Phoenix Suns 107, Golden State Warriors 101 -- Rebounding to .500

Rebounding and crunch time execution won this game for the Suns. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Rebounding and crunch time execution won this game for the Suns. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

When the Suns got hot during the second half last season, they were practically invincible when they won the rebounding battle.

You could say the same thing about this year’s Suns, but the sample size is so small it hardly qualifies as a trend.

Still when you consider Phoenix’s offensive prowess and its ineptness on the boards, any game the Suns win the rebounding battle in figures to go their way, and thanks to some quality crunch time execution while Golden State faded that board work led the Suns to a quality 107-101 victory over the Warriors on a night you may have been watching the LeBron circus or the missed extra point disaster in Tucson.

“It was a great game for us,” Jason Richardson told TNT. “We came out and did the things we’re supposed to. This is a step forward in the right direction.”

Phoenix won the rebounding battle 37-31, marking only the second time all season that was the case, with the other being their come-from-behind win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 5 when Zach Randolph tired.

Channing Frye led the way with 10 boards, making this only the second time all year he reached double digits (the other was the aforementioned Memphis game), while Hedo Turkoglu chipped in with seven off the bench and Jared Dudley five.

Beating the Warriors on the boards isn’t necessarily a huge accomplishment since last year they were the only team in the league worse than the Suns in this department and even with the addition of noted boarder David Lee they are still in the bottom sixth of the league. But for this Suns squad it’s noteworthy any time they outrebound the opponent.

In the end, though, the Suns won this game just by being a veteran club that out-executed the Warriors down the stretch and then nailed all their free throws at the very end to prevent a comeback. Free throw shooting was superb all game with the Suns knocking down 21-of-22 (Frye had the only miss).

Trailing by five after Steve Nash missed a jumper, Monta Ellis got called for a double dribble trying to pass to Lee, who wasn’t expecting one, leading Ellis to catch his own pass.

Jason Richardson answered with a jumper in Ellis’ grill with a second on the shot clock to push the lead to seven, and after a couple Lee free throws, Grant Hill was fouled by Dorell Wright with a second left after the Suns had nearly lost the ball. When he knocked down both to push the lead to seven with 40 seconds left, Phoenix’s free-throw shooting iced the game.

Leading by three entering the fourth, the bench opened the quarter on an 18-7 run to push the Suns’ lead up to 14. It’s worth noting that the bench gave up seven of those points before exiting midway through the quarter, but during that push they resembled the unit of last year that’s been missing much of this season.

Goran Dragic sparked the run with seven points and Jared Dudley did Jared Dudley things to score another seven points during the spurt.

Shoring up the rebounding is certainly a key, but if the Suns want to reach their potential they need this second unit to develop into one of the best benches in the NBA. There’s no question it has that talent for that, and as Frye said last week perhaps one day the unit will mesh and we’ll all wonder where it came from.

Stretching a lead during the fourth quarter in a hostile environment while an opponent like Monta Ellis is going bonkers has got to make you believe that day will be sooner than later.

The Suns’ newest starting lineup also enjoyed a solid outing in this one. Richardson played another fine game in his former home by pouring in 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting, including that dagger in crunch time. Grant Hill’s sprained foot seemed just fine as he scored 24 points on 9-for-11 shooting, and Nash dished a season-high-tying 16 assists (an outright season high in games he didn’t play 49 minutes in).

Then Frye had his big game on the boards and new starter Earl Barron put up a team-high-tying plus 10 in 25 minutes of action. I do wonder why Hakim Warrick played just nine minutes, perhaps to give Barron a longer look, but in any case Warrick’s porous season away from US Airways Center continued. Hedo Turkoglu went for nine and six and once again looked very comfortable with the bench unit.

Aside from Monta Ellis’ 38-point explosion and Lee’s 25 and eight, the Suns limited the rest of the Warriors with Wright being the next leading scorer with 10.

You could tell that the Suns’ practice time this week as well as the opinions Alvin Gentry likely shared in the aftermath of the defensive massacre in Denver made a difference for this basketball team. Although the Warriors hit half their shots, this was not the shootout most Suns-Warriors games are as Phoenix sent Golden State to its ninth loss in 11 games after a 6-2 start.

The win also improves the Suns to .500, and if they can start to produce more rebounding efforts like this one that’s a mark they should far surpass in no time.

Tags: Jason Richardson Monta Ellis

  • Abby

    Y are never be happy with the Suns. It was a gr8 that Suns played traditional BB with 2 bigs and that y they won the rebounding battle 31/37. GS were only tinkering in the game because Ellis played the whole 48 mins and D lee played 44 min which is ridiculous. Stop being a hater they were good defensively for most of the part and will continue to improve. We stop S curry completely and Ellis is a gr8 player so live with it. We can’t stop Ellis and they cant stop Nash no 1 can stop greatness. I like that the suns are going back to their success mantra of playing big like they did with Amare and Lopez in 09 after all star break .Proud of the guys , good win and play big. Just remember NO 1 can beat you in the nba if they get 1 shot at the basket against you guys. You are that gr8 offensively.

  • infotalk

    We still got beat on offensive glass. This game doesnt give me enough insurance that we are taking a step in right direction. I dont think the rebounding trouble is gone. GS still managed to shoot 50%. Ellis was piercing suns as easy as a cake. J-Chill / Dudley role has reduced.

    Only good thing that I saw was the drive where Dragic takes it to the hole and it looks like the old good dragic .. and we dearly want him back on his confidence and game. He is a hope for suns.

  • Anfernee

    J-Chill/Dudley’s role may have been reduced in this game, but not every game. Gentry just went with what was flowing and at the same time, gave some more experience playing time with Hedo in there so that chemistry will click.

    During the mid-season everything willl flow, just wait. I do however agree with you about Dragic, coach is pressuring him now, But then again, Nash will be out soon, so Dragic can still wait til they unleash the Dragon. For now, he just have to continue to spark things with whatever time he gets. Suns are unselfish though that’s one thing, Frye needs that confidence with his 3′s again. Go Barron!

  • Mirza

    This was Golden State guys .. they have made the playoffs once in the last 17 years if Im not mistaken. Suns keep beating the non playoff teams BARELY and keep losing to the good teams.

  • Steve

    @Mirza – Last time I checked, the Suns beat Utah, LA, ATL, and Denver. Those are hardly snubs. Their performance against teams with records above .500 has been much less disappointing to me than it has in years past. They’ve already got quite a few quality wins (three of those mentioned above were on the road, if I’m not mistaken), and only one of their losses so far this season has been to a team that missed the playoffs last year (Memphis).

    I’m not too optimistic about this season, but it’s certainly not a TERRIBLE start. They’re .500 and still right in the middle of the 4-8 seed discussion in the West, which is exactly where I thought they would be.

  • Mel.

    LOL. Mirza’s like Beetlejuice; instead of saying his name three times, all anybody has to do is offer compliments on the way that the Suns are playing, and in he comes with some negative non-comment. Whoever it was who called him the “reverse bandwagoner” wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

    Now, to the game itself: it was a weird watch. Golden State would repeatedly feint and push, but seemed to be doing a better job screwing themselves up than the Suns were in responding or shutting them down. I expected a high-octane shootout, but it looked more like someone playing a game of NBA 2K11 set on “Rookie” difficulty; consistently unremarkable. But hell, a win’s a win.

    By the way, did anybody else read STAT’s latest sermon about how he could have kept Lebron from leaving Cleveland? Even with the FA goldrush in the books, Amar’e can’t seem to help marking out for himself, and the “role” he potentially played in the direction of NBA history. It’d be a lot more compelling if the Knicks weren’t practically tied with Phoenix in the win-loss picture, having faced MUCH worse competition through the first month of the season.

  • ABhijit Bordia

    Go Suns