Dare this writer use this space to call for Phoenix Suns fans to pack the US Airways Center down the stretch of the regular season? Not as a cheerleader but purely as a basketball fan. While Monday's effort from the Suns in a 125-107 win over the all-but-eliminated-from-playoff-contention Portland Trail Blazers was necessary and well, expected, the home crowd left something to be desired.
Let's just say there was a lot of purple in the house, and not people dressed as the seats in the building. The Arizona Diamondbacks were playing next door, but there season just began. The Suns are playing for something meaningful, something at which not many figured they had a shot.
Four home games of the Suns' final five of the regular season remain, and Phoenix ended the night tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with the Houston Rockets -- though technically ahead via a better conference record tiebreaker -- after Houston fell to the Denver Nuggets earlier Monday.
The Suns took care of their business, hitting 60 percent of their shots (51-for-85) and featuring six players in double figures led by Marcin Gortat with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Jared Dudley added 18, Shannon Brown (starting in place of the injured Grant Hill) 16, Markieff Morris 14 and Sebastian Telfair 12.
The Suns led by as many as 23 points in the second half and coasted to easy victory. Morris soared in for a dunk with 11:17 left in the fourth quarter to give Phoenix a 101-80 lead, and a Telfair bucket made it 105-82.
Phoenix (32-29) led by as many 15 points in the first half, shooting a sizzling 60 percent from the field. Four players were already in double figures at halftime with the Suns leading 66-53.
The Blazers trailed 43-40 with 6:38 to go in the second quarter on a basket by Nolan Smith from Jamal Crawford. But the Suns answered that with a 6-0 run and built their lead to 61-49 after Shannon Brown soared in for a dunk down the lane.
Gortat, who scored 15 of his points in the first half, set a pick that freed Brown for the jam.
The Blazers, at 28-34 on the brink of playoff elimination, looked dispirited and ready to pack it in for the season often during the game. The Suns, in need of a lot more production out of forward Channing Frye, who'd offered little in recent games, got 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting for the veteran.
Frye didn't score Saturday at San Antonio.
The blowout win allowed Gentry to give some rest to his starters, another potential advantage down the stretch with the playoffs in reach.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry said before the game that winning was not a must. Well, the Suns shot the ball like it was a must-win game for them, and the Blazers capitulated with little fight.
The Suns were once 12-19. They're 11-2 at home since the All-Star break, the best record in the Western Conference.