Phoenix Suns 99, Atlanta Hawks 90 — Frye’s shot returns


Steve Nash controlled the show a day before his 38th birthday by scoring 24 points and dishing 11 assists. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Steve Nash controlled the show a day before his 38th birthday by scoring 24 points and dishing 11 assists. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

There are many reasons why the Phoenix Suns’ offense has slipped from the heights of the elite all the way down to the bottom third of the league, but Channing Frye’s struggles have played a major role.

The Suns’ sharpshooter entered the day hitting 34.7 percent of his shots and 29.1 percent of his long balls, percentages that have hurt the Suns all year long.

But Monday night in Atlanta Frye showed why the Suns are a different team when he catches fire as Channing’s season-high 19 points on 8-for-16 shooting sparked the Suns to a 99-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

“I thought Channing shot the ball well, and when he does that, we’re pretty good,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters.

Frye got the Suns started right by draining jumpers on their first two possessions. He opened the second half the same way with another pair of jumpers, and then in the fourth quarter when Atlanta cut a 22-point Phoenix lead down to nine, Frye came right back in at the three-minute mark and knocked down a pair of jumpers to salt this one away.

As Frye has struggled he’s become less and less a part of the offense. He attempted double-digit shots for just the fourth time all year and the first time since Jan. 13. Such is life when your box scores are lined with 1-for-6s, 0-for-7s, 2-for-8s and 1-for-9s as Frye’s are. He’s a streak shooter, and this year he’s only been streaking one way.

But tonight was different. From the tip Frye shot the ball with the kind of confidence that he did in 2009-10 and ended up hitting the two critical buckets Phoenix needed to prevent a meltdown.

In the meantime, Frye has been working on expanding other parts of his game so he won’t be known as “just a shooter,” which is particularly important when you can’t hit a shot. In this one Frye hit the backboards for nine caroms, blocked a pair of shots and even slammed home a putback dunk for good measure after his two clutch jumpers.

“I was getting down on myself, but I was trying to implement new things like going to the basket, being more aggressive with that,” Frye said on the Suns’ postgame show. “The games that I’m aggressive we tend to do good.

“I’m not out here just to be a shooter, I’m out here to be a complete player and do the best I can and tonight was one of those nights.”

It’s nice that Frye is adding dimensions to his game, but for the Suns’ offense to reach its potential they need Frye’s first dimension — shooting — to become a weapon once again.

Although it may come as a surprise that Frye produced such a good game, that’s certainly not the case for Steve Nash, who twirled another masterpiece a day before turning 38.

“Steve Nash never plays like his age,” Frye said.

Two Time carved the Hawks up for 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting (4-for-4 on threes) and dished 11 assists, with all but one of the dimes coming in the first three quarters when the Suns built a 20-point lead.

Nash’s most glamorous play came when he answered a Joe Johnson three with 3.8 seconds remaining in the first half by weaving through Atlanta’s defense before draining an off-balanced three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to keep Phoenix’s lead safely at seven at the break. It was a huge shot as it gave the Suns all the momentum heading into halftime despite Atlanta prefacing the super shot with a 14-4 spurt.

The Suns possessed such a lead because their bench continued its superb play from Saturday night during tonight’s first half. The reserves built a 16-point lead in the second quarter by exploding on a 14-2 run as the unit once again played with a special energy. Sebastian Telfair led the corps, most spectacularly on his alley-oop feed to Josh Childress, and all the bench players chipped in on the run.

“I thought we got good effort from our second unit,” Gentry said. “They were the ones who got the separation for us.

“It was a total team win, and I thought there were some guys who played real well.”

Although the Hawks have now lost three home games in a row, this certainly qualifies as another superb win in what is becoming an unpredictable Suns season. They’ve now won on the home courts of three potential East playoff teams (Atlanta, Boston, New York) on top of beating Portland and Memphis at home despite losing to the likes of New Orleans, Toronto, New Jersey and Cleveland in US Airways Center.

This was no fluke win, either. The Suns controlled the game throughout, and although Atlanta made a run like most NBA teams do, Phoenix led comfortably during the majority of the final three quarters.

The Suns have now won three of four games in February and could be on the verge of turning their season around. But every time the Suns have strung a few solid games together, inconsistency has lurked just around the corner as Phoenix will shoot for its very first three-game winning streak of the season tomorrow night in Milwaukee.

And 1

The Suns’ defense played a major role in this victory by holding the Hawks to 39.3 percent shooting, including 25.0 percent (6-for-24) from long range. … They also won the battle of the boards, 45-35, with Marcin Gortat (nine) and Markieff Morris (seven) chipping in along with Frye. Gortat did see his streak of consecutive double-digit rebound games end at 15. … Michael Redd contributed 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting off the pine. … Shannon Brown, Ronnie Price and Hakim Warrick all did not play by coach’s decision. Warrick received a DNP-CD Saturday night as well when Price logged just four minutes.

Tags: Channing Frye Steve Nash

  • Tony

    Best win of the season for the Suns in my opinion. The Suns played with a level of urgency I haven’t seen from them this season and they had a nice rythm throughout the game. Nash was a beast out there and Frye finally showed some semblance of how he played two years ago.

    One thing I’ve noticed that is a bit troubling is that when Lopez has better games and is given more minutes, Gortat seems to be less effective when he comes back in. It may be just that he loses his rythm or focus sitting out so long or he maybe it has something to do with remembering his days on the Magic, where he sat for long stretches no matter how effective he was. It’s time for Gentry to implement Scott’s suggestion and try Gortat and Lopez together for a few minutes. At the very least, it may help keep Gortat’s focus in the game.

    Anyway, overall great win for the Suns and hopefully they can follow it up with a win against a Bucks team that plays pretty well at home.

  • shazam

    if redd comes around we wont have to rely so much on frye…when your fortunes are tied to a streaky shooter you will win games you shouldnt and lose games you should win…if we want to win (and thats questionable ) then we HAVE to get frye some help ….ive been saying this for over a month …. michael redd is the key to the suns having any winning consistency this year..but he needs to make a slightly higher percentage.. defenses are spreading the floor for him now out of respect but when he starts to hit….LOOK OUT NBA

  • shazam

    @ michael and tony thanks to both of you for article and comment…its good to get a seasoned take on things up front before the rest of us riff raff start goofing on each other..its funny that some people take me serious…if they only knew…i have the gravitas of a mardi gras :)

  • And1

    Did I tell you? All Nash needed was a scorer. When his teammates scores, the Suns look like a different team out there. The shots have always been there, it’s not like they’re shooting bad shots..well, with the exception of Shannon Brown. But the Suns have been taking good shots so far this season, it just hasn’t been falling down. But when does fall down, everyone is in rhythm..

    I hope Shannon doesn’t play anymore. I got nothing against Brown he’s a good guy, but that guys is a rhythm breaker, taking bad shots at the wrong time.

  • shazam

    @ and 1 reluctantly i have to agree with you….its not easy but when youre right youre right

  • Scott

    The Suns really needed a month-long camp / pre-season to get into basketball shape and find their rhythm. Hopefully now that we’re just past a month into the condensed season, we’ll see a Suns team we can recognize. :)

  • Scott

    BTW, Lin did it again … scored 28 pts and had 8 assists in a Knicks win over the Jazz, with no Amare and little to no Melo.

    I don’t want to build this guy up too much, but since he first appeared in summer league I thought he could be Suns material.

  • Shazam

    @Shazam

    I apologize for calling you an I****. We both just want our Suns to win.

  • And1

    @Shazam

    ***ERROR name

    I apologize for calling you an I****. We both just want our Suns to win.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Oh yes, it is important win … Thanks to a huge Nash … and improvements Frye! Gortat always solid and Morris!

    @ Scott

    I think what training camp is a false problem, because all teams were in the same condition ….

    As for Lin, it seems to have played a great game but we need a continuity that makes great games ….
    According to Lin can you do? I have not ever seen play and I can not judge … expect to pass a few games on TV in NY before you put it on him!

  • Kyle fleeger

    Michael! Where is the campaign for the true hoop network to make Steve Nash an All-Star reserve. It’d be great to see him take on the young guns in the skills challenge and he deserves to be lobbing alley-oops to Blake Griffin!

    Are you guys gonna campaign for MVSTEVE?

  • steve

    FYI, if you feel like Nash is playing better than ever… he just might be. Last night’s stellar performance elevated his PER to unprecedented levels. He’s at 23.9 now, while his career high is 23.8.

    He SHOULD be an all-star. Obviously Westbrook is going to get the nod over Nash simply because he’s the hotter commodity at the moment. But, at this point, the only PG in the West better than Nash is Paul. If Nash keeps this up, he might very well be the best 38-year-old to play in the NBA, even topping Jordan.

    It’d be a shame if Nash doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for the amazing things he’s accomplishing right now, but for some reason I don’t think he really minds.

  • GoSuns

    I completely agree Steve and Elviro I think it depends on the team cause some teams had more continuity than others, our guys are still learning roles and gentry is still toying around with this lineup, and shots are starting to fall, however we got the win lets keep it up

  • Scott

    @Elvir0 –

    I don’t know about that.

    Sports writers predicted that the Suns – because they were keeping so many players from the previous year – would be less dependent upon training camp than other teams and thus would get out to a good start.

    However, they may have overlooked the need for the extra conditioning and coordination that Suns players need to play at “Suns speed.” The rapid up-and-down style the Suns use demands more energy and effort.

    What it looks like to me is that the Suns are finally – about a month into the season – getting their legs under them and are starting to play more consistently at the rapid pace we’re used to.

    As for Michael Redd, who came to the Suns a bit later, I’d expect him to be rounding into Suns game shape over the next month. In the meantime, he’ll at least be able to get some court time and some shots up, now that he’s in “regular NBA” shape.

  • Scott

    @Elviro -

    As for Lin … I don’t know if the Suns will be able to get him, it’s just that I spotted him in summer league play a few years ago, and the Suns really needed a good 3rd PG at the time, and he would have been a good choice. He’s a determined defender, and he can score and pass. He mainly seems to get overlooked by NBA coaches because he’s Asian and from Harvard.

  • auggie5000

    How boring is it to interview Gentry? He says the same thing ALL THE TIME.

  • shazam

    @ steve …you can throw last nights nash stats out the window and he is still better than westbrook…westbrook is over rated right now…he has been getting too many kudos for upside

  • shazam

    a gentry interview is like cotton candy in the rain

  • GoSuns

    @Scott, I dunno bout Lin we might have a chance let’s see how the rest of the season turns out for him, Baron will be back soon and its a crowded backcourt, the knicks might not realize what they have even by the end of the season and we might me able to snatch him up

  • fan in chi-town

    In regards rto Westbrook, I agree with Shazam. The kid is an athletic freak but in my opinion haant learned to harness that athleticism and use it for the “greater good” of his team. He makes too many bone-headed decisions, doesn’t make his teammates better And can’t shoot that well, at least from what I’ve seen of the Thunder, which admittedly I don’t get to watch many of their games. But from what I’ve watched that’s what I’ve observed. He will never be as good as Nash and is Definitely not as good as him right now.

    Way overrated…..but who am I?

  • steve

    I’m obviously in agreement that Nash is better than Westbrook as well… but at least two Thunders (feels weird saying that in reference to members of a team with a singular name) will be on the All-Star team. I think the second should be Harden, but Westbrook is the “people’s choice,” and I think he’s in.

    If we assume Westbrook is going to be an All-Star, are they really going to have Paul, Westbrook, AND Nash on the team? With how stacked the West is with bigs, I highly doubt a PG is going to get one of the non-specified reserve spots. I don’t know, it’s so tough to say… The West also has no good 2 guards outside of Bryant and Harden, so maybe Harden will make it after all and Westbrook could be “snubbed” in favor of allowing more teams to be represented in the ASG.

    So many possibilities. However, I think it’s obvious that if numbers were the only thing anybody looked at, Nash is the second PG on the All-Star team, no question.

  • shazam

    good one steve bwahahahaha @—-> two Thunders (feels weird saying that in reference to members of a team with a singular name)

  • Elviro (Italy)

    @ Scott

    actually you’re right, too: the fact that he changed some man more than other teams affect in relation to the training camp or not!

    As for Nash is definitely better than Westbrook, but in my opinion are two different players: Nash is a play, Westbrook is a guard because he has the brain of Nash in directing the play, uses more his athleticism and his explosiveness!

    As for the All Star Game I voted for both the Suns’ Nash Gortat but here’s my basic quintets:

    Nash
    Bryant
    Durant
    Gallinari
    Gortat

    Rose
    Wade
    James
    Bargnani
    Howard

    my countrymen … well … I put! ;-)

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