Jason Richardson probably thinks every night at US Airways Center is as exciting as his first. And if he’s able to make the kind of contributions he did in his Suns debut Friday night, perhaps the place will start rocking again.
Richardson was one of three Suns to score 21 points in his Phoenix debut. But it was Grant Hill’s reverse layup off a pretty Amaré Stoudemire assist with 2.7 seconds left that was the difference in a 113-112 Suns win that had the locals on their feet for what seems like the first time this season.
“I thought I might be open. I was more surprised that Amaré threw it,” Hill said with a devilish smile. “Then I had to decide, 'Should I try to dunk or … nah, just lay it up.’ Those days are long gone.”
But happier days may be ahead for Phoenix. Without Shaquille O’Neal and with Richardson fighting jet lag from his cross-country trip, the Suns put up a quality win against the 17-6 Magic and showed that their new lineup will be quite formidable — at least offensively.
Orlando lost Dwight Howard to a left knee injury in three minutes into the third quarter – which was key since he had already thrown down 19 points, seven rebounds and four goaltending spikes. But after allowing a season-low 16 points to Orlando in the third period, the Phoenix defense regressed and Hedo Turkoglu, who had missed 14 of 17 shots previously, capped a 35-point fourth quarter by canning a 19-footer with 9.9 seconds left to give the Magic a one-point lead.
But Stoudemire, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds and is now 7-0 in games he’s played against Howard and the Magic, took the inbounds pass from Hill and found him open on a backdoor play when Jameer Miller over-committed on defense.
“Either Grant was going to be open, Steve (Nash) or myself,” said Stoudemire, who now has his seventh straight game with 20 points or more. “It was a great play that Coach (Terry) Porter designed and very hard to defend. They picked their poison, I found Grant and it was over.”
Not quite. The Magic had one more gasp, but Rashard Lewis’ desperation 3-ball never got near the rim and the Suns had their first three-game winning streak at home this season.
Nash had 21 points and 10 assists, passing Hall of Famer Bob Cousy for 13th on the all-time NBA assist list in the process.