A spectator during most of Phoenix’s eight-game winning streak, Raja Bell finally got a chance to contribute Friday – with mixed results.
After missing five of the past six games with ankle and back problems, Bell was able to log 34 minutes in Friday’s 113-94 win over the Clippers. And there is plenty of rust removal ahead – Bell missed eight of 12 shots, committed five fouls and looked frustrated with himself at times – but the Suns are more than willing to wait for the kinks to be worked out.
Bell looked better in the fourth quarter, scoring seven points including five in the final 2:14 when the Suns closed the game with an 11-0 run to finish off the win.
“It was good to get Raja back in there,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s a little rusty and it will take him a couple of games, just like it will take us a couple of games to get used to him.”
There seemed to be a domino effect. Back on the bench for the first time in awhile, Leandro Barbosa also slumped (2-for-10) and scored a season-low six points – sitting out the final 8:33 of the game.
“I’m sure L.B. had a little bit of a letdown (not starting) and that’s normal,” D’Antoni said. “But it’s about time he missed some shots, he hasn’t missed any in three weeks.”
You can usually tell what kind of night Amaré Stoudemire is going to have very early by the spring in his step and his aggressiveness going to the basket. And when Stoudemire flew to the basket for a hammer dunk just 29 seconds into the game, the question was answered.
“I was ready to go from the jump ball,” said Stoudemire, who enjoyed the Thanksgiving off-day and produced a season-best 29 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes. “A couple of easy baskets definitely got me going and I was getting some nice passes inside. I could tell tonight was going to be good for me, and my teammates did most of the work. I just finished.”
And what rebounds Stoudemire didn’t get, backup Boris Diaw did – grabbing 11 in 28 minutes.
“He’s a big part of what we do,” D’Antoni said of Diaw. “It’s like when you make a nice pie. Not everybody can be the cherries or the sugar or whatever. Somebody has to do all of the other stuff, and he does everything else.”
Nash played only 27 minutes in Wednesday’s win over Sacramento – the third time this year that he’s played 28 minutes or less this season. He went into Friday averaging 33.8 minutes, three minutes less than last season (36.8) and less than at the same juncture of 2005-06 (36.7) and 2004-05 (34.8).
That hasn’t kept Nash from leading the league in assists (10.8 a game) or registering three games with at least 30 points and three games with at least 15 assists.
Nash played 35 minutes Friday, producing 20 points and 10 assists for his ninth double-double of the season. He also hit all six of his free throws this season and has started the season 36-for-36 from the line. Washington’s Darius Songalia has yet to miss (21-for-21).
The Suns are 11-0 when reaching 100 points this season – which hasn’t been a problem during this eight-game winning streak when they’ve averaged 111.5 points a game. Phoenix now leads the league in scoring again at 108.5 points. …
Marion said he thinks Clippers center Chris Kaman made a wise choice clipping off his long blond locks in favor of a shorter haircut this year. “I told him this was better, he used to look like the dude from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” …
Going into Friday, the Suns were the only team in the NBA with four players shooting better than 50 percent from the field: Nash (.542), Stoudemire (.519), Shawn Marion (.509) and Barbosa (.503).