Suns’ Bench Comes Up Big in Win Over Hawks
Posted: Feb. 23, 2011
Thanks to an all-around solid effort from their second unit, the Suns got the second half of their season off to a good start in Wednesday’s 105-97 win over the Hawks.
Phoenix’s bench outplayed their Atlanta counterparts in all aspects – outscoring the Hawks’ reserves, 51-30, outrebounding them, 20-8, and bettering them in assists, 7-3, as the Suns improved to 6-1 in their last seven openers following the NBA’s mid-season break. Four members of the Suns’ second unit also finished in double figures in points.
“Our bench was crucial in the second quarter,” said Jared Dudley, who paced the bench with 17 points. “We all played well, shot the ball well, but I thought we got stops. In the first quarter, we didn’t really get stops, but in the second quarter we turned it on. I thought the key to the game was the fourth quarter. They tied it at one point, but we brought some of the starters back in and we got stops. The last four or five minutes, we had the run and outscored them. Defensively, we got stops.”
Dudley was a game-best 4-of-5 from three-point range en route to his 13th double-digit scoring effort in his last 23 games. He also racked up his career-high 10th 15-plus-point performance of the season. Also, Hakim Warrick posted his second 10-or-more-point night in his last five games.
“It was a good team win to start off (after) the break,” Dudley added. “We know what the task is at stake. Basically, we are a couple games back of the playoffs. It was a home game before the road trip, so we needed to come out with energy and get a win to get us going. We know what we need to do, and this is a stepping stone.”
In addition to Marcin Gortat recording his NBA-best ninth double-double off the bench this season (13 points, 12 boards) – the most by a Suns reserve since A.C. Green in 1993-94 (10) – Mickael Pietrus posted his third-straight double-digit scoring effort with 11 points. But it was the team’s collective defense that made the difference when things counted most.
“It was very important to stay focused on the game,” Pietrus said. “You know that teams in the NBA make runs, so we know right now we can trust our defense. It’s been great the last 20 games, so we are one of the best teams in the NBA defensively. We are really going to try to keep that with us on the airplane on the road trip.”
On Thursday, the Suns embark on the start of a 6,589-mile road trip that includes stops in Toronto, Indiana, New Jersey, Boston, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City.
“We have to stay focused,” Pietrus said. “We found a way to win the basketball game (tonight), but the most important thing for us, beginning tomorrow, is the road trip.”
WIN NO. 100
Improving to a combined 42-19 the last two seasons after the All-Star break under Alvin Gentry, the Suns’ victory made the head coach the fourth-quickest 100-game winner in franchise history. In just his 168th game at the helm, Gentry’s feat falls just behind Paul Westphal (140 games), Scott Skiles (160) and Danny Ainge (162), who reached the mark in fewer contests.
NASH CRACKS NBA TOP 10 IN THREES
Just when you thought Steve Nash couldn’t add any more to his NBA resume, the Suns playmaker went and did just that to close out the February home schedule.
On a night where he tied Shawn Marion for fifth on the franchise’s all-time games played list (660), the two-time NBA MVP passed journeyman shooting guard Eddie Jones (1,546) for 10th on the league’s all-time three-pointers made list. He finished the night with one trey.
Next up, the Suns’ point guard just needs another 13 threes to pass former small forward Glen Rice (1,559) for ninth on the all-time list.
EVE OF THE TRADING DEADLINE
While the Suns appear to be standing pat in terms of possibly making any roster moves before Thursday’s NBA trading deadline, the franchise seems content to watch the plethora of activity throughout the rest of the league. That includes now-former Hawks Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford and Maurice Evans going to Washington and All-Star guard Deron Williams being dealt to the Nets Wednesday.
“Teams are being proactive,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “If they think they have a chance to lose a guy without any compensation… that’s basically what happened in Toronto with Chris Bosh… they feel they need to recoup something in terms of the assets they have. For Utah, that was a heck of a deal for a guy that they were probably going to lose anyway. To get a good young player like Derrick Favors, a few draft picks, and a replacement at guard… that’s pretty good for Utah.
“I like our team. I like who we are. Consistency has been our biggest Achilles’ heel. You never want to look back, but going back to the Detroit game, the two Sacramento games, and the Portland game where we were up by 15… those four games would have us in fifth place and one game behind Portland. Those are all games you have to make up along the way. The way you have to make them up is to beat a San Antonio, a Dallas or an Oklahoma City. That’s really difficult. Players don’t understand that a game in November or January can cost us in April. It becomes more apparent as the season winds down.”
MERC IN THE HOUSE
No strangers to basketball at US Airways Center, Phoenix Mercury stars Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor had courtside seats for Wednesday’s game.
To watch Taurasi’s exclusive interview with PhoenixMercury.com’s Stefan Swiat from earlier in the day, CLICK HERE.