PHOENIX — Just as fans began to exit the building, assuming another embarrassing loss, the Phoenix Suns went off on an epic fourth quarter run to overcome a 15-point deficit and defeat the New Jersey Nets, 118-109 in overtime.
Phoenix appeared to be dead midway through the fourth quarter until finally the team caught a spark and finished Wednesday night on fire both offensively and defensively.
“I thought we did a great job of competing,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “Especially in the last quarter and [in] overtime. We just got to continue and get better in all phases of the game.”
Trailing by 15 with just over 10 minutes left to play, the Suns outscored the Nets by 24 the rest of the way.
“We dug in and just found a way to win the game,” Gentry said. “We’re going to make some mistakes, but you’ve got to be going 100 percent. We just have to play like a desperate team; we are a desperate team.”
Steve Nash and Vince Carter led the way for Phoenix with 23 points apiece.
“It’s the type of game, especially after last night, that we needed to find a way to win and that’s exactly what we did,” Steve Nash said. “We didn’t play great, we showed a lot of toughness and Coach just implored us to compete and I thought we competed.”
Nash also had 16 assists and seven rebounds to go along with his clutch performance late in the game.
To cap off the point guard’s night, Nash went 11-for-11 from the free-throw line to move past Mark Price for first all-time in the NBA in free-throw percentage.
“It’s hard not to say it’s a privilege to be on that list with all those guys,” Nash said. “I looked up to Mark Price as a young player so it’s a thrill, but the way the season is going right now it doesn’t feel great.”
Channing Frye was the third Phoenix starter with over 20 points. He shot 7-of-13 on the night.
“For us, it’s just about overcoming obstacles,” Frye said. “I felt like in the fourth quarter, that was some of the best defense we’ve played in a long time.”
Phoenix outrebounded New Jersey 45-39, including a 10-7 margin on the offensive boards.
The Suns’ first 10 points of the game were scored in the paint before a defensive three-second technical free-throw from Nash and back-to-back three-pointers from Carter ended the run.
The Nets’ led 18-10 early before Phoenix ran off an 11-0 run that included a Nash alley-op to Carter for a bucket and a foul.
The streak ended when Sasha Vujacic sank a jump shot seconds after coming off the bench to loud boos from the US Airways Center crowd.
Late in the opening quarter, Suns coach Alvin Gentry gave Hakim Warrick about five possessions with Steve Nash before Goran Dragic checked in.
The results were mixed, but it showed that Gentry is still trying to find a place for everybody.
The first quarter ended with the score tied 28-28. Carter led the way with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting while Nash dropped seven dimes.
The second quarter was a display of back-and-forth jump shooting up until about the three-minute mark when Carter drove into the lane and threw up a prayer while being fouled that somehow managed to go in.
The half ended with Phoenix trailing 57-55 as Carter and Vujacic traded 3-point field goals as time winded down.
The third quarter opened on a 6-0 New Jersey run that left Nash visibly upset before Gentry signaled for a timeout.
After the break, the Nets ran off four more points before Jared Dudley converted on a four-point play that finally ended the streak of over five minutes without a point for Phoenix. Dudley added another quick basket before it was New Jersey’s turn to call a timeout.
With the third quarter nearly over, the Nets received a favorable no-call from the referees when it appeared Quinton Ross had stepped out of bounds.
Jordan Farmar proceeded to take the saved ball and sink a back-breaking 3-pointer as the shot clocked expired.
The bucket gave the Nets a 84-73 advantage entering the final period as Phoenix scored just 18 points in the third quarter on 8-of-20 team shooting.
Farmar hit another three to begin the fourth quarter to extend the New Jersey lead to 14. After a Dragic layup, Vujacic nailed yet another three to extend the Nets’ lead to a game-high 15.
New Jersey entered the night with the second worst scoring average in the league at 91 per game. It had 90 Wednesday with over 11 minutes to play.
That’s when Phoenix finally started to show some life.
With the help of some unusually aggressive and active defensive play, the Suns went off on an 11-0 run to cut into the huge hole they dug for themselves.
Phoenix made New Jersey take ugly shot after ugly shot as the Nets forced up contested long-range jumpers as the shot clock was winding down.
New Jersey only broke its scoreless drought when Devin Harris went to the line after driving into the lane.
Still, the Suns continued to put their foot on the gas as Nash answered right back with his trademark pull-up jumper.
After another couple stops on the defensive end, Phoenix capped off its remarkable run and took the lead 93-92 on two Dudley free-throws after being down 90-75 just minutes earlier.
Overall, the approximately seven-minute run favored the Suns 18-2.
Down the stretch, the two teams traded free throws all the way to a 101-101 tie with 40 seconds remaining.
From there, Nash gave Phoenix a two-point lead with 23 seconds left on a dribble drive layup in the lane with Harris on his back.
Kris Humphries went on to tie the game on a wide-open dunk from Harris with 16 seconds left.
Phoenix couldn’t do anything with its final possession and the game went into overtime.
A Vujacic 3-pointer opened the extra frame followed by a ridiculous Nash behind-his-head layup over Humphries.
The Suns took that momentum and went off on an 8-0 run to give the team a 111-106 lead with a minute left before New Jersey got back on the board with a free throw.
However, Phoenix made its free throws down the stretch to secure the much-needed win.
It was the team’s first overtime victory since Nov. 5 against Memphis.
Robin Lopez lost the sibling battle to his older brother Brook, who had five more points and six more rebounds.
Grant Hill did not play for the second consecutive night. The 38-year-old veteran hadn’t missed two straight games since 2008.
“Grant is huge for us so to not have him is really tough on us,” Nash said. “Tonight we just found a way to get it done, but we need him.”