PHOENIX — The Suns have lost to the Hornets, Cavs, Nets and Raptors at home, yet a couple minutes into the second half they seemed to be on a collision course with their worst loss to date, trailing the 3-20 Charlotte Bobcats by 10 points.
But the Suns’ starters erased that deficit by quarter’s end and the reserves suffocated the Bobcats by holding them to three points in the final period’s first 10 minutes as Phoenix pulled away for a 95-89 victory.
“Hard-fought win,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “I thought we had to dig down deep and our guys did it. I thought the energy level was where it should be. We did a really good job of picking up the tempo of the game offensively and I thought we really picked it up defensively and did a really good job.
“Good win, haven’t had a bad win in 23 years in the NBA. Really good win for us, a much-needed win.”
Indeed it was a much-needed win since the latter choice was inconceivable against a Charlotte squad that has now lost 17 of 18 overall and 13 of 14 on the road and was missing its three leading scorers (Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette).
Because of that Gentry wrote on his whiteboard “don’t underestimate,” and if the Suns did early on then they certainly learned their lesson as Charlotte rolled up a double-digit lead. From there it was all Suns.
The fourth-quarter reserve unit of Robin Lopez, Markieff Morris, Josh Childress, Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair completely shut down the Bobcats, playing with the kind of energy they lacked last night in Houston as Phoenix’s legs once against looked more live on the second night of a back-to-back. They played so well that this unit finished the game, aside from Nash coming back later than usual with four minutes remaining.
“I just thought we had good energy and we did a good job on the screen and rolls of moving up and not allowing them to shoot threes,” Gentry said of the second unit’s defense. “I just thought they ran them off threes and did a good job of basket protection really.”
Lopez played the quarter of his life, exploding for 11 points and four boards while anchoring Phoenix’s stifling defense in the fourth. He was a ball of energy, scoring nine consecutive Suns points during one three-minute stretch in which the Bobcats went scoreless, more points than he had scored in all but one game since his monster opener.
That led Charlotte head coach Paul Silas to utter words that may have never before been spoken.
“The major problem was when Lopez came in,” he said. “We didn’t box him out and it really just changed the whole game around.”
Added the always understated big man, “I just tried to go out there and be aggressive, hit the boards, play some defense. I was just in the right spot at the right time.”
Before Lopez and the bench defense stole the show, this night was about Michael Redd. Redd found out shortly before tipoff that Jared Dudley’s bruised thigh was going to shelve him for the night and elevate Redd to the starting lineup, something that “completely shocked” the former Olympian who had not started since Dec. 21, 2009.
Gentry originally told the media he planned to start Ronnie Price but changed his mind after considering how much better the veteran Grant Hill is when he starts.
Redd missed a couple open looks early but then settled down to score a team-high 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-7 marksmanship from three in his 23 minutes.
Redd had not scored that many points in over two years, dating back to Jan. 8, 2010.
“One of the proudest moments of my career,” Redd said about coming all the way back from multiple knee surgeries to lead an NBA team in scoring once again. “And to get the win was obviously the key. But to come back, through the tears, through the hurt, through the hours of rehab, training to come back and accomplish this is maybe the proudest moment of my career, actually.”
Added Hill, “Michael Redd is really starting to get his timing and his rhythm. I’m really happy for him. He’s worked so hard. Endurance takes time. … It will continue to get better, and we’ll need his production as we go forward.”
The Suns won despite shooting 40 percent from the field and allowing Charlotte to get hot from deep (9-for-19). It’s certainly disconcerting that they allowed the Bobcats to roll up a double-digit lead, but that went for naught as the Suns won their second game when trailing by double digits as well as their second when behind at the half.
As the Suns head off for the final two stops on this stretch of five games in five different cities in seven nights, they should feel encouraged by the outings of Lopez and Redd as well as their staunch fourth quarter ‘D’ while understanding not every comeback will be as easy as this one against the lowly Bobcats.
- Much of Gentry’s pregame media session consisted of a discussion on how important it is for the Suns to play with energy after Gentry called Friday’s loss in Houston the “low point in the season” in that regard. He was asked what he can do to get that consistent energy from his squad and he said, “I just play the guys that have that.” It may have just been about how the rotations worked their way out tonight, but Hakim Warrick was the only Sun to receive a DNP-CD tonight.
- Dudley had played in 206 consecutive games, last missing a contest on March 6, 2009. That was the fourth-longest active streak in the league behind Derek Fisher, Boris Diaw and Russell Westbrook. After the game, somebody had some fun with JMZ by writing on a whiteboard: “1-0 without JD.”
- Since his Broncos aren’t in it, Gentry doesn’t really care who wins the Super Bowl: “If I was pulling for anybody I’d pull for the Giants simply because of Manning. You can’t look as good as Tom Brady and have a wife like him and have anybody want you to win. He’s already got a Super Bowl. That (his wife) is the Super Bowl.”
- Gortat has snatched double-digit boards in 15 straight after tonight’s 12-12 outing. That’s the league’s longest current streak and the longest for a Sun since Charles Barkley did so in 19 straight in 1995-96. Gortat also owns the longest active blocked shot streak with a denial in 12 consecutive contests. Steve Nash, meanwhile, blocked his second shot in three games tonight on an emphatic rejection of Kemba Walker. Before Wednesday he had not blocked a shot all season.
- The Suns had lost their previous four meetings against the Bobcats.