PHOENIX — For 18 minutes and 31 seconds on Sunday night, Michael Redd stepped in the time machine.
The wear and tear on his surgically repaired knees vanished. The 185 games he missed over the course of the last three seasons became a distant memory.
Michael Redd was Michael Redd again.
His left-handed, high-release jump shot didn’t miss a beat. He curled hard off screens, got to the free throw line, knocked down 3-of-5 three-point attempts and poured in a season-high 25 points in 19 minutes off the bench to help the Phoenix Suns down the Rockets 99-86.
“That’s the vintage Michael Redd of old where he gets on a roll and it’s really difficult to guard him,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said after the Suns won their fourth straight game to move only a half game back of Houston for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. “That was good to see. He played great.”
In a virtual must-win game for the Suns before they head to Miami to kick off a road trip that includes the Heat, Pacers, Magic and Cavaliers, Redd put Phoenix on his back.
Thanks to stingy defense and balanced scoring the Suns starters jumped out to a 26-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Then it was Redd’s turn.
The sharpshooter entered the game 1:53 into the second quarter and caught fire. With the Suns leading 38-22 Redd drilled a 16-footer and it was off to the races. He went on to score 14 of the Suns’ last 16 points of the half to help Phoenix fend off a scrappy Houston team that was without point guard Kyle Lowry and shooting guard Kevin Martin due to injury.
“Michael Redd was great. He was an offensive explosion,” said Steve Nash, who finished with four points and 11 assists. “It’s great to see him get better and better on his journey back in the league playing at a high level sporadically and soon he’ll be a little more consistent. It’s inspiring to see.”
Redd wasn’t done after the first half. He was the first Suns player to come off the bench in the third quarter as he entered with 3:48 left in the period and Phoenix up 66-54.
Much like the second quarter Redd scored eight points over the final 2:26 of the third quarter and the Suns led 80-64 after three. Redd added three more points in the fourth and a Suns bench mob that scored 47 points handed it over to Nash and company to seal the deal.
Redd’s 25 points was his highest scoring output since Jan. 2, 2010, but his Suns teammates aren’t strangers to seeing the 12-year veteran going on scoring binges like he did Sunday.
“Michael Redd is hot every day. You see this guy missing maybe one or two shots, then all of the sudden he’s making seven in a row,” said Marcin Gortat, who scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and collected two steals and two blocks in 31 minutes. “You never when he’s going to pull up and shoot the ball. His release is so quick. It’s just incredible. He was one of the best scorers back in the day, he was averaging almost 30 points in the league so he’s got skills.”
Redd, who suffered through three miserable seasons after averaging over 20 points per game for six consecutive years from 2003-2009, is finally having fun playing basketball again. The Suns are rolling, and on Sunday, Redd was one of the biggest reasons why.
“We’re just having fun. We’re laughing on the court, we’re laughing pregame and I think it’s translated on the court,” Redd said. “Whatever this team needs I’m able to do it.”
While Redd’s offensive explosion allowed the Suns to remain on top for 44:53 of the 48-minute game, it was their defense that set the tone and helped Phoenix win its 11th game in its last 14 tries.
The Suns held the Rockets to 42.7 percent shooting from the field and 1-of-11 from three-point land. That defense combined with Redd’s offensive performance, Channing Frye’s 19 points, and solid bench play proved to be the perfect formula to take down the Rockets and inch closer into the playoff race.
“Michael Redd was very hot, got it going. I thought Robin was big, our defense was good. Good team win, feeling good,” said Grant Hill, who finished with 10 points, five rebounds and seven assists. “We’ve got to continue with that momentum going into playing against one of the best teams in Miami on Tuesday night.”
- Goran Dragic made his return to Phoenix and scored 16 points, dished out eight assists and collected four steals in 36 minutes. Dragic received a nice ovation from the crowd and is playing some of the best basketball of his career in Lowry’s absence. In his last six games as a starter the Slovenian lefty is now averaging 15.5 points and 9.2 assists. Check back tomorrow for a story on Dragic’s return to Phoenix.
- For the first time all season Suns rookie Markieff Morris and his twin Marcus Morris faced off. They didn’t guard each other, but Marcus Morris, who’s been between the NBA and D-League this season, played 11 minutes while Markieff saw 17 minutes. We’ll have more tomorrow about his first matchup against his brother.
- Jared Dudley didn’t have a big day as he went 1-for-7 from the field, but the one bucket he did score counted — officially — toward his dunk total, moving him to three on the year. Dudley went up with two hands on a fast break early in the first quarter and more or less dropped the ball in the hoop. The Suns’ best leapers Shannon Brown and Ronnie Price protested the dunk ruling after the game, and even Steve Nash got in on the action. “That was not a dunk. I don’t care what anyone says,” Nash said. “I wouldn’t even take that as a dunk and I haven’t dunked for at least a couple weeks.”
- After scoring 19 tonight Frye is now averaging 18.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks in his last five games. During that stretch he’s shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from three. “Channing Frye has continued to play well and has done a good job defensively also,” Gentry said.
- With the win the Suns are now 23-22 and over .500 for the first time all season. While the team is half a game back of the No. 8 seed, Phoenix is also only 3 1/2 games back of the fourth-seeded Clippers.
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