Phoenix Suns 102, Milwaukee Bucks 88 -- Third-quarter turnaround

Mickael Pietrus exploded for 20 in Vince Carter's absence and lifted the Suns with 17 second-half points. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

That’s why they play all 48 minutes.

For the first half of play in Milwaukee, the Phoenix Suns clearly looked like a team playing its fifth road game in eight nights.

Steve Nash committed seven first-half turnovers, and everyone not named Channing Frye (who scored 14 in the first half and 20 in the game) combined for 38.7 percent shooting and 31 points.

Brandon Jennings and the NBA’s lowest-scoring team drove to the hoop at will, and also scored nine points off of Suns turnovers and 11 in transition to lead 48-45 by halftime.

But the Suns eventually woke up as they came out scorching in the third quarter, shooting 11-for-18 from the field and ripping off a 19-0 run to eventually put away the lesser Bucks, 102-88, and move to 4-1 on their six-game road trip.

Mickael Pietrus, who started in place of a concussed Vince Carter, racked up 17 second-half points after scoring only three in the first half. The sharpshooting swingman also corralled eight boards and provided constant energy for a once-lethargic Suns team.

Nash also regained traction after one of the worst halves of basketball he’s played in recent memory. He dished out eight assists in the second half, while committing zero turnovers to finish the game with eight points, 13 assists, seven turnovers and a game-high +26.

As Nash improved, the Suns improved (go figure) and went on a monster 31-6 run that changed the game from a 53-45 Bucks lead with 10:52 left in the third quarter, to a 76-59 Phoenix lead with 2:35 left in the quarter.

During that stretch the Suns made 11-of-15 shots (73.3 percent) while connecting on all five of their three-point attempts. The Bucks, on the other hand, were shut down by Phoenix’s newfound defense. Milwaukee went 2-for-10 from the field and committed four turnovers as the Suns closed off the driving lanes that were so open in the first half.

After their colossal quarter, the rejuvenated Suns led 76-63 heading into the fourth quarter. The Bucks wouldn’t get much closer, as the lowest they cut the deficit to was nine, and Garret Siler and Zabian Dowdell got a couple minutes of action in game that looked like it might be a nail-biter after the first half.

Phoenix finished the game shooting 50.0 percent from the field while drilling 11 of 24 triples — eight of which came from Frye (five) and Pietrus (three). While Nash’s ramped up play and Pietrus’ scoring binge were a huge reason for the second-half push, the bench did a great job keeping things close before turning it back to the starters in the third.

The bench mob of Brooks (seven points, three assists, two steals), Marcin Gortat (13 points, six rebounds), Jared Dudley (six points, four rebounds), Hakim Warrick (nine points, two rebounds) and Josh Childress (two points) combined for 37 points two nights after bringing the Suns back against the Celtics.

Although Frye set the tone with his sharp shooting and Nash and Pietrus sealed the deal, this was the epitome of a team win. A victory over a lowly, injury depleted Bucks team is definitely nothing to gloat about, but this is a game the Suns would have mailed in earlier in the season.

Nash looked exhausted after only seven minutes of play, and the Suns looked lifeless early on. But their depth, three-point shooting ability and second-half defense carried them over the hump as they’re now 12-4 in their last 16 games.

Phoenix is finally beating the teams its supposed to, which is usually the difference between a playoff team and a squad that’s on the outside looking in. The Suns now sit only a half game back of Memphis for the eighth seed in the West, and they are only 1 1/2 games back of Portland for the seventh seed.

Even if the Suns fall in Oklahoma City on Sunday night, a 4-2 road trip is certainly something to build off of, especially when Phoenix handled lesser teams like the Bucks.

And 1

Frye set the tone for the Suns, scoring Phoenix’s first nine points — all three-pointers. He also grabbed eight boards. … Pietrus has now hit double figures scoring in eight of his last nine games after doing so once in the seven games prior. This is the first game he’s gotten to the 20-point plateau since he dropped 25 on the Clippers in his second game with the Suns. … Childress’ left-handed layup was only his second bucket in the last 10 games. … The up and down Warrick is back on track, finding a way to contribute for the Suns. He’s averaging 7.6 points per game over his last six games. … Brooks did a nice job coming in early for Nash. He took a few questionable shots but ran the offense nicely and probed through the lane and kicked it out for threes on several occasions; many of the threes didn’t drop, however.

  • shazam

    amazing what gortat and brooks do for this team

  • PHXsunsFanInLA

    I like how we play without washed up VC.

  • PJ

    brooks is a much better passer than i gave him credit for. Decent in the pick and roll and ive seem him make some very solid pocket passes to gortat/ warrik.

    And i gotta second that notion about the team looking better without vince. He just dosn’t bring anything to the team that our other wing players don’t… and hes a much worse defender than peitrus

  • Auggie5000

    can vc get a positive +/- for sitting this one out?

  • Mel.

    The Suns’ biggest weakness, this season: playing has-beens in the hopes that management’s confidence in their abilities (And their monetary investment) will somehow result in said washouts capturing their old fire.

    Didn’t work with Hedo, doesn’t appear to be working with VC. Hopefully, his “concussive whatever” doesn’t clear up anytime soon.

  • HankS

    If you feel bad about Vince Carter, just check out Hedo Turkoglu’s line from last night’s game against the Bulls. He makes Babby look good!

    That said, Pietrus clearly has his application for the starting job filled out.

  • U suck

    “I like how we play without washed up VC.”

    Suns record this season with VC: 18-12
    Suns record this season without VC: 14-16

    You’re an idiot if you think the Suns are better without VC. The proof is in the numbers.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Hey hey! U suck! Clearly you are a Vinvisible fan boy.

    That +6 in the win / loss that you posted actually says nothing about the contributions of Vinvisible.

    It has more to do with Gortat, Channing Frye… (WITH HIS OIL ON HIGH!!!) … and the defensive improvements made by the Suns as a team.

    None of those three things, (ESPECIALLY the defensive strides), have anything to do with Vince Carter.

    Of those 18 wins, how many came on the shoulders of Carter? The Toronto game? Any others? (it’s a message board, so obviously I’ll wait).

    VC isn’t even washed up. He’s been towel dried off and put into your grandmother’s top cupboard area, never to be seen again after he is bought out.

  • Andy

    Poor nash, if Goran was here he wouldnt be draging as much ass. i dont like brooks, i see him as a starbury type player that fights with team mates and coaches. i know dragic wasnt great all the time but he could defend tony parker who is going to light brooks up.

  • kennyb1978

    Good win for the Suns against a depleted sub-500 team. Nash killed me with the early TOs, but he performed much better in the second half. MP had a good game but the next game will be a good measuring stick. OKC will be ready, so the Suns will have to bring it. They can’t perform like they did in the 1st half against the Bucks.
    @Rick Anthony…As much as people hate VC, and I’m not a fan of him personally, but I am a basketball fan. Only 35 out of 2,000+ dudes in NBA history have scored more points than him. He’s old, he’s washed up, but I still respect his game. Fans kill me because we act like we can play the game….let alone score over 20,000 points against some of the greatest athletes in the world.

  • Zak

    More accurately:

    Suns record this season with Turkoglu: 14-16
    Suns record this season without Turkoglu: 18-12

    Or if you prefer…

    Suns record this season without Gortat: 14-16
    Suns record this season with Gortat: 18-12

    Vince was a great player and occasionally still plays that way but he has made very little positive impact in a Suns uniform. Pietrus has added more to this team than Vince. Together Gortat, Pietrus and even VC have helped improve the Suns. Even though VC’s numbers aren’t good overall, other teams KNOW that they can’t just ignore him defensively because you never know when he might play up to his old form.

  • Daniel

    I always feel conflicted about the +/- stat in general. If you take for example, Jared Dudley, it’s pry the most accurate stat to judge his effectiveness. However, it can also be very misleading as evidenced by ‘U Suck’, or at least the stat they provided(which is, by the way, the only defense I ever see for Carter). Its inherent flaw is that it observes the whole rather than the individual, and is then used to evaluate the individual

  • U suck

    “Hey hey! U suck! Clearly you are a Vinvisible fan boy.”

    No Anthony, clearly you are a blind, idiotic VC hater. I didn’t bring up VC in the first place. That was you idiots who are bashing him. If you guys hadn’t mentioned VC, I wouldn’t have either.

    And unlike you idiots, I actually use numbers to support my arguments. You idiots do not.

  • U suck

    “It has more to do with Gortat”

    Really? If it has more to do with Gortat, why are the Suns only 1-2 when Gortat plays and Vince doesn’t? Those two losses include a loss to the lowly Clippers.

    Now go away moron, and let the big boys talk. You are out of your element here. Unless of course you can bring some numbers and facts to actually support your argument. But you idiots never do, do you? Of course not, because you don’t have any.

  • A.J

    Is there any chance Phoenix could re acquire JRich in the off season? or is he thinking about going back to GS.

  • U suck

    >>Or if you prefer…

    Suns record this season without Gortat: 14-16
    Suns record this season with Gortat: 18-12<<

    Why do you Vince haters always have to resort to lying? Here are the actual numbers:

    Suns record with Gortat: 19-14
    Suns record without Gortat: 13-14

    Your Turkoglu numbers are wrong too.

    Anyways, I never said that Vince was the primary reason for the Suns success recently. What I said was the you're stupid if you think the Suns are better without him playing. Because they are not. And if you pull the Gortat card, the Suns are only 1-2 when Gortat plays and Vince doesn't.

  • U suck

    “Pietrus has added more to this team than Vince.”

    “Even though VC’s numbers aren’t good overall”

    Vince’s numbers with the Suns are better than Pietrus’. Don’t take my word for it either, check for yourself:

  • Mr. Taylor

    Hasn’t Carter been getting more play time though?
    That would explain why he has better numbers…

  • Zak

    Pietrus is a better defensive player than Vince which is why I said he adds more to the team regardless of what “the numbers” say. If Vince is so great why hasn’t he gathered the Suns upon his shoulders and carried them to a 30-0 record since he joined the team instead of just an 18-12 record? Lol, and I’m not even one of the so called Vince haters. He WAS a great player and still shows that greatness occasionally. As far as my numbers being wrong, I just took the numbers YOU gave and reversed them because I’m not so obviously obsessed with this as YOU are. This is a GAME that these people PLAY. I obviously don’t take it nearly as seriously as you do, U suck. Thank God for that!

  • Zak

    Oh yeah, and you seem to have COMPLETELY overlooked the fact that I said, “…other teams KNOW that they can’t just ignore him defensively because you never know when he might play up to his old form.” Vince can explode for 30+ points on any given night. In that way he at least helps the team on those frequent nights that he scores in single digits.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I think U Suck is CC under a new name. Same sort of blind faith..

    WAIT!!! Vince Carter?!?! IS THAT YOU?!?!?! If it is…


    Oh and trust me Zak, no other team is worried about Carter “going off” because in the end it won’t make a difference in the game. Remember that epic 3-quarter explosion? Then he went colder than a body on NCIS or SVU in the 4th and the Suns still lost because of him.

    Terrible.. HOR-A-BULL!!! defense.

    Unforgivable shot selection.

    No heart – He knows he’s getting bought out so that is making it even worse.

    You think anybody in that PHX locker room was sad to see he wasn’t cleared to play? Not one player, deep down, missed him versus the Bucks.

    on DDL the other day we were discussing Jason Kidd and how, in part, he should be in the HoF off of the contracts he got for scrubs like Mikey Moore and the like.

    Lets flip that for Steve Nash. The list is endless. If you play with Steve Nash you’re going to get paid and your numbers are going to explode if you are getting playing time on the court with him. Everybody plays better with Nash and they play the right way with him…

    Except Vinvisible.

    That right there should tell you all that you need to know.

  • Mike

    Pietrius raw athleticism (ie. long arms) makes him a good defender because he can a hand in your face if you settle for a jump-shot, or his long arms gets in a way if you try to drive by him.

    Pietrius however is only a catch-and-shoot offensive player. Pietrius also has a LOW IQ, ie. not too bright.

    What people don’t get about VC is that if teams don’t bother to put their best defender on him, and focus their defence on him, VC can and will take advantage of the situation. Most teams put their best defenders on VC. That frees up the other players.

    You also have to realize that VC at his age with the injuries he has had, plays the game smarter and at a more comfortable pace to “preserve himself” for the plays-off and protect his longevitiy in the league. If VC plays like he did in Toronto, he would be out of the league right now because of injuries.

    Put yourself in VC’s shoes. What’s more important? Your health and longevity in the league (in hopes of winning championships) or short-term glory that fills up your stats?

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