Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/17/12
The Suns completed the NBA's version of the hat trick Friday night, and they put themselves back in the playoff hunt in the process. A night after resting Steve Nash and Grant Hill and still beating the Clippers in Los Angeles, the Suns beat the Detroit Pistons 109-100 on Friday for their third win in just over 48 hours and returned to the .500 mark for the first time since Jan. 8 -- just eight games into the season. The Suns are only the fourth NBA team to complete the three-game gauntlet unbeaten this season, and it continues a trend. Phoenix has won 10 of its last 13 games and is 8-2 since the All-Star break, with seven of those wins coming at home. "We have a belief that every player can step up," said Hill, who contributed 14 points. "We have contributions up and down the roster. That's who we are and that's our identity." Combined with Minnesota's loss to the Lakers, the Suns moved by the Timberwolves into ninth place in the Western Conference. They are just two games behind both Denver and Houston, with the Rockets coming to town on Sunday night, and only two and a half games behind sixth-place Dallas. Nash was rested and looked it, dishing out 17 assists. Channing Frye finished strong with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Jared Dudley continued his recent offensive outburst with a team-high 23 points. The Phoenix bench, which won Thursday's game in Los Angeles almost single-handedly, was strong again, getting 14 points from Robin Lopez and 11 from Michael Redd. "We keep looking at that (playoff) board and we've just got to keep grinding, keep grinding, and so we're just going to do the best we can every night," Frye said. "You see everybody's having a good time, everybody's cheering each other on." NOTES, QUOTES -- It was a long climb back, but the Suns returned to .500 for just the second time this season and first since Jan. 8 (4-4). They had fallen as low as seven games under (12-19) and have now made the biggest "comeback" of any team in the league this season. "We are .500 and we are ecstatic about that, but we still got a lot of work to do," coach Alvin Gentry said. "We know that we have very little margin for error. We know we are still going to have to put together some wins and do it on the road, because of some of the things we let slip away at home. We understand all that. "We just have got to play and be focused in at the task at hand. I will not say we have to take it one game at a time. We just have to be focused in at the task at hand." -- Winners of 10 of the last 13 games overall, the Suns became only the fourth team in this strange NBA season to win all three games in a back-to-back-to-back situation. The other three teams are Chicago, Miami and Oklahoma City, which just happen to be the three winningest teams in the NBA this season. It marks the 12th time in franchise history the Suns have won three games in three nights, the first since March 4-6, 1981. "For us, I think it's just we wanted this win, we wanted that win last night and we're just trying to compete," Suns forward Channing Frye said. "The crowd has been fantastic, especially at home, and for us, this is a big time of the season and guys are making big-time plays." QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just had a big emotional win against the Clippers. To come back and lose to Detroit at home would be devastating in the sense that we're trying to bump up in the standings and that's a bad loss." -- Suns guard Jared Dudley. PLAYER NOTES -- G Steve Nash posted with his NBA-leading fourth game with 17 or more assists Friday night. No other NBA player has more than one such game this season. Nash, who missed his fourth game of the season the previous night, is now averaging 13.3 assists in the contest following a missed game. -- G Jared Dudley has now scored 20 or more points in three straight home games for the first time in his career, and he has reached 20 in three of his last four games overall. Dudley now owns seven 20-point games this season (the Suns have a 6-1 record in those game) with 22 games left after tallying a career-high nine 20-point games a season ago. -- C Robin Lopez (14 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes) has three double-digit scoring efforts in his last five games after tallying three in the first 37 games of the season. Lopez is averaging 9.6 points in his last five games.
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