Phoenix Suns Take Care of Portland Trail Blazers, Move Into Playoff Spot (for Now)
The performance from the Suns starters made the victory very unsurprising: 20 points and 10 rebounds from center Marcin Gortat, 13 assists by Steve Nash, and phenomenal shooting from both Jared Dudley and Channing Frye -- a typical formula for Suns success.
After decent shooting in the first quarter -- and hitting all six free-throws attempted within the last 67 seconds -- the Suns opened the game with a 35-24 lead last night in Phoenix.
In the second, most of the Suns weren't as hot, except for Frye, who came in with eight minutes left in the quarter.
Frye scored 12 points in the second quarter, hitting two three-pointers and missing just one shot in the quarter.
The Suns went into the locker room up 66-53.
After the Suns came out in the third quarter, their lead was cut to less than 10 points for a total of 11 seconds.
The Blazers' J.J. Hickson buried a three to cut the Suns' lead to nine, as Phoenix called a timeout after that bucket.
Dudley put home a layup on the possession coming out of a timeout, and Hickson was called for traveling on the next possession.
A few seconds later, Shannon Brown dropped in a three-pointer, putting the Suns' lead back up to 14.
By the end of the quarter, that lead was 17.
The Suns' bench-riders -- Sebastian Telfair, Josh Childress, Markieff Morris, Robin Lopez, and Michael Redd -- played the entire fourth quarter, and were able to extend that lead a bit to win the game by 18.
Portland wasn't exactly playing with a stellar lineup, though, as Hickson was on the floor with guys like Hasheem Thabeet and Craig Smith in the fourth quarter.
Still, the Suns' shooters were red hot -- Frye was eight of 11. Dudley was eight of 10. Gortat dropped in eight of his 13, and Brown hit seven of 10.
This might go without saying, but some of the best shots were set up by Nash, who led the game in assists -- in typical fashion.
Redd was the only one out of the 10 Suns players on the floor last night to shoot less than 50 percent from the field, as he hit just one of his seven shots -- a three pointer. He was perfect in his six free-throw attempts, though.
With last night's win, the Suns need to keep it up to make the playoffs.
The Suns have the same record as the Houston Rockets, but the Suns own the tiebreaker, leaving the Suns barely hanging on to the last playoff spot in the West with five games to go.
Before anyone gets ahead of themselves with playoff talk, though, the next two Suns games are at home against Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers -- the number two- and four-seeded teams in the conference.
The game after that is home against the current six-seed, Denver.
After a quick-trip to Utah on Tuesday to play the Jazz -- a team just a half-game behind the Suns in the playoff race -- the Suns finish the regular season on April 25, at home against the conference-leading San Antonio Spurs.
Houston's remaining games are against some weaker opponents, including two games against the last-place New Orleans Hornets, and one against the third-to-last-place Golden State Warriors.
A betting man would likely opt for the Rockets to take the final playoff spot instead of Phoenix, but if the Suns can keep shooting like they did last night, they can beat anyone in the league.