PHOENIX -- They had the best seat in the house,
"The bench was phenomenal," Nash said. "They were intelligent. They made good decisions. And, you know, they were easily the difference tonight."
Everywhere you looked, a Sun was producing.
"The [second team] really believe in themselves," Gentry said. "You know, the thing that kind of hurt them the most is that they have been coming into games where we have been down nine, down 11 and they play pretty good, but it's an uphill battle for them. Tonight they came in, tie score, and I thought played about as well as they could play."
Watching all this unfold from his seat, Suns GM
"[Kerr] wanted us to mentor these guys," Hill said. "Show them how to do things the right way, how to be professional. It helped that he brought in guys with high character who bought in to how we want to play and brought a lot of enthusiasm. They make it fun to come to work every day."
Fun, and also competitive. Phoenix practices are spirited wars between the first and second units, filled with plenty of trash talk -- mostly from Dudley -- who kids Stoudemire about his jump shot ("I tell him it's broke," said Dudley) and begs him to go left. Dudley even estimates that the second team wins 40 percent of the 5-on-5 games against the first squad.
"He said that?" asked Hill. "No way. Maybe 25 percent."
"25 [percent] sounds about right," said
It's the confidence that defines them. Frye says the Suns subs try to "push the tempo more" and give an opponent a different look than the one they saw with the starters. Dragic isn't Nash -- he's more scorer than distributor -- but at times he's able to more than capably fill in for him. In Game 3 of the second round series against San Antonio, Dragic blitzed the Spurs for 21 fourth-quarter points to open up a blowout win. On Tuesday, Dragic dished out three assists in the final quarter that helped balloon the Suns' lead.
Dudley, a slippery small forward with a savvy perimeter game, hopes Hill plays for "two or three more seasons" but admits that he is ready for the future.
"I view myself as the future here," said Dudley. "No one wants to be on seven or eight teams. This is a good situation that we have here."
The Suns, in fact, are a team filled with mutual admiration. When the starters are playing well, the bench players are the first to praise them, and vice versa. When Gentry tried to insert Richardson and
"The bench has formed an identity," said Hill. "You can just see the chemistry is there. They have been good all year but it's great to see them come together in the playoffs."
Indeed, the bench is
"They stepped up and we're going to keep needing them to step up," said Hill. "We have three more games left in this series. We need them to play like this in every one."