PHOENIX — Channing Frye had been suffering through an April to forget heading into Monday’s matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Frye averaged 8.5 points on 35.8 percent shooting from the field and 28 percent three-point shooting during the first six games this month, so of course it makes perfect sense that Frye would go berserk with a career-high 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting from the field and a franchise-record-tying nine three-pointers in 14 attempts in Phoenix’s 135-127 overtime win over the Wolves.
Just last week Frye missed all four of his shots (all threes) against these same Timberwolves, yet tonight Channing found his groove and splashed shots throughout the game.
“I’m like the stock market,” Frye said. “I may play bad for a week, but it’s not going to last like that.”
Frye busting out against Minnesota shouldn’t come as a total surprise as he drilled seven treys against the Wolves on Dec. 15 and hit four, five and six against Minnesota at different points last season. You would think by now the Wolves would understand allowing Frye to get into a rhythm is a very bad idea.
Frye tied the franchise record Quentin Richardson originally set on Dec. 29, 2004, in New Orleans and he became the first power forward to knock down that many long balls since Donyell Marshall hit 12 on March 13, 2005.
“Even though you are wide open it is still tough to make that many threes when it comes to an NBA game,” Jared Dudley said. “To have that many I don’t care if you’re wide open or not, it’s impressive. We needed all of them, especially tonight.”
Frye has now recorded all three of his 30-point games as a Sun since Feb. 15 (24 games) after previously producing just three in his first 411 career contests.
Since I’m working on a story on the Suns’ vaunted training staff (AKA The Warlocks) for the summer, I found it interesting that Frye credited them largely for helping him play so well in this one after the rough road swing.
Frye’s right butt cheek was shut off, according to the forward, which caused problems for his thigh and hamstring. But the training staff got that issue firing properly and Frye showed what he can do when in proper alignment.
“At this point in my career it’s pretty simple,” Frye said. “I’m either on balance or I’m off balance. If I’m on balance it’s going in, if I’m off it’s not. I think that’s why Steve is such a phenomenal shooter, because he’s always on balance.”
Frye led a Suns attack that shot 54.3 percent from the floor and 62.1 percent from long range (18-for-29) while enjoying one of their more efficient offensive performances of the year (125.0 per 100), but they gave it up at the other end as a Kevin Love-less Wolves squad hit 54.7 percent of their attempts. Minnesota shot 61.7 percent in the first half and largely got whatever they wanted during the first 24 minutes.
The Suns yielded 117.6 points per 100 possessions in this one yet sadly it was their best defensive output of the last three games, which speaks much more to how atrocious they were in New Orleans and Dallas than anything done well in this one.
“We weren’t very good defensively,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “Obviously, we gave up 65 points in the first half and they shot 62 percent. We got beat off the dribble; we got beat on post ups; we got beat on flash cuts — so we didn’t guard very good at all the first half. I thought we did a much better job the second half.”
A meaningless game for both teams highlighted by sloppy defense all around and fits of offensive carelessness from Minnesota suddenly became very interesting when Martell Webster drilled a trey to put his team up one with 38 seconds left.
The Suns then got Frye a look for three but he suffered a rare miss, which bounced right back into Dudley’s hands, and he dished it to Nash for the kind of clutch three you wish Two Time would take more often.
After Nash put the Suns up two, Michael Beasley –- who played a fantastic offensive game with 26 points — broke Dudley’s ankles on his way to an And 1 bucket, but Beasley missed the ensuing foul shot.
That gave the Suns one last chance to win it in regulation but after Dudley had a layup blocked out of bounds, Hill’s five-foot bank shot just fell off the rim.
Frye hit his ninth triple during Phoenix’s franchise-record ninth overtime of the season to take a 126-124 lead the Suns would never give up, and Dudley sealed the deal with a three of his own to cap an 8-0 run that put Phoenix up seven.
While Frye was the star on this night, Dudley played the best supporting actor role with 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting to go with five threes in as many attempts. He added eight boards (four offensive), three assists, a whopping five steals and a plus 15 in 38 minutes during this super all-around effort that continues to cement him as a starter in the 2011-12 lineup.
Steve Nash likely clinched his assists crown with 16 helpers in this one, with Frye and Dudley often the beneficiaries, on a night Nash took just four shots and scored only three points before his late triple.
Even if Nash were to go without an assist on Wednesday, Rajon Rondo would need to dish out 18 dimes to overtake him, so Nash will likely earn his fifth assists title in seven years as a Sun against the Spurs.
Hill’s 21-point effort that includes eight assists and four boards ensures that he will become the seventh 38-year-old in NBA history to average at least 13.0 points per game. It’s not a bad list to join: Kareem, Jordan, Malone, Reggie, Parish and Stockton. Also, Hill’s 13 20-point games mark the most for a player his age since Miller in 2004-05.
This game also featured plenty of play from the youngsters on Phoenix’s bench, headlined by Garret Siler receiving 12:04 of non-garbage time. Siler scored two points and grabbed five boards while Robin Lopez got the dreaded DNP-CD. It sure says something when the Suns want to get a longer look at Siler than Lopez.
With Vince Carter out with an knee or a thigh injury (Gentry wasn’t quite sure which one, which gives you an indication of the severity of that ailment) we also saw some of Zabian Dowdell at the two guard (which wasn’t pretty, as he was 2-for-9), and Aaron Brooks didn’t impress much in his five-point, five-assist stint in 18 minutes.
The Suns gutted out their eighth straight victory over Minnesota and have now swept 10 season series in 2010-11, kind of amazing for a team that won’t even finish at .500.
Although a win is a win it’s not good that the Suns needed a career game from Frye and a stellar team shooting night from long range just to beat the worst team in the league without their best player in overtime, but hey, it sure beats what happened Sunday night in Dallas.
With the loss the Suns clinched the 13th pick in the draft unless they get lucky and wind up with one of the top three slots in the draft lottery. … Retiring play by play man Gary Bender was honored before the fourth quarter with an “18” Suns jersey with his name on the back commemorating the number of years of service he has provided to the franchise. Bender said he was “a little overwhelmed” and that “this is one of the highlights of my entire life.”