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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Phoenix Suns Cruise to Victory Against Lottomatica Roma

The Phoenix Suns got off to a 13-5 start en route to a 100-93 win over Lottomatica Roma. Could there possibly be an NBA team better suited for the NBA Europe Live Tour than Phoenix? Their coach, Mike D'Antoni, was a legendary player and coach in Italy for many years, and they regularly play a free flowing style based on ball and player movement. D'Antoni even conducted his postgame press conference in Italian, no doubt delighting the locals, though it must have frustrated NBA TV, which provided neither subtitles nor translation.

Phoenix led 27-17 after the first quarter and pushed the margin to 36-22 before a 12-2 Lottomatica run closed the gap to 38-34. The Suns countered with a 16-9 spurt to take a 54-43 lead into intermission. Shawn Marion led Phoenix' attack with 14 points, while ex-Temple Owl David Hawkins had 12 for Lottomatica. Dejan Bodiroga contributed 11 points. Before the game, D'Antoni said, "Bodiroga for years has been the best European player. He's definitely the best European player never to play in the NBA." The Suns built their first half lead largely on the strength of 16-16 free throw shooting and 6-14 three point field goal accuracy; Lottomatica shot 7-11 on free throws and just 2-10 from the three point line.

Hawkins scored four points in a 9-4 run to open the third quarter, as Lottomatica cut the margin to 59-52. Raja Bell answered with a three pointer and a couple possessions later Steve Nash tossed a gorgeous alley oop to Marion, putting Phoenix ahead 64-52. Phoenix extended that to a 78-62 bulge and still led 84-70 going into the fourth quarter.

Phoenix missed a lot of easy shots in the fourth quarter, which is not unexpected for a running team still getting its legs in the early stages of training camp. Lottomatica fought hard throughout the game and battled back to 91-85 but Marion's three point play put Phoenix ahead 94-85. That was the start of a 9-0 run that gave Phoenix a commanding 100-85 advantage with less than two minutes to play; that sealed the outcome in Phoenix' favor, although Lottomatica scored a few baskets in the last minute and a half to make the score look better. Marion finished with 19 points, while Leandro Barbosa and Bell had 18 each. Hawkins had a game-high 22 points and Bodiroga scored 17.

There are some dark clouds in the Valley of the Sun, though. Amare Stoudemire's surgically repaired knee is still not healthy enough for him to resume a full practice schedule and now his other knee is bothering him as well. NBA TV reported that he may not be back in the lineup until January. We can only hope that his career is not heading in the same direction as fellow microfracture surgery alums Penny Hardaway and Allan Houston.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:39 AM


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