Suns News

Newsroom Notes: Reserves Lift Suns Over Clippers

Dowdell scored a career-high 14 points in a Suns' win on Friday.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: April 1, 2011

You wouldn’t know that Friday night’s game against at US Airways Center was between a team clinging to its playoff hopes and team that has already been eliminated from the postseason. However, playing in front of a packed house and playing without a flu-stricken Steve Nash, the Suns won their first game all season without Nash by rolling to a 111-98 home victory over Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

While Griffin still is not quite the draw of a LeBron James or the Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, he already has become a hot ticket in opposing teams’ arenas. Although he earned his share of fanfare on Friday with some captivating aerial moves, Griffin fell short of earning his team the win against a struggling Phoenix squad.

Although fans may have piled into the arena to see the “Blake Show,” it was unheralded Suns rookie point guard Zabian Dowdell that made all the difference. With the Suns only leading by two after the first period, Dowdell racked up 10 points and three assists in the period as the Suns ran out to a 13-point lead at halftime.

“It’s a big win in the sense that it was good to get a win without Steve here,” Suns swingman Jared Dudley said. “It gave confidence and you saw certain players step up. I thought Zabian played well for us, he came off the bench, gave us a spark and helped will us to this win.”

Dowdell finished with a career-high 14 points to go along with his five assists. The Suns would go on to lead by as many as 25 points, shooting 52 percent on that night, while Griffin was held to 6-of-15 shooting.

“You go from not playing a couple games to being out there for an extended period of time,” Dowdell said. “You just have to be prepared. And behind the scenes I’ve been working, and it paid off tonight.”

Although he only saw three quarters of action, Phoenix was led by Grant Hill, who shot 6-of-9 from the floor to total 19 points. Overall, there were six Suns players in double figures with Hakim Warrick (17 points and 10 rebounds), Marcin Gortat (10 points and 11 rebounds), Aaron Brooks (12 points) and Jared Dudley (16 points) all contributing.

Hill came out and set the tone with his energy, scoring 11 points in the first period and diving for a ball that eventually landed him in the laps of people seated on press row.

“I learned that one from ‘Big Shaq’ (Shaquille O’Neal),” Hill said. “I tried to send a message.”

Phoenix forced the Clippers into eight more turnovers, while holding them to just 44-percent shooting on the night. With the Suns winning their eighth-straight home game over the Clippers, Coach Gentry improved to 9-1 against them since taking over as head coach of the Suns.

The Suns embark on a five-game road trip, beginning with a day game in San Antonio on ABC on Sunday.

Nash Sits Out

Coach Gentry received that call that you never want to hear, and he got it at 5 a.m. His star point guard, Steve Nash, called him to say he wouldn’t be making it to shootaround because he was feeling sick.

Gentry expected Nash, who has the reputation of being as tough as a hockey player, to start until 45 minutes before tip-off. Then Suns head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson walked into Coach Gentry’s office and informed him that he wasn’t going to go due to flu-like symptoms.

At Nash’s locker, Jerome Crawford of Suns Team Security was talking to Nash and said, “Yeah, you don’t look too good. “

Nash replied wryly, “Thanks.”

Hey may have temporarily lost his energy today, but at least he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

Hill's Film Premiere

On Opening Night of the 11th annual Phoenix Film Festival last night, Suns forward Grant Hill premiered his documentary “Starting at the Finish Line: The Coach Buehler Story” in front of an audience of fans, friends, colleagues and film buffs at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 movie theaters.

The film was about longtime Duke track and field coach Al Buehler and the contributions he’s made towards removing race and gender discrimination in sports. Buehler flew out from North Carolina to attend the event.

After a gala that included food, cocktails and interviews with the media in a nearby pavilion, Hill and his wife, Tamia, strolled over to the theater for the tip-off of the event. At the gala, Hill was introduced to actor Cuba Gooding Jr., who was also showing a film at the festival.

Attending the event was Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver and his wife, Penny, Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, Sr. Vice President & General Counsel Jason Rowley and Suns broadcaster Tom Leander. After ceremonial introductions were made and an award was presented, the film festival officially began with the public debut of Hill’s documentary.

“I thought it was really well done, really inspirational and very emotional,” Babby said. “What I liked about it is that it told the story of a person who used the platform of coaching and teaching to make enormous change in the world. I thought that the film really captured that well and told it in a compelling way.”

After the film was shown, Hill, the film’s director Amy Unell and Coach Buehler held a Q&A for fans with any questions. Once people left the theater, Hill stuck around to autograph movie posters in the lobby of the theater.

“It was perfect story for Grant to tell because he’s also using athletics to accomplish many, many things,” Babby said. “Just one more reason to be impressed with the guy.”

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