The Phoenix Suns, with their backs against the wall in a tight playoff race that might well be considered the NBA equivalent of the Cold War, just continue to overachieve. Led by a monster game from Gerald Green, the Suns shocked the Oklahoma City Thunder last night in an epic 128-122 shootout. Green’s game elevated to G-Air-ld status, and like the proverbial phoenix, from the ashes of his former limitations and forged in the flames of Jeff Hornacek something beautiful has taken flight.
All this is a fancy way of saying Gerald Green went bonkers last night. He finished with a career-high 41 points and went 8-for-13 from three-point range. In the third quarter, with the Suns trailing by as many as 16, Green went full NBA Jam-mode and caught fire, dropping 25 points and injecting life into a US Airways Center crowd that was none too thrilled with the team’s defense, or lack thereof. His two-handed slam in the fourth quarter only reaffirmed what the anxious crowd, waiting to burst, was realizing: the Suns don’t back down from anybody.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 7, 2014
But like the Suns have had to do many times in the past few weeks, they found a way to pull out an unexpected win by putting the ball in the basket. It was a complete offensive shootout, with everyone doing their part. Despite Russell Westbrook‘s 36 points, nine rebounds and nine assists along with Kevin Durant‘s 34 points, seven rebounds and five assists, the Suns were able to get a couple of key stops late by securing defensive rebounds and capitalizing with consistent, time-winding offense on the other end.
Goran Dragic, despite disappearing for the third and most of the fourth quarter, came up big late in the game with a couple of key buckets that prevented the game from slipping away. His driving layup with just over two minutes to play tied the game at 118 and his three-point play on the ensuing possession reminded the rocking arena that you can never count this team out. He missed the free throw as chants of “MVP!” rained down, true, but he more than made up for it with a dagger jumper over Westbrook out of an isolation. Dragic finished with 22 points and four assists.
DRAGIC IS SLOVENIAN FOR EAT THIS DAGGER
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) March 7, 2014
We’d be remiss, however, to fail to mention the 39 points Phoenix got off the bench from the Morri, who continue to astound. Markieff Morris finished with 24 and six rebounds while Marcus Morris added 15 points and a trio of three-pointers. It was that kind of balanced scoring (not to mention G-Air-ld’s 41 points) that eventually sunk the Thunder.
Capitalizing on home court advantage against a team like Oklahoma City was huge, not only because it was the biggest win of the season for this fun Phoenix team, but also because the Suns of Anarchy are still fighting for their playoff lives. With road games against the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers coming up, the Suns absolutely need any win they can scrap out.
Phoenix is currently in the No. 7 spot, a half-game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks and 1.5 games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies. For you optimists out there, last night’s win pulled the Suns to within 1.5 games of the Golden State Warriors for the No. 6 seed. If the Suns can get a win at Oracle Arena, it’s not out of the question they snag the that No. 6 spot, especially with Goran Dragic playing like a legitimate top-five MVP candidate and Gerald Green making his case for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award.
No matter how you slice it, the Suns will have a brutal first-round matchup if they hold on and make it to the postseason. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and LA Clippers are all seen as Western favorites depending on who you ask. But if the Suns do get that worst-case scenario and are paired up with OKC in the first round, we can only hope that every game in the series is at least as entertaining as last night’s incredible victory. With this team continually finding ways to win, there’s belief in the air for the first time in four years. Here’s looking at you, G-Air-ld and Goran.
Fantastic Suns win. My 1st-team All-NBA ballot right now: Durant + Lebron (F), Noah (C), Curry + Dragic (G). 6 weeks to go.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 7, 2014