Newsroom Notes: Suns Feel Right at Home
Posted: April 16, 2012
Channing Frye approached the scorer’s table just before the tip-off of Wednesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers and said to anyone who would listen, “It’s good to be home.”
The Suns, in the middle of the Western Conference playoff hunt, and Frye, who struggled during the team’s recent four-game road trip, both benefited from playing at the friendly confines of US Airways Center.
Phoenix’s starters came out at a blistering pace offensively, tallying 35 points in the first frame, and they didn’t let up on their way to a 125-107 win over Portland.
And for Frye, this game was an opportunity to put the recent road trip – when he averaged just over five points per game and didn’t score his last time out against San Antonio – in the rear view.
“You know what the most important thing was? It was for me to get to see my wife and kids. That was, like, the best, dude. After being on the road so much, I come back and my kid is like a new person,” Frye said. “So, for me, it was just sleeping in my own bed, coming out here, getting into my regular routine and today I felt good.”
As excited as the power forward was to be back in Phoenix, his head coach was probably equally excited about the matchup Frye drew against the Trail Blazers.
Alvin Gentry said he knew that Portland had been playing four wing players around power forward J.J. Hickson, and he anticipated that second-year forward Luke Babbitt was going to draw Fyre on this night.
The result was Frye taking the shorter player into the post and repeatedly scoring over him. By the end of the game, the Suns' power forward had 19 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
“In those situations, we were going to see if we could throw the ball inside and take advantage of that,” Gentry said. “Channing did a good job of taking really good, strong shots and getting them to the basket.”
It was an opportunity the Suns had to seize, with the Blazers missing LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Raymond Felton. Aldridge would have been playing alongside Hickson, had he not been lost for the season with hip surgery scheduled.
The lack of an interior presence also allowed Suns center Marcin Gortat free reign down low, and he responded with his 29th double-double of the season by scoring 20 points and collecting 10 rebounds.
In most phases of the game, the Suns earned the win. They totaled five more rebounds than Portland, 11 more assists and shot 14 percentage points better.
Gentry pointed to a few phases of the game in which the Suns lacked a little focus on the defensive end and the lead narrowed.
But even the head coach had to admit that this one was “just a good game.”
“This was a win that we needed, a much-needed win. It was one that we had to have, so we’re happy with it,” Gentry said.
Starters Light it Up, Take a Seat
There were two things about the starting five that provided the Suns a major boost, both for Wednesday’s game and for the next three games that occur in four days.
First, the starters paced the team early and steadied the ship, while Phoenix was on its way to tying its season-high in points with 125.
Behind Gortat’s team-high 20 points, Frye’s 19, Jared Dudley’s 18, Shannon Brown’s 16 and Steve Nash’s 13 assists – and six points – the starting five accounted for 63 percent of the Suns’ points. That group also shot 68 percent from the field.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, the only starter to log more than 30 minutes was Brown – who did so by only three seconds.
The rest the bench afforded the starting five was something the team viewed favorably.
“Obviously all the rest we can get we take, because we play three games in the next four days. We were kind of determined not to have to stick them back in there, and we were going to ride (the bench) to the end. They did a great job,” Gentry said.
The bench also produced in their minutes. Markieff Morris, Michael Redd and Sebastian Telfair all logged more than 20 minutes. Morris led the way for the reserves with 14 points and six rebounds, Telfair added 12 points and Redd had nine.
Backup center Robin Lopez had seven points and four blocks, while Josh Childress had four points and two steals.
Suns Seize Eighth
With the Suns win and a Houston Rockets loss, Phoenix leapfrogged its nearest competitor for the last and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
But players and coaches alike didn’t put too much stock in that feat after the game; not with the majority of their goals still lying ahead.
“Congats, but at the same time I want to win all these games,” Frye said. “I don’t want to be happy like, ‘Whoopty-do, we just got eighth.’ I want to go out there and win all these games, especially the ones we have at home.
“Why not go for sixth, why not go for fifth?”