PHOENIX — More often than not when you’re outrebounded by 20 caroms, you’re not going to come away with the victory.
The Phoenix Suns, however, shot right past their rebounding woes Wednesday night to blow out Memphis, 126-111 at US Airways Center, behind a scorching hot 61.9 percent shooting performance.
“We were pretty good,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “I thought we were pretty good there as far as execution. It’s not going to get very much better than that, but we have to continue to try to improve as far as the rebounding thing, and we’ve got to improve in the middle drive area, and if we do that I think we have a chance to be pretty good, but we still have a lot of work to do in that department.”
The Suns’ starters hit 37-of-52 (71.2 percent) overall and the Suns as a team shot 73.0 percent from the floor from the middle of the second quarter on after starting the game hitting 17-of-36. This included a run of making 10 of their final 11 in the first half and then shooting 67.6 percent in the second half, with a stretch of hitting almost 90 percent (26-of-30) and 15 in a row in the middle of that run. All things told, the Suns shot a season-high 61.9 percent to break their season-high shooting percentage set last time out against Detroit to go with a season-high point total.
Steve Nash dished out 16 assists, needing just 30 minutes of playing time to better Memphis’ assist total as a team (15). Unbelievably, that’s the fourth time Nash has assisted on at least as many baskets as the opposition this season, and it’s his sixth game of 14 or more assists, matching the rest of the NBA’s total in that department.
On the flip side of the stat sheet is the rebounding struggles. Memphis forward Zach Randolph set a franchise record with 10 offensive rebounds, grabbing twice as many boards on his glass than any Sun collected on either end (J-Rich with five led Phoenix). No Suns starter grabbed an offensive board (not that there were many misses or anything), but this board work remains a major concern.
Gentry noted that on a few occasions the Grizz — and Randolph in particular — would grab multiple rebounds on one possession, which really skewed the stats, but still getting outrebounded by 20 really makes a statement.
“We do have to do a better job in that particular area, but for the most part I think if we shoot 62 percent we’re probably going to be in most games regardless,” Gentry said.
The Suns held Memphis to 47.9 percent shooting and did a solid job against Memphis’ first shot of a possession. The Grizz also nailed just a single long ball in eight attempts, so they lived up to their billing of being a great offensive rebounding team that can’t hit threes. The Suns, meanwhile, hit 9-of-17 from distance (52.9 percent).
Every Sun shot the basketball well, with Goran Dragic the only Phoenix player not to shoot at least 50 percent, and six players scored in double figures, the starters and LB.
The Amare Stoudemire is Back Tour continued to roll on, with STAT scoring 28 points on 13-for-18 shooting, including 18 on 8-for-8 shooting in the third. You’d like him to grab more than four boards in over 36 minutes, but let’s focus on the positives here.
Amare has led the Suns in scoring five games in a row (reaching 20 points in all of them), and he’s averaging 25.0 points on 65 percent shooting during that stretch. As Grant Hill was talking about after the last game, both his inside and outside games are clicking, and he certainly looks primed to have a special offensive season.
“I was just playing basketball, just taking what the defense gives me, getting more comfortable offensively,” Amare said. “The coaching staff is showing confidence in me out there on the basketball court, my teammates are as well, and we’re playing team basketball. Everyone’s showing what they can do out there, and overall I think we did a decent job of getting everyone involved.”
Added Nash, “Amare had a great game, so he opened up some things.”
In scoring 19 fast-break points after putting up 24 on Sunday, one might think the Suns’ running game is back.
However, Gentry thinks the recent output is mainly coincidental.
“We’ve more so had a tempo than a running pace, and we’ve done a good job in that particular area,” he said. “… For the most part I do like the tempo of the game more so than the running.”
When the Suns stayed about even with the bigger Clippers but only ran out to two fast-break points in the season opener, Gentry talked about how teams can pick their poison, as far as either pounding the Suns on the offensive glass or getting beaten in the running game.
Memphis obviously chose to pound the Suns at the expense of the running game.
That strategy led to a really weird statistical game in which Memphis so thoroughly dominated the boards only to trail by 26 midway through the fourth because Phoenix so thoroughly won the shooting battle.
The Suns have now won 15 straight at home, improving to 20-3 under Gentry in US Airways Center. The rebounding damper aside, the Suns will go into Thanksgiving feeling pretty damn good about leading the NBA with a 12-3 mark.
“It was a good win for us,” Nash said. “We have to take care of home court, beat the teams we should beat. They hung around a little bit early and then we turned it up and played pretty well. I think our defense was pretty good. We found some ways to open up their defense and exploit them.”
The 2009-10 Suns are just the fourth team in franchise history to start a year 12-3. Only the 13-2 squads from 1980-81 and 2004-05 (there’s that year again!) started better. … The Suns have scored 120 points or more in four of six home games, averaging 118.5 points per game in Phoenix. They have won four of the six by 14 or more points and overall have an average margin of victory of 15.3 in the Valley. … The Suns have scored 100 or more in 32 straight home games, the longest active NBA streak. They remain the only NBA squad to hit the century mark in every game this year. … Phoenix has beaten Memphis seven straight times at home, winning by an average of 11.9 points per game. … The Suns became the fifth team in franchise history to start 6-0 at home, remaining one of three NBA squads undefeated at home.