Phoenix Suns 104, Golden State Warriors 92 — Not this time

On his 37th birthday, Steve Nash went for 14 and 15 as the Suns fought off the Warriors. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Blowing fourth-quarter leads is undoubtedly a staple of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns, as no team in the NBA falls apart in crunch time more than the Suns.

Phoenix failed to close the door in a loss to the Thunder at home on Friday night, and the Suns have given away a handful of games this season that mirrored the Oklahoma City debacle.

And after leading by 81-58 with 4:41 left in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors, the Suns quickly set themselves up for another trademark collapse as the Warriors outscored the Suns 30-12 over the course of the next 12 minutes.

The Warriors got within five (93-88) as Phoenix missed 12 of its first 15 shots in the quarter, while giving up a handful of offensive rebounds (14 on the night).

But this time the Suns wouldn’t give in, outscoring Golden State 11-4 over the last 4:41 and showing fight that they’ve often lacked on their way to a 104-92 victory.

After drilling 10 three-pointers through three quarters, Phoenix went ice cold in the fourth, but Channing Frye, who scored 19 points and grabbed 11 boards, re-ignited the Suns’ offense as he drilled a triple to push the lead to six and then nailed a 21-footer on the very next possession to give the Suns a 98-88 lead.

Steve Nash, who went for 14 points and 15 assists on his 37th birthday, and Jared Dudley hit back-to-back triples to seal the deal and keep the Suns from once again slipping down the stretch. Aside from the 15-point fourth quarter and 2-for-15 stretch, Phoenix played a great game both offensively and defensively.

Grant Hill, who finished with 18 points, locked down the NBA’s sixth-leading scorer in Monta Ellis (25.3 points per game), forcing him into a barrage of tough shots and a 5-for-17 shooting night.

Ellis did get to the line 13 times and finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but he started the game 2-of-9 and Hill made him work for every point.

“I thought defensively Grant did a great job on Monta,” Suns Coach Alvin Gentry told reporters after the game. “Seventeen shots, 21 points. He’s just pretty much impossible to keep out of the lane. At some stage, he’s going to shoot a bunch of foul shots because he is always in the attack mode. Overall, we did a good job, though. To hold that team to 92 points is really gratifying to us, because that is one of the best offensive teams in the whole league.”

Not to be outdone, a usually defensive inept Nash did a nice job on Stephen Curry, limiting him to 15 points and five turnovers on 7-for-17 shooting. Phoenix’s interior defenders followed suit and the Suns forced the Warriors into 43.4 percent from the field and 2-for-18 from three-point land.

Phoenix’s ramped up defensive effort shouldn’t be a surprise by now. During their five-game homestand the Suns held opponents to 95 points per game on 42 percent shooting from the field.

Their rotations are crisp and the Suns are finally finding some kind of consistency defensively. They forced Golden State onto the perimeter and all but shut down a team that averages 103.2 points per game — eighth best in the NBA — while holding them to 17 points apiece in the first and fourth quarters.

While their defense stepped up, the Suns weren’t too shabby offensively. They had six players in double figures and racked up 48 bench points, 27 of which came in the first half.

Phoenix shot 61 percent through three quarters and finished with 32 assists to only six turnovers. Everything seemed to be falling as the Suns made 10 of 20 threes in the first half and Nash tore apart Golden State’s ho-hum defense.

Nash, Frye and Hill led the way, but Mickael Pietrus (who celebrated a birthday and scored 12 points ), Marcin Gortat (eight points and nine rebounds), Jared Dudley (12 points), Hakim Warrick (six points) and Zabian Dowdell (five assists), all turned in productive games.

Pietrus scored 11 points in just under six minutes and gave the Suns a Leandro Barbosa-like instant lift off the pine. The 29-year-old birthday boy said after the game, “That’s what I do, bring that spark off the bench. That’s Mickael Pietrus.”

Gortat once again looked really good in only 21 minutes and Dudley was his usual self, knocking down a pair of threes while bringing energy and tough defense. Phoenix is now 4-1 in its last five games with a handful of impressive wins.

Although they have lapses at times that are often the difference between a win and a loss, the Suns are finally hitting their stride both offensively and defensively. They’re one more win over the Warriors (who they play on Thursday) away from reaching the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 19.

The Suns almost fell apart down the stretch once again, but the positives that shined bright clearly outweighed the 12-minute lapse as the Suns continue to tread water in the Western Conference playoff race.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    ZD can really fling that rock around and he probably had about 3 more hockey assists.

    I know they keep saying they like Gortat off the bench, but no. He needs to start. RoLo needs to be a bully off the bench.

  • Dirk

    9-4 in our last 13 games baby! And we should make it 10-4 in our last 14 after this Thursday.

    It just sucks that the Blazers keep winning. I mean they beat the Bulls. What’s that about? We’re gonna need for them to go on a bit of a losing streak for us to get that last spot.

  • shawn

    I had my gf watch the game and she started falling asleep during the 4th quater when the lead was slipping so I made her wake the hell up til we won lol every little bit helps right?

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @Dirk – LMA is a weapon cloaked as a beast. Chicago is thin at the 4 with Noah out, but even if he wasn’t hurt they don’t really have that one guy who can contain him.

    They had no answer for Aldridge, but the Blazers are not the #1 trending topic in our playoff hopes. That’d be Melo, (if the trade happens sometime this decade).

    Denver will slide out if a trade is made soon, but regardless of all of that, Phoenix looks like they’re cresting so we should be in anyway.

  • Steve

    Beating the Spurs as the 8 would be awesome, but our chances of that are slim to none, and either way, we’re not making it all the way this year, and we’re only going to hurt our draft status even more by getting in.

    People in the organization keep asking, “Why should we need to bottom out before we can get back to the top?” Ummm, because that’s the way it’s done? I can’t think of one organization that successfully builds through free agency outside of the Lakers (unlimited money and an awesome place to play help that cause). Everyone else has to eat some pond scum before they can be in the winner’s circle.

  • JOJO

    Hey Steve, read this. A great reason not do what you suggest. You have to be extremely luck in the draft, and as the article states several times, “hindsight is 20/20″

  • AJ

    @Steve, no that’s the way itnis done by poor GM’s in cities that repel free agents. Phx is actually one of the better free agent destinations because of the relatively laid back atmosphere , excellent weather, world renowned training staff, and while we still got him, MVSteve. That’s why Phoenix can rebuild through free agency (like the lakers) and stay relevant while doing it. I mean everybody said last season was the “rebuilding” season and look where we went. The Suns have solid pieces on their roster, all they need is another player who can replace some of STAT’s production and the ability to command a double. You don’t have to hit rock bottom to ger that.

  • Matt

    It’s hard to understand how Phx feels they can throw it in neutral in the fourth quarter. They simply can’t afford that right now.

    Another surprising development is how the Suns tend to go as Channing Frye goes. When he’s on, the Suns play really well. When he’s cold, so is Phoenix.

    Not so sure if I like that.

  • Steve

    @JOJO – That was a good read, and I guess I should clarify my statement a little further. I don’t think the Suns should tank and have the worst record in the league. I think they should hover around 30 wins to give themselves a shot at drafting in the top 10. The top 3 is always scary. It always has been. Just ask the Blazers. But outside of the top 10, there are almost no NBA stars. Off the top of my head, the only guys I can think of are Kobe (being 17 and straight out of HS was the only reason for this) and Nash. If you’re going to be a star in the NBA, you will be drafted in the top 10. But being drafted in the top 10 doesn’t guarantee you will be a star.

    @AJ – PHX is an awesome destination. I’d put it on par with the Texas teams, slightly below the Florida teams, and a big step back from the Lakers, but being an awesome FA destination doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay the big bucks for the big names. Look at the Lakers’ payroll and tell me the Suns wouldn’t be drowning if they were paying out $100M.

    My main point about rebuilding through FA is that it’s EXPENSIVE. What would you rather do?

    1. Take a shot on a kid in the top-10 of a draft and pay out $10M-20M.
    2. Take a shot on a superstar and pay him $100M to see him turn into Vince Carter, or Grant Hill, or modern-day-Shaq, or Rashard Lewis, or T-Mac… etc etc etc

    You guys make valid points, and I can definitely see where you’re coming from. But what I’m saying is that with our current organizational structure and wallet, this team cannot spend the amount of money they would need to in free agency in order to become a contender. We’re just not willing or able to fork out the money to bring in a big fish. If a big fish is what we need (which I think it is), then we are going to have to get him at a low price in the draft.

  • AJ

    But looking at all of the teams that have had to rebuild from the bottom, you never know if a top 10 pick is going to be any good. So many have not lived up their hype, I mean look at Yao, look at Greg Oden (though he may still turn out alright), and then there are Darko Milicic, Adam Morrison, Kwame Brown, I mean the list goes on and on. And with FA it isn’t really a shot. For example Josh Smith is Josh Smith, and he isnt nearly as likely to turn into a bust. That being said, I don’t think we shouldn’t draft good players either, but everybody gets draft picks and I think PHX should make the most of its 2 first rounders and try to land someone else in the off season.

  • Mr.E

    The suns will be able to pick up some good free agents over the next few years because they will have allot of money, they will also have high draft picks, they will do a trade or 2 every year and will remain compedititve, but lets face it our window at a championship has closed and will remain so for the forseaable future. They have no realistic player that can be an all-star after Nash is done next year. It was a good ride wail it lasted, full re-building mode starting next year, Draft cannot do it alone, neither can FA, both are needed as well as luck which is most important.

  • Suns Critic

    The Suns management said last offseason the best opportunities moving forward to advance their personnel are through trades and that’s why they wrote the contracts they did. Mid-Level quality players that can be packaged.

  • Steve

    And so far they have been involved in what discussions?

    Melo is out there. I don’t want him, but he’s out there, and it makes me mad that Phoenix has never once been in the conversation.

  • B. Cray Z.

    good win

    over a good up & coming team

    Mike No D. never beat them on the road

    Gentry has no problem with that

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