Newsroom Notes: Suns Start Strong, Disarm Warriors

February 6, 2009

By Stefan Swiat,

It was the one-year anniversary of the Suns’ acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal and the Suns celebrated it by capturing a 115-105 home victory over the Warriors. Grant Hill played inspired basketball, leading five Phoenix players in double figures and shooting 12-of-17 from the floor to finish with a season-high 27 points.

“We did a good job of moving the ball offensively, getting attempts at the basket and had a good mix of things,” Suns head Coach Terry Porter said. “I just thought defensively we did a much better job of taking the challenge really making those guys work for everything that they had at the offensive end.”

A game after a dispiriting performance against Golden State, Phoenix bounced back with vigor, racing out to a 15-2 lead in the first quarter. Despite Shaq being saddled to the bench with two quick fouls, the Suns reverted to their fast break-ways, running all over the small-ball-playing Warriors. The Suns received nine points apiece from Amar’e Stoudemire and Hill, posting 31 points in the opening period.

“I was upset with myself the last game in Golden State because I felt that I didn’t play hard,” Hill said. “I was kind of waiting for this game. I couldn’t sleep today.”

The Warriors would answer, however, holding the lead as late as two minutes left in the third period. But in the fourth, Phoenix answered the bell, thanks to the defensive efforts of their captains. Both Hill and Steve Nash led the charge in actually picking up charges, drawing three apiece. Each player drew one of those momentum-changing fouls late in the fourth at critical moments.

Despite struggling from the floor early, Nash found his stride late in the action, nailing a backbreaking, 19-foot jumper with 31.6 ticks left to make it 113-105 and all but seal the win. The 6-3 guard followed that dagger with a similar jumper off of a pick-and-roll with 8.7 remaining for insurance. He finished the night with 19 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals.

Jason Richardson, the Suns’ X-factor, proved his value once again by torching his former team for 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. It is his third straight game where he has scored over 20 points, accomplishing that feat by making aggressive drives to the basket. Phoenix, which 24-8 when its shooting guard scores over 20 points, improved to 5-2 this season when J-Rich does it.

Although the Warriors are knows for their ability to run-and-gun, the Suns outscored Golden State 22-2 on fast break points in the first half. Phoenix finished with a 30-5 advantage in that category.

Capitalizing on mismatches near the basket, the Suns outscored the Warriors by 20 points in the paint. Not only were Richardson and Hill posting up smaller defenders, but Stoudemire was able to collect 19 points and 15 boards, with many of his buckets coming on assaults towards the rim.

The Warriors were led by Corey Maggette’s 25 points off the bench and Stephen Jackson’s 24. The Suns will embark on a three-game road trip that starts with Detroit on Sunday. After playing in Philadelphia on Monday, they finish the trip with Cleveland, who has been undefeated at home this season.