Suns Escape L.A. Victorious - 109-107
The Phoenix Suns entered a new era on Wednesday night some would say... lowered expecations era. While the team is still exciting to watch and can play with virtually any team on a given night, many NBA analysts are writing the Suns off as a likely playoff team, but nothing more. That's all fine & dandy, but the season is long, players get traded and really, anything is possible. I'm not writing this team off until they're a) out of playoff contention or b) eliminated in the playoffs. I expect good things out of the new squad and believe the Western Conference is open for opportunity (save for San Antonio & the Lakers).
Facing the LA Clippers in the season opener, the Suns got a chance to compete (for real) against a pretty decent team. This was no exhibition or match-up where the teams would rest their best players; this was the real deal & PHX came to play. Trailing for much of the game, the Suns needed a valiant 4th quarter to pull out the victory, led by their clutch shots and surprisingly effective defense down the stretch. Final score - 109-107
Coming into the game, I expected the Clippers to dominate Phoenix on the boards, but the Suns were close at half and finished w/ a 36-35 advantage over a formidable front line for L.A. (Camby & Kaman). Grant Hill led all players w/ 13 rebounds, while Jared Dudley grabbed 7 & rookie Earl Clark 5 for the Suns.
Steve Nash was his reserved through most of the game, but came on when it counted (typical Nash). Without Shaq in the paint clogging up his path, Steve was more free to dribble penetrate and keep the Clippers' on their toes. His amazing under-hand scoop layup to clinch the game was superb & vintage Nash, but his previous shots were just as important as the clincher.
Amare Stoudemire made a great play defensively to close out the game (yes, read it again) on Eric Gordon. While the play was somewhat questionable, STAT really did what he needed to disrupt the shot w/out causing the foul and giving Gordon 3 FT's. Stoudemire didn't dominate the game, but anytime you're going up against Camby/Kaman, I think that's to be expected a little bit. They are tough challenge in the post.
And while Nash excelled and probably saved the game, it was another NBA veteran who I think deserves the game ball - Grant Hill. Grant helped set the pace early by getting on the boards, scoring and showing hustle to inspire his team.