Dragic’s Epic Effort Puts Suns One Win Away From West Finals

Goran Dragic enjoyed his best performance as a Sun during a playoff game against the Spurs in 2010.
(NBAE/Getty Images)
By Josh Greene, Suns.com
Posted: May 7, 2010

What do you get the birthday boy who has everything?

Never mind, it’s what he can get you.

One day after celebrating his 24th birthday, a career playoff night from Goran Dragic Friday has the Suns one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals, after Phoenix’s come-from-behind 110-96 victory in Game 3. The backup point guard tallied 26 points in the second half, with 23 of them coming in the final frame to push the Suns to a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven series vs. San Antonio.

“At halftime,” Dragic said, “Coach (Alvin) Gentry told me I needed to be more aggressive on the court, and I just did it. I got hot. I wanted the ball and to play a bigger role. Coach said, ‘If you feel it, shoot it.’ I just tried to penetrate and score.

“I started to play when Alvin took over the team. He said “Kid, don’t worry. Just play your game.’ Over the season, I’ve done that. Now, I feel like I belong out on the court with my teammates.”

Held scoreless on five attempts in Wednesday’s Game 2, the Slovenian was 10-of-13 from the field 48 hours later, including a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range to go along with three rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 17 minutes.

“When we put him in the game,” Head Coach Alvin Gentry said, “we told him he had to be aggressive. Even at the risk of making some mistake, we told him he had to be aggressive. I think everyone forgets what a great athlete he is. He’s as fast with the ball as anyone on our team. When he’s playing with confidence, he’s got a lot of little tricks and he shoots the ball exceptionally well.”

Entering the game averaging 5.6 ppg in his first career postseason, it was the young guard’s layup in the opening minute of the fourth quarter that gave Phoenix its first lead of the night, officially erasing a one-time 18-point deficit.

“I don’t know how many guys in the history of the game that have had a quarter like that in the fourth quarter of the playoffs,” said Steve Nash, who had 16 points, eight boards and six assists in the game. “It was pretty remarkable. I am incredibly proud of him. We have a lot of confidence in him, and we have been waiting for him to get confident in himself and into a rhythm and flow. Obviously, he got that over that tonight. It was a pleasure to watch and be a part of not only for him but for our franchise. It was a great moment. To play as he did, it’s something that I will remember for a long time.”

SECOND UNIT BY NO MEANS SECOND RATE

Goran Dragic wasn’t the only member of Alvin Gentry’s bench to have a big night in Game 3. One game after sinking five three-pointers, Channing Frye sank three more vs. the Spurs Friday and added five boards. Leandro Barbosa rebounded from a three-point showing in Game 2’s win in Phoenix with 13 points, four rebounds and an assist vs. Tim Duncan and Co. to help give the Suns a 3-0 series lead.

“Barbosa got it going, had some isolations and was really brilliant for us during that stretch to start the fourth quarter,” Nash said. “Goran got a few cracks and got going, rattling bucket after bucket. Obviously the lineup that was out there was to spread the floor with five shooters with Tim on the floor. We wanted to make it difficult for him to cover one of the guards, and Barbosa and Dragic made it difficult.”

Another All-Star member of the Suns is equally impressed with the second unit’s overall impact this season.

“We have a great team and a great supporting cast,” said Amar’e Stoudemire , who had eight rebounds, seven points and four assists Friday. “The guys have been phenomenal all season long, and they have been contributing. The second unit has been great for us.”

NOTHING’S OVER YET

The Suns are one victory away from their first West Finals appearance since 2006, but they aren’t expecting San Antonio to go down quietly Sunday in Game 4, even though no NBA team has ever rebounded from an 0-3 start to win a best-of-seven series.

“We’re only up 3-0,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “We have one more win to go. The Spurs have a championship pedigree. They’ll come out strong in Game 4, so we need to do that, as well.”