Previous week’s games
11/12/09 Lakers 121, SUNS 102
11/15/09 SUNS 101, Raptors 100
11/17/09 SUNS 111, Rockets 105
This week’s games
11/19/09 SUNS @ Hornets 6 p.m., TNT
11/22/09 SUNS vs Pistons 6 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
11/25/09 SUNS vs Grizzlies 7 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona
Down double figures? Trailing going into the fourth quarter? These are the types of things that would have caused the Suns to give up on games last year. This year, though, has been a much different story. This Suns team has a lot of fight in them. I realize everyone else in the blog world is already talking about the Suns’ new-found toughness, but why wouldn’t I do the same, considering this is what this year’s team has been all about up to this point.
Five times this year the Suns have won games after overcoming double-digit deficits. Five times! Last year, they did this a total of seven times (I believe) over the entire 82-game season. A huge part of the Suns’ grittiness this year has been the play of the bench. The second unit has kept the Suns in games by doing the little things that don’t show up in the box score at the end of the night. They keep the game close in the middle quarters, which allows the starters to come in fresh to close the games out.
Jared Dudley has been the biggest star off the bench through the first 12 games of the season. His defense and intensity have been a big lift for this team. Despite being obviously much slower than most the players he guards, and quite possibly the slowest player on the court at times, he still manages to stay in front of his man. I have no idea how he does this. It takes him 30 minutes to sprint down the court, yet he keeps the Rockets’ Trevor Ariza in front of him? Insane to believe, but inspiring to see.
Jaron Collins received his first significant minutes of the season Tuesday against the Rockets and what minutes they were. In roughly 13 minutes of play, Collins had six rebounds, two blocks and six points on 3-3 shooting from the field, including the basket that essentially sealed the victory off of an excellent pass from Amar’e Stoudemire. Collins showed he’s a real pro. Despite the limited playing and practice time, the guy came in and did everything you could ask him to and then some.
The hustle and heart of the role players is clearly bleeding over to the stars of this team as well. In the closing minutes of the game against the Rockets, Stoudemire and Steve Nash, historically known as the Suns’ two weakest defenders, came up with huge defensive stops on the same possession. First, Stoudemire showed some incredible footwork by moving his feet and staying in front of the über-quick Ariza and forcing him into a missed jump shot. Unfortunately, the Rockets got the offensive board; however, that’s when Nash showed his impressive D. On the offensive reset, Aaron Brooks tried to beat him off the dribble, and Nash would have none of that, forcing Brooks into one of his many missed jumpers on the night. That’s something Suns fans aren’t used to seeing, but could quickly grow accustomed to.
What has this new intensity and effort on the defensive end and boards led to? Just 24 tacos (two every time the Suns score 100 points) and the first team to 10 wins. Not too bad if I do say so myself, and I do.