Remember the 2007 offseason when the Suns were rumored to be thinking about including Amare Stoudemire in a deal for Kevin Garnett, the type of trade that would have made Phoenix the odds-on favorites to win it all last season?
Well, that deal never came close to being consummated regardless of what it would have meant for the Suns in the present because they could not begin to even think about dealing away a young player with the talents of Amare.
On nights like Wednesday we’re reminded why that was really a no-brainer, even if KG did win the Celtics a title last season.
Amare exploded for a career game with 49 points on 17-for-21 shooting from the field (81.0 percent) and 15-for-15 shooting from the line while stuffing the stat sheet with 11 rebounds, six assists, five steals and two blocks to lead the Suns to a 113-103 win. We’re still awaiting confirmation if he also wiped down the floor and sold a couple of hot dogs during timeouts.
“I took it upon myself to give us a spark,” Stoudemire told Suns.com. “I was just totally into it. I was in here before the game preparing myself. And when the ball went up, I was totally into the game.”
Added Steve Nash to the team’s official site, “He was unbelievable. It might have been the best game I’ve ever seen him play since he’s been with us. He was doing everything, rebounding, he shot the ball well, had a high field-goal percentage. He was unstoppable.”
Amare’s ridiculous 40-10-5-5 game puts him elite company, as only six players have recorded such a stat line since 1986-87 and nobody has since Vince Carter turned the trick in 2001-02. The others aren’t so shabby either: Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Even more amazing, a player has not put up 49 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals since Golden State’s Rick Barry did so in 1974.
“Amare really carried us all night,” head coach Terry Porter told Suns.com. “Steals, rebounds, points, everything we needed tonight. We needed every one of those 49 points.”
Amare was the only bright spot in a first quarter that saw him score 21 points and yet somehow see his team trail by 11. Stoudemire scored 12 of Phoenix’s first 14 points and all but six overall in the first quarter while he hit all eight of his shots and his teammates went 3-for-10.
“I worked to dominate from the start,” Stoudemire told Suns.com. “I took it upon myself to go out there and get guys involved and just to dominate offensively and defensively. Defense is something I’ve been keying on this year. I really tried to set a tone early with that.”
Amare’s hands were in the passing lanes all night, and he even made a steal and looked like an oversized Nash leading a break that ended up with a Grant Hill layup.
Stoudemire’s six assists and four missed shots in 22 attempts, three coming at the end of the shot clock, show his outburst came within the offense with an assortment of power jams and soft jumpers. Suns color guy Eddie Johnson said Amare was in “video game mode” because everything was going in.
After recording just two rebounds in the first half, he also hit the boards with ferocity in the second half to grab nine more.
“That was a terrific performance by Stoudemire,” Pacers head coach Jim O’Brien told Suns.com. “We had no answers for him. The story tonight was Stoudemire.”
Because of Amare, I always felt like the Suns would win this game despite trailing for the majority of the first three quarters. The Pacers’ 3s would not keep falling (they didn’t), but Amare would still be there for the Suns on the other end.
That’s exactly what happened when the Suns went on a 14-0 run to close the third quarter and never looked back, outscoring the Pacers by 17 after the break by holding Indiana to 29 percent shooting in the second half.
As I sat in awe contemplating the splendor of Amare’s feat after the game, I suddenly felt a little sick to my stomach when I remembered something that had escaped me while watching STAT’s domination.
My fantasy team is facing off against Amare’s this week.
And it’s a Rotisserie league.
The Suns still managed to get five players into double figures (although neither Nash nor Shaq) on a night they were forced into a strange rotation by Matt Barnes’ family emergency and a desire to limit Shaq’s minutes.
Shaq had originally been slated for a day off but was pressed into duty when the Suns found out Barnes would be unavailable. He played just 12 minutes due to foul trouble and the fact they were doing just fine without him down the stretch.
Amare barely got a breather – not that he needed one – and Boris (14, 5 and 5) and LB (11, 4 and 4) both saw big minutes off the bench. But it was interesting that Louis Amundson logged 10 minutes and Robin Lopez got his second DNP-CD of the season despite playing 20 minutes on Tuesday and being the probable starter if Shaq sat this one out.
I haven’t seen much of Amundson before this year and frankly I was impressed that he scraped out six points and five rebounds (three offensive) in his short time.
He clearly can be a weapon to use instead of Lopez against teams without a traditional big because he provides exactly the kind of hustle you want out of a deep reserve.