After going down by 11 points to the Houston Rockets in the second quarter it looked like the Phoenix Suns were going to fall victim to the "First Game Back From A Long Road Trip Syndrome" as they were sluggish and sloppy offensively and struggled adjusting to life without the injured Channing Frye. But a strong push to close out the half gave the home team the boost they needed to overtake the Rockets and stay ahead of one of their rivals for a playoff spot.
"The last game of the road trip and the next one off the trip is usually the toughest one, but we were able to fight though it," Vince Carter said. "We gave ourselves a chance in the last five minutes of the game and found a way to win."
Carter had one of his best games as a Sun, scoring 32 points on 13-17 shooting including 15 points in the fourth quarter to put the game away. He handled the ball a bit more tonight and was both more aggressive going to the rim and more disciplined in his shot selection. This is the guy the Suns need to help replace Jason Richardson and pick up the scoring load from the hobbled Steve Nash and the injured Frye.
Hakim Warrick, starting at power forward in place of Frye, was perhaps an even bigger star tonight than Carter. Warrick scored both inside and out as his finished at the rim with his typically high-flying style but also mixed in a very effective mid-range shot. He finished with a career-high 32 points to go with eight rebounds.
"This game is mostly confidence, so you see the ball go in the basket and you're going to continue to be aggressive and no matter what I'm going to be aggressive. But once you get some early buckets it really helps you out," Warrick said after the game.
The game for the Suns was marred by the early second-quarter ejection of Mickael Pietrus who received a first technical foul after arguing a call. He continued to argue with the official and reportedly used foul language which got him tossed him from the game. His coach was not happy.
"I was a little bit disappointed in that. We're a little bit short-handed and obviously we need him. It's something that we'll talk about tomorrow," Gentry said about Pietrus' poor self-control.
Brooks vs. Dragic
In the battle of the traded backup point guards, ex-Sun Goran Dragic got the better of the meeting. Aaron Brooks went 0-6 in 12 minutes and added two turnovers to his zero points and four fouls box score. He was unable to get past the defense of Dragic and had the ball stolen by Goran once and made several bad passes.
Dragic didn't shoot the ball well either (0-4) but he was able to get to the line where he scored six points (6-8 from the line) and had three assists, one steal, and one block on the night.
Dragic said after the game that he appreciated the applause the Phoenix fans gave him and he had fun playing against Steve Nash, "I play only two minutes against Steve. Every time when you play against your mentor it's a challenge, it's a great challenge for myself."
Visit the SB Nation Arizona YouTube Channel for video from Coach Alvin Gentry's press conference and locker room interviews of Vince Carter, Goran Dragic and Grant Hill