words // Brandon Richard
Almost every “expert” predicted that the Phoenix Suns would be one of the worst teams in the NBA prior to the season. However, they were in playoff contention until the final week. Because of that, coach Jeff Hornacek was runner-up for NBA Coach of the Year, and the team’s leader Goran Dragic brought home Most Improved Player honors today.
Dragic led the upstart Suns in both scoring and rebounding. His 20.3 points per game were up big over last season’s 14.7. He also established new career-highs in rebounding and field goal percentage and was the only player in the league to shoot at least 50% from the field and 40% from three-point range.
Indiana’s Lance Stephenson was the runner-up for the award, followed by Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans.
An adidas Basketball athlete, Dragic spent this season playing in the Rose 773 II, which is available now at Eastbay.
words // Luis Sanchez
Nike Sportswear celebrates Anfernee Hardaway’s days with the Phoenix Suns with this latest release of the Air Penny V.
Taking the court for the Phoenix Suns from 1999 to 2004, Penny would have definitely been seen in this latest release of the Air Penny V had they originally hit during his storied NBA career. The innovative Nike Basketball shoes feature a dark grey Hyperfuse upper, working together with hits of rave pink, orange and purple to bring the Phoenix Suns-inspired color scheme to life.
The all new Phoenix Suns Air Penny V is now up for grabs here at Eastbay.
Just when Suns fans thought they had pulled off the unthinkable, Ron Artest does.
When Kobe Bryant misses a game winning shot you have a chance. That chance was just a split second for the Suns, who saw it slip away as Ron Artest banked in a buzzer beater to put the Lakers within one victory of reaching their second consecutive NBA Finals.
The Phoenix Suns were trailing the Lakers by 18 points at one point last night. Then, after some mind boggling passes from Steve Nash, a missed dunk from Pau Gasol, and two offensive rebounds, the bank opened up for Jason Richardson. Richardson banked in a three point attempt from a few feet behind the stripe to tie the game with just seconds to go.
Under normal circumstances (i.e. playing against any team without Kobe Bryant), then the Suns could feel a bit confident in themselves with a comeback like that. However, Kobe Bryant was there, and ready to work his magic.
Fortunately for the Suns, he couldn’t find it. Unfortunately, Ron Artest was doing what he does best, hustling harder than the next guy. Artest’s offensive rebound and put back bucket was the dead end to Phoenix’s comeback trail.
As the Suns hopes for a 3-2 lead in the series, and a chance at clinching a Finals birth at home in Phoenix in game six vanished into thin air, the Lakers celebrated. Artest had saved the day for the Lakers, who now have the opportunity to close out the series in game six.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, this continues their home winning streak in the NBA Playoffs. Adding another notch gives them their eleventh straight, which if history is any indicator, gives them a good shot at winning the title.
For those that caught the game, at very least it could be called the best game of the Playoffs this year and undoubtedly a reminder that you won’t want to miss game six on Saturday night.
images via yahoo
The Phoenix Suns have risen. At least their bench has.
It may have been Amare Stoudemire that lifted the Suns in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, but Tuesday it was the bench that lifted the Suns past the Los Angeles Lakers to even up the best-of-seven series.
Though the game stayed close, it was an 18-3 run during the fourth quarter that put the Suns ahead for good. Channing Frye finally snapped out of a horrible shooting slump where he had Frye had missed 18 in a row, dropping in the first of four three-pointers with his second shot of the game, on his way to 14 points. Leandro Barbosa had 14 points on 6-8 shooting. Jared Dudley dropped in three three-pointers on his way to 11 points and backup point guard Goran Dragic dished 8 assists and scored 8 points as well.
In a series in which many considered over after the Lakers easily handled the Suns for the first two games in Los Angeles, returning to the desert of Arizona and a shift to a zone defense has critics second guessing themselves. The same zone defense has the Phoenix Suns believing that they can beat the defending World Champions from Los Angeles.
For the Lakers, the zone defense seems to add some concern and play into the Suns game plan, but it doesn’t seem to stop Kobe Bryant at all. Bryant finished with 38 points and 10 assists and 7 rebounds. Kobe shot an astounding 15 of 22 from the field, including 6 for 9 from downtown. The one thing he didn’t do was get to the foul line like he normally does, making only 4 attempts from the free throw line.
The zone defense may be a large part of what has brought the Suns back into the series, but anyone who watched the game last night can tell you that the fans also set the tone. As the series moves back to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for game 5 Thursday night, the Suns will have to win without the cheers of their hometown crowd and prove they can shine outside of the Arizona desert.
Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire may be the two best young big men in the NBA. Between the two are 9 NBA All-Star Games, 8 All-NBA Teams, two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, and a Rookie of the Year trophy. One glaring absence from that list is the mention of a NBA championship. While the two youngsters are certainly talented, they have not held the NBA’s ultimate prize. Dwight’s Magic appeared in the NBA Finals last season, but fell short in their bid to overcome Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Stoudemire has been a part of great Phoenix teams that just couldn’t reach that next level, never making it out of the Western Conference Finals. However, with the talent level of these two players, one would have to figure that their best years were in front of them – or were they?
Both Dwight and Amar’e were heading in the right direction coming into the conference finals. Dwight averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds through the first two rounds of the playoffs, both series being swept by his Orlando Magic. Amar’e, looking like the “STAT” of old, helped his Suns cruise through the first two rounds, including a sweep of the long time rival San Antonio Spurs. However, things took a turn for the worst for both players in the Conference Finals. Dwight and the Magic fell behind 3-0 to the Boston Celtics, largely in part to underwhelming performances from Howard. In two of the three games, Dwight was held to 3-10 shooting from the field. He also reeled in just 15 combined rebounds in games 2 and 3. Also having rebounding woes out west was Amar’e Stoudemire. He averaged just 4.5 boards in the first two games of the series, and his failure to play defensive effectively allowed the Lakers to dominate the paint. His offense also looked stagnant, and fans in Phoenix were left wondering what happened to the Stoudemire of the first two series. Would these two players respond or were they mentally checked out of the playoffs already?
Amar’e answered his critics in Sunday night’s game 3. After averaging just 20 points and 4 rebounds in the first two games, Stoudemire erupted for 42 points and 11 rebounds. “I wanted to attack their bigs a little bit and get them into foul trouble,” said Stoudemire. That plan worked to perfection, as he routinely attacked the basket, drawing fouls in the process. The result was 18 free throw attempts Amar’e, with 14 of them finding the bottom of the net. He also had his hand in Phoenix’s zone defensive strategy, which puzzled the Lakers offense for majority of the game.
Last night, Howard had a coming out party of his own. After the NBA’s leading rebounder failed to secure double-digit boards in the previous two games, he cradled 16 on the night, 5 of them being on the offensive side of the ball. Howard also poured in a playoff-high 32 points and added 4 blocked shots to help the Magic avoid a series sweep. After the game, it was revealed that Howard received a phone call from NBA Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon prior to the game. “Me and him had a great talk,” Howard said. “He just inspired me to keep playing.” Critics have urged Dwight to reach out to Olajuwon for help with his post game for years. Could this be the start of a new working relationship?
Needless to say, one game doesn’t get it done. The Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic still find themselves down in their respective series. Phoenix has the opportunity to even things up tonight. Orlando is in must-win mode the rest of the way. For their teams to have continued success, Amar’e and Dwight will need to have more games like their most recent outings.
images via Yahoo