Imagine Dirk Nowitzki brawling with Pat Burke during the Western Conference finals and drawing a five-game suspension. Or how about Tim Duncan charging a Suns equipment man and having to miss an entire playoff series vs. the Suns? It’s not a strategy to count on, yet who knows?
No matter who they play these days, the Suns see a key opponent or two bow out for various reasons.
On Sunday night, the Suns got another win over a depleted opponent, this time a 131-102 blowout of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The T-Wolves were missing superstar Kevin Garnett, suspended by the NBA for an altercation in the T-Wolves’ previous game, and Ricky Davis, the Wolves’ No. 2 scorer who was suspended by the team for walking off the floor in protest of being taken out of a game.
So it was just a matter of time before the Suns rolled to their 13th straight win. That time came midway through the third quarter when they broke open a close (71-65) game.
The Suns then scored 12 straight, a run they extended to a stunning 31-2 and a 102-67 lead.
“You want to play everybody with their best players,” Shawn Marion said.
“But it’s the NBA. People go out with injuries, people get suspended.
“You never know what’s going to happen.”
Maybe MVP candidate Gilbert Arenas will stub his toe before the Suns visit the Washington Wizards Tuesday, the opener of a five-game trip.
“We’ve had some breaks,” acknowledged Suns coach Mike D’Antoni. “At the same time, we’re playing good basketball.”
Make that great basketball in this game, in which nobody played more than Marion’s 31 minutes, and in which even Sean Marks got to play.
“This gives the bench a chance to play and gets us some rest,” said Steve Nash, who had 16 points, 11 assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes.
In winning, the Suns (32-8) became the eighth team in NBA history to run up two winning streaks of at least 13 games in the same season; they won 15 straight just before this streak.
Consider, too, that:
• As they approach the season’s halfway point, they’re on a pace to set a franchise record with 66 wins.
• They had just one win streak of 13 or more in 38 seasons, but have two in 40 games this season.
• They can tie the franchise’s second-longest streak (14, set in 1992-93, Charles Barkley’s first year with the Suns) when they play the Wizards Tuesday.
• They’re 11-0 this month.
Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey was impressed, saying, “There’s a reason why this team has won almost 30 games in a row, and they played like it tonight.”
Particularly active was Marion, who grabbed 20 rebounds. He might have broken his career mark of 24 had the game not been a blowout.
Marion seemed to be able to read the rebounds even before they hit the rim.
“If it bounces … I feel it will come my way,” he said.
The Suns will practice today in Phoenix then fly East.
BEARD MAY GO
Steve Nash may not wait until the Suns lose to shave off the beard that’s starting to make him resemble a lumberjack.
“It’s getting pretty irritated,” he said. “I’ll probably shave it before we get away on the road trip.”
HE’D DO IT AGAIN
Kevin Garnett doesn’t seem to regret the Friday night incident which caused him to be suspended for the T-Wolves’ game vs. the Suns.
Garnett started the incident by throwing the ball at Detroit’s Antonio McDyess. Garnett said he retaliated after McDyess had knocked teammate Mark Madsen to the floor while they battled for rebounding position.
Garnett also flailed his arms at McDyess; the NBA ruled he threw a punch.
Garnett indicated if the same situation occurred, he’d once again stick up for his teammate.
“If we did it again, we’d do it again,” Garnett said, declining to comment further.
Here’s a partial list of key opposing players who have been missing during Suns wins this season:
Pau Gasol; Baron Davis; Ron Artest; Wally Szczerbiak; Shaquille O’Neal (twice); Dwyane Wade (twice); Jason Richardson (twice); Chris Bosh; Chauncey Billups; Kirk Hinrich; T.J. Ford; Rashard Lewis; Yao Ming; Tracy Mc-Grady; Garnett and Davis.
D’Antoni has no apologies for his team’s good fortune, saying no opponent would weep “if we didn’t bring Steve Nash to the arena.”
He acknowledged a large number of key opponents have been out, but, “In our mind, we win anyway.”
Though the Suns have fended off strong challenges lately, they’ve actually won by a wider margin in this 13-game win streak (13.6 points per game) than during their previous 15-game streak (11.3).