Praise be to the bench. The Suns outscored the Hawks 28-16 in the second quarter, and the bulk of the credit belongs to the second unit for Phoenix. Every point in the quarter was scored by a non-starter for the Suns, and Gentry allowed the team to make the most of their chemistry on the floor, choosing to rest Nash until there were just over three minutes left in the half. Those three minutes were the only floor time any Suns’ starter saw in the second quarter. Marcin Gortat grabbed 12 rebounds and continued to get starter’s minutes while coming off the bench (32 minutes to Robin Lopez’ 16), and four bench players for the Suns scored at least 10 points – led by Jared Dudley’s 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Most importantly, Vince Carter spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench and the Suns won – a trend of which we here at Sun-N-Gun are rather fond, on both accounts.
The fourth quarter nearly became the tale of two defenses. With Nash and the other starters sitting on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter, the Hawks made a game of it by challenging the Suns to go shot for shot with them. The Hawks scored several times in transition after forcing the Suns into bad shots, and the Phoenix defense wasn’t doing a good enough job of chasing shooters off of their spots. Nash was forced back into the game by the Hawks rapidly closing the gap, and he quickly committed a turnover and got tangled up for a jump ball with Josh Smith upon entering the game. Phoenix seemed to turn the tide with 3:26 to go in the game when Damien Wilkins was forced off of the three-point line and missed a long two.
Channing Frye saves his best for last. Frye kept the Suns in the game early, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the first quarter. He was 4-of-8 from deep on the night, but twice in the fourth – with the game on the line – Frye took his game into the post and fought for a high-percentage shot, including deep in the shot clock in the last minute to ice the game for the Suns.