Suns 109, Grizzlies 95 — One more day of Amare


Yes, the Suns beat the Memphis Grizzlies 109-95, made a second-quarter run and then cruised to victory without letting their lead slip below double digits in the fourth quarter.

Jason Richardson played like a guy who deserves $14 million next year for once, Amare and Robin Lopez both nearly went for 20-10 and Steve Nash dished out 16 assists.

When you add in the fact that the bench played well also, there normally would be a lot to say about this particular game.

But you probably could care less about this game. You could probably care less about the fact that the Suns have won five in a row on the road, all against West teams, and six of seven overall and that they will enter Dallas on Wednesday a half game behind the Mavericks for fourth place in the West.

All you probably care about is whether Amare Stoudemire has played his final game in US Airways Center — and what the Suns might get in return.

I know this because about five times as many comments as usual seemed to pour into the Daily Dime Live chat tonight, not a single question or comment having to do with the actual game, and the ValleyoftheSuns comments section has certainly been more robust than usual.

Amare must feel disrespected at this point considering the way the Suns have dangled him as they have — and for J.J. Hickson no less. You can only wonder what’s going through the guy’s head, knowing that this game or the next could be the final one for the only organization he’s even known.

Considering Amare has been known to play with a lackadaisical spirit even in the best of times, it was encouraging to see him put up a 21-10 line and carry his end in the Suns’ victory. You almost wouldn’t have blamed him at this point if he would have put up one of his characteristic 16 and five lines.

The whole team seemed to play as if they were oblivious to the fact that this group could be broken up at any second, and it’s interesting that the game’s biggest star is the other player who has heard his name in the news lately.

If Jason Richardson would just always be THIS Jason Richardson, the Suns would have no qualms with paying him $14.4 million next year. It was Steve Kerr who said at the time of his trade that they would rather pay J-Rich starting shooting guard money to be a top-three guy on the team than Boris Diaw $9 mil to sit on the bench.

Now that J-Rich is averaging about a point for every million he’s owed next year, he’s not so worth it anymore, but tonight he exploded for a top-dollar-worthy 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting. When J-Rich scores 20 and provides a third star to the genius of Nash and Amare, the Suns suddenly become one of the better teams in basketball (15-2 in such games). His jumper was working and he found opportunities in transition tonight, but it just makes you wonder why he had not scored this many points since the Suns’ opening road trip of the season.

When you play Memphis, who has now lost seven of eight to drop out of the playoff race, controlling the boards is always going to be a major key. Earlier this season the Suns got outrebounded by the Grizz by a margin of 49-29 in a 15-point win, but this time they took care of business to the tune of 50-46. They didn’t do a great job on Zach Randolph (15) or Marc Gasol (12), but aside from Darrell Arthur’s six boards, no other Grizzly grabbed more than three.

The Suns’ defense was also especially sharp in holding Memphis to 35.6 percent shooting, which has been a trend on their five-game road winning streak. The Suns have held opponents to 41.3 percent shooting during that stretch, compared to 45.8 percent during the rest of the season as a whole. For a means of comparison to how good Phoenix’s ‘D’ has been during this streak, Cleveland leads the NBA with a 43.4 opponent field goal percentage.

That’s a big reason why the Suns are now 5-0 on the road after a 1-12 road stretch that followed an 8-3 road start. Interesting way to get to a respectable 14-15 mark away from home.

You can thank Robin Lopez for the Suns’ improved field-goal ‘D’ of late, and after his first double-digit rebounding game of the season he has his first career double-double (18 points and 10 boards). The Suns are a different team with their true center wreaking havoc at both ends.

This was clearly a team effort with every Sun who played recording a positive plus-minus in a game that featured none of the usual dips that typically characterize a Suns game, but Grant Hill deserves an extra helping of praise for recording a plus 18 that was twice as good as the next best Phoenix player in that department.

The Suns should feel pretty good about the way they are playing now during a rough portion of their schedule with a home-heavy March waiting for them just around the corner.

But the Suns’ toughest opponent the rest of the season could be Steve Kerr, who now has a day and a half to debate the merits of keeping this team together and hoping for the best with Amare this summer and starting to build for the next decade of Phoenix Suns basketball without STAT.