporters:

On Dragic vs. OKC: “I thought he did a great job … other than the (six) turnovers. I felt they were most probably good turnovers, trying to make the right play, trying to go to the right guy, just didn’t quite get it completed. I think that’s the kind of stuff that if he played 30 minutes a game wouldn’t happen anyway, so I’m fine with it.”

On the Oklahoma City win: “The bottom line is that I thought it was the best win of the year for us considering the circumstances, the opponent that we had, the way they had been playing and the fact that we were playing without Steve. There were just a lot of factors in there where if you can come up with a win in that situation, it’s really good.”

On J-Rich: “I think he’s playing real good. He just seems to be playing very aggressive. When his shot’s going, he’s very effective, and when he plays well for us we’re 17-2, so obviously it’s important for us for him to play well.”

On last night’s unpredictable finish: “They keep saying that all of it evens out in the end, so hopefully we have another three or four of those coming.”

On tonight’s game against Philly: “If you turn the ball over against them you have no chance. They play the passing lanes, and when you turn it over they do a great job of running out and completing plays at the other end. They’re a lot like us from a few years back. Even in made field goal situations they seem to still be in the attack mode, and a couple times a game they’ve gotten layups with 22 seconds on the shot clock, so you really have to get back against these guys.

“And then they’re really good defensively at junking up the game a little bit. I think you’ll see them press, full court, zone press full court, trap some, do all of that stuff. You’ve got to be able to handle all those situations. The teams that have handled those situations have done pretty good against them.”

And 1

With a win tonight the Suns would clinch their winningest month since November with two games left on the schedule. It would also mark the club’s winningest February since a 9-1 February in 2005-06. … The Suns have already won at least three games in a row twice in February after not even doing it a single time in December or January.  … The Suns’ 4-1 mark since the break ties four other teams for the best record since the All-Star Game. That should come as no surprise considering the Suns have allowed just 36.4 percent shooting and an average of 41.0 points in all of their second halves since the break. … Only the Thunder’s 9-1 mark betters Phoenix’s 8-2 record in its last 10. … If Grant Hill scores 16 tonight, he will have reached that mark for the fourth straight game for the first time since December 2007. … After doing so last night, Amare Stoudemire has scored at least 30 points four times in his last 10 games after reaching that mark only four times all season last year.

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