Two nights. Two games. Two wins for the Phoenix Suns over Western Conference rivals. The first over the hated Los Angeles Lakers on their floor, where the Suns have struggled, and the second at home against the Denver Nuggets, who haven't won in Phoenix in 11 (now 12) tries.
You would think the Lakers win would be more satisfying and more fulfilling for the team, but when you consider how the games were won, there's really no comparison. Grant Hill explains:
"They're all satisfying. Obviously, last night (against the Lakers) was great, but we were just hot, you know. Typically, when you make 22 threes in a game, you're going to win. First team to a hundred and you're going to win. Even with that, we had to grind it out; we could have lost down the stretch.
"But tonight was good because we were a little tired. It wasn't going for us, playing against a team that's been waiting for us -- hadn't played since, I think, Thursday. For us to just regroup, not mail it in at halftime, but come out and still fight and compete and give ourselves a chance to get back in the game and ultimately win it -- I think it was more fulfilling."
I couldn't agree more. You aren't going to win many games taking 40 three-point shots and getting killed on the glass and in the paint. That's not a way to be successful in the NBA, even if it did work against the Lakers thanks in part to their lazy defense and, of course, with full credit to the scorching-hot shooting from the Suns.
The win against the Nuggets, however, was a character test. A battle of wills and a gut check that the Suns passed with flying colors. After the first half that saw a tired-looking Suns team go down by 12, it would have been extremely easy to call it a night and blame the schedule for the loss and move on. No shame in that, really. At least not in the 82-game schedule of the NBA.
But the Suns dug down and rallied and found different ways to attack the Nuggets and defend their primary threats. Denver certainly helped things by playing so much isolation basketball and by continuously switching on the Suns' pick-and-roll, but in the end it wasn't the 4-for-20 three-point shooting that won the game for the Suns. It was character and determination.
These early season wins over Utah on the road, in come-back buzzer-beating fashion against Memphis, against an undefeated Atlanta team and over the hated Lakers were all nice. But for a tired team to battle back from a 15-point deficit in refuse-to-die fashion is by far the more impressive of the young season.
Bravo, Suns. Bravo.