Suns Defense Didn't Suck, and Phoenix Won the Turnover War in Victory Over Denver
The Suns have looked good for two games in a row! Unfortunately, they lost the first of these in a heartbreaker against an emerging Portland team.
On Saturday night, Phoenix actually won the turnover war (16 to 21) against a good Denver Nuggets team, and therefore the game. Keeping turnovers down is a measure of success for a team that's been horrible at protecting the basketball this season.
The 17-10 Nuggets are a much better team this year, since trading Allen Iverson to Detroit for point guard Chauncey Billups. Star Carmelo Anthony tied an NBA record on December 11 with 33 points in a single quarter. He went on to score 45 in that game against Minnesota.
And the key to Saturday night's game at US Airways Center against Denver was that the Suns held Anthony (pictured in an unhappy moment) to 10 points and one rebound.
Which means that the Suns, mostly Amare Stoudemire, played excellent defense on him. Yeah, we didn't stutter, we said Amare owned a power forward who's averaging 21 points and seven rebounds a game.
We didn't say the Suns as a whole played great defense, mind you, but their overall D didn't suck on this night.
Stoudemire's truly working on all facets of his game. He had 27 points and 10 rebounds against Denver -- which shows you how Anthony handled him.
It helped to have Shaquille O'Neal in the middle, too. Shaq may be too old to be the focus of the Suns' offense, but he's one hell of a role player. He again was a big presence inside, scoring 19 points and snagging nine boards.
All five Suns starters were in double-figures. Steve Nash had 16 points and 11 assists, and new Suns star, shooting guard Jason Richardson, had 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Richardson's been a good pick-up for Suns GM Steve Kerr. He's a consistent player who will aveage 20 points a game when he gets fully accustomed to Phoenix's system.
It was a close game, with 12 lead changes and 10 ties, but the Suns ( now 16-11) held on to win 108-101.
The other day, O'Neal mentioned his frustration over the Suns inability to close out games -- as in the loss in the last seconds to the Trail Blazers -- and this was a night when Phoenix protected the ball (that is, didn't turn it over in crunch time) and won.
We won't go so far as saying it was a statement game, but it did show that this year's Suns have a positive future. Maybe. -- Rick Barrs