Amaré Stoudemire was struggling defensively. There wasn’t a Golden State big man for Kurt Thomas to guard and the breakneck tempo was a bit too swift for Jalen Rose.
So with the Warriors trying to close out the Suns with a small lineup and a fifth straight road loss staring his team in the face Monday, coach Mike D’Antoni reached back and went with a lineup of familiar faces down the stretch.
Looking for a spark, D’Antoni stuck with Boris Diaw, Shawn Marion and James Jones up front and Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell and Steve Nash sharing the backcourt. The blast-from-the-past Suns caught fire, reeled in the Warriors and won the type of game they have been losing this year.
Barbosa, Bell, Jones and Nash — the heart of a team that set an NBA record for 3-pointers last year — combined to hit all 13 for Phoenix against the Warriors — including Nash’s bomb with 4.1 seconds left that gave the Suns a wild 113-110 win.
“The team that was on the floor won 54 games last year. I was just more comfortable with that group at the time,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t like to adjust to the other team, I’d rather they adjust to us. But they were going small and so you rely on what you think is good. We’re not in experimentation mode, we want to win games.”
The Suns have kicked away at least three games with poor defense and spotty execution down the stretch, and face another test with Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic and the New Orleans Hornets in town. But even at 4-6, D’Antoni remains convinced the team’s first run is right around the corner.
“Look, if we hit a layup against Utah (at the end of regulation), we’d have a four-game winning streak playing without Steve for two of them,” he said. “We’re playing well enough to win games, we should be 7-3 but we’re not and it’s our fault. We’re not tight on the defensive stuff. We haven’t been real good. But we’re going to be better, you can see it. And there are a lot of things to be positive about.”
The Suns got their long ball game going against Golden State.
One of those was from Jones, who had been pushed down the bench, but surfaced with seven points, five rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes Monday.
“I talked to Junior before the game. His minutes have been spotty and he’s been in and out of the lineup,” D’Antoni said. “He does a lot of stuff for us and I want to get him confidence and get him comfortable.”
Diaw came within a whisker of a triple-double (10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists) responding to D’Antoni’s call for a more aggressive effort.
“When Boris fills up the stat sheet like that, it’s exactly what we need. We become dangerous,” D’Antoni said. But that doesn’t mean Rose (four uneventful minutes) and Marcus Banks won’t play more tonight. It doesn’t mean Stoudemire, who had 16 points in 22 minutes despite looking a step slow for the first time in two weeks, won’t play the final five minutes.
“We’re still feeling our way, and some of that is my fault,” he said. “I have to know who to put on the floor at certain times. I think I have it, and then the next day it all goes to heck. If you give me too many options, I’ll find a way to mess it up.”
BONUS SHOTS: D’Antoni was surprised to see Bell at practice Tuesday. Bell’s ribs were bothering him again Monday, but he fought through it to score all 22 of his points in the second half against the Warriors. “He’s an unbelievable competitor. His ribs are messed up and he’s in pain out there. He had a bad first half and there came a point where he said. ‘The heck with it, I’m just playing.’ " . . .
Banks will hold a Thanksgiving feast from 11:30 a.m. to noon today at the Casino Arizona Pavilion at US Airways Center. Banks and his family will serve pre-cooked Thanksgiving meals to selected families, pose for photos and hand out a specially designed T-shirt to the children.
Hornets at Suns
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: US Airways Center
TV: KUTP (Ch. 45)
Radio: KTAR (620 AM, 92.3 FM)