Since it’s possible no starting five expends more energy, the Phoenix Suns could have used a long break.
Most of their starters, however, didn’t mind going to work during All-Star weekend.
Following a memorable break from their astonishing season, the Suns enter the second half looking to reclaim the NBA’s best record when they host the Los Angeles Clippers.
All five Phoenix starters went to Denver to take part in the All-Star festivities, and the team nearly swept all of Saturday’s competitions.
Shawn Marion teamed with former Sun Dan Majerle and Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi to win the shooting stars competition. Next, Steve Nash won the skills challenge, followed by Quentin Richardson hitting his final nine shots in the finals to win the 3-point shooting contest. Fellow Suns starter Joe Johnson was ousted in the first round of that event.
The dunk contest saw Amare Stoudemire reach the finals after receiving a big assist from Nash. Stoudemire passed the ball off the backboard to Nash, who headed the ball back to the star power forward for a one-handed 360 dunk. However, Stoudemire was outdone in the finals by Atlanta’s Josh Smith.
The following day in the All-Star game, Stoudemire missed two dunk attempts and went 3-of-11 from the field for six points, but Marion had some thunderous dunks en route to his 10 points. Nash contributed six assists.
“These are just bonuses in us having a great weekend, having a good time and I think it’s a tribute to us playing so well together and us being so unselfish with each other, because that’s why we are where we are now,” Richardson said.
Where the Suns are is a half-game behind San Antonio for the league’s best record. The Spurs host Houston on Wednesday.
A run-and-gun style of offense has keyed Phoenix’s rise to prominence, but also has made some wonder if the team will tire out or be effective in the playoffs.
It was one of the most frequently asked questions of Stoudemire over the weekend, but he doesn’t get bothered by the inquiry.
“I don’t mind explaining how good we are,” he said.
Phoenix is the only team with four players among the league’s top 35 in minutes per game, with Nash being the lone starter to average less than 35 (34.7). By comparison, San Antonio does not have one player averaging 35 minutes.
The Suns are scoring an NBA-best 110.2 points per game, about 8 1/2 more than No. 2 Sacramento.
Los Angeles went into the break with a season-high seven-game losing streak.
Wednesday’s contest finally ends a brutal stretch in which the Clippers played a league season-high nine consecutive road games. The first one was a victory over Memphis that got them to .500, but the ensuing slide may have cost the team any shot at the playoffs.
On Thursday, Los Angeles faces Minnesota in its first home game since Jan. 31.
One bright spot to last Wednesday’s 113-95 loss at Miami was Corey Maggette returning to the starting lineup for the first time in a month and scoring 23 points. He had missed five of seven games with a foot injury before coming off the bench in the next four contests.