PHOENIX — Do you remember the day your first son was born?
It probably was one of the most memorable days of your life, the kind of day you can still remember the most miniscule details of.
Steve Nash lived that day on Friday when Matteo Joel Nash, weighing seven pounds and seven ounces, was born into the world, and yet playing in front of his parents and siblings for the first time this year, Papa Steve delivered his best performance of the season: 28 points, 14 assists, seven boards, 13-for-18 shooting and a +14 in 35 minutes.
“Anytime you have your first son there’s going to be extra juice,” Jason Richardson said. “It’s incredible. It shows why he’s still a top-five point guard in this league. A guy who’s almost 37 years old isn’t supposed to perform the way that he does.”
The game seemed to be slipping away in the fourth when the Kings cut Phoenix’s lead down to 77-75 with 8:28 remaining, but Nash immediately re-entered and led Phoenix on a 13-4 spurt that essentially put the game out of reach. MVSteve punctuated things by throwing a beautiful alley-oop to Richardson to put the Suns up 12 with five minutes left and Sacramento never again seriously threatened Phoenix’s eventual 103-89 victory.
Nash recorded his third straight double-digit assist performance after not reaching that mark in his first five games, and he had not enjoyed a 28 and 14 game since March 29, 2009, also against the Kings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marked just Nash’s third 28-14-7 game of his entire career.
“We were the victim of a Hall of Fame player having a Hall of Fame night,” said Kings head coach Paul Westphal. “Everything we tried, he had the answer for. If I wasn’t sitting on the visitor’s bench, I would be applauding him because it was an unbelievable performance by Nash.”
Added Tyreke Evans, who also neared a triple-double with a 18-7-9 line: “Nash was being Nash, hitting shots in the lane, pullups. We couldn’t stop him tonight and that was pretty much it. He changed the game.”
It truly was a vintage performance by Nash, who did not speak to reporters after the game to go spend time with his family.
He controlled every aspect of the game and enjoyed a monster scoring outing without even making a three. Nash set the tone with a 10-point, six-assist, four-rebound first quarter and then finished things off with five points and five assists in the fourth.
The Kings should be used to this by now as Two Time torched them for 30 points twice last season and averaged 24.0 points and 11.3 assists per game against them last year, the most he scored against any opponent.
Suddenly Nash’s “cold” start to the season seems like a long time ago. He’s averaging 19.9 points per game, which would be a career high, and his 9.5 assists per game and 51.7 percent shooting percentage are right back where they should be. Nash is shooting 65 percent from the floor and averaging 13.3 assists per contest in his last three to make the early season “slump” seem like a joke.
That’s not to mention the effect he’s had on unifying the team and bringing together disparate pieces like only Steve Nash can.
“It’s like having that big brother out there making everything easy for you,” said Hakim Warrick, who Nash set up often on his way to an 18-point day on 6-for-8 shooting. “All you have to do is just go out there and finish. He takes control as a general out there. He saw that they were out there blitzing, and he was making adjustments just like a great quarterback, being able to go out there and make all the moves.”
Nash, who opened the season with nine turnovers in Portland and entered the game averaging close to five miscues a contest, turned it over just twice, which tied the Atlanta game for his best turnover game of the year. The Suns as a whole turned it over just 11 times after giving up the rock twice as many times Monday in Memphis.
“We managed our turnovers tonight, we shot the ball well,” Alvin Gentry said of his squad, which out shot the Kings 52 percent to 41 percent. “The only thing that leaps out at you off the stat sheet is the offensive rebounds, which is frightening considering we’re going to play Minnesota [and Kevin Love] soon. We’ve just got to find a way. We’re working extremely hard, we’re trying to get better. Rebounding we’ve just got to find a way to do it. There’s no secret formula, we’ve got to just man up and find a way to come up with some rebounds.”
Sacramento corralled 21 offensive boards, which means the Suns collected just 58 percent of their available defensive boards. For context Suns entered the day ranked last in defensive rebound rate, grabbing 66 percent of the available defensive boards. With Dwight Howard, Orlando snatches 81.3 percent of its available defensive rebounds.
Gentry said it was on the big men as J-Rich led the Suns with eight rebounds, Nash got seven and Josh Childress was next with five off the bench, a total no Suns big man reached.
“We did everything we’re supposed to do on the defensive end besides that aspect of it,” J-Rich said. “We played great team defense, we held them to 40 percent, but we’ve just got to find a way to rebound the ball. That’s the only thing we need to do better.”
With as brutal of a four-game stretch as you will ever see starting on Sunday — four games in five nights of at the Lakers, home vs. Denver, at Miami and at Orlando — the Suns absolutely needed to win this one, even if the bigger Kings predictably controlled the glass.
The Suns’ biggest goal throughout this brutal November schedule must be to avoid getting buried, which could have easily happened if a loss to Sacramento had preceded that upcoming treacherous stretch.
“We talked about the importance of winning this game — we really needed to win this game,” Gentry said. “We hadn’t really done that in a few years, you know, talk about winning. We talk about playing well and doing what we are supposed to do, but we really needed to win this game tonight just for our own psyche.”
Buoyed by the emotion of watching the birth of his first son, Steve Nash made sure that would be the case.
Josh Childress will be an honorary captain when the No. 6 Stanford football team takes on ASU Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium. He was excited to be selected for such an honor, which includes joining the Cardinal for the opening coin toss, and he plans on motivating his alma mater’s football team in whatever way we can.
Childress also will be getting some Stanford gear for Channing Frye to wear during an upcoming week after Childress’ Cardinal pounded Frye’s Wildcats last Saturday. Frye will have to wear whatever attire Childress gives him for a week, and he plans on posting pictures of Frye in his Stanford threads every day on Twitter.
Suns owner Robert Sarver, a UA grad, also owes Childress a little something.
“Robert ducked out on me,” Childress joked. “He made a bet, too, but he’s been hiding from me.” …
The Suns have won 26 home games in a row against divisional opponent not named the Lakers. … Phoenix has won 10 straight homes games against the Kings and six consecutive overall. The Suns have won 12 of 13 overall against Sacramento, but you might remember the one practically knocked Phoenix out of the 2008-09 playoff race. … Phoenix’s 10 straight home wins over the Kings have come by an average of 20.9 points, with eight of the 10 coming by at least 14. … The Kings’ 89 points and 40.9 percent shooting were both opponent season lows. The Suns entered the day last in defensive field goal percentage after allowing two of their previous four opponents to shoot better than 50 percent. … Hakim Warrick has scored at least 16 points in five of eight games after doing so just 10 times all of last season. … The Suns shot better than 50 percent for the second time in three games after not doing that in any of their first five contests. … Jason Thompson, a player I feel would look great in a Suns uniform, got his first DNP-CD of the season. John Hollinger has Thompson on his list of players who should be used differently. Warrick made the cut as well, as Hollinger agrees he should be starting over Hedo Turkoglu, who put up an unspectacular 6-4-2 line in this one.