Even when things are going badly, the Phoenix Suns always seem to be able to beat the Vancouver Grizzlies.
The Suns, trailing by five with just over eight minutes to play, rallied behind Jason Kidd and Clifford Robinson to beat the Grizzlies for the seventh consecutive time, 89-84.
"Tonight as ugly as the game was, we won it on defense," Kidd said. "If we kept winning ugly, then I would take it, until we start winning pretty."
Phoenix coach Danny Ainge, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak, said the Suns have a tendency to play to the level of their competition.
"It was probably the worst of our performances in our last four games," he said, "but I thought we played well in the last three and didn't win. When things are not going well, you have to dig it out, and we did that."
Despite a rough night at the foul line, Kidd scored 24 points, handed out nine assists and ignited a 10-0 fourth-quarter run.
Kidd, who turns 26 on Tuesday, made just 11 of 22 free throws. But he had 12 points and four assists in the fourth period. His breakaway layup finally sealed it in the final few seconds.
Tom Gugliotta added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns. Robinson had 10 points, eight rebounds, four steals and four blocked shots.
As Robinson left the game for a brief rest in the fourth quarter, he had muttered a complaint to Ainge about the inability of the team to get him any shots. He wound up making the biggest one of the night.
His crucial 3-pointer put Phoenix up 79-75 with 1:34 remaining, then Robinson tied up Shareef Abdur-Raheem on the next possession and won the subsequent jump ball.
"That was a tough shot," Robinson said. "I had some question about whether it would go in there for awhile."
Abdur-Raheem scored 26 points for Vancouver, which has lost 1of its last 16. In his first NBA appearance in the city where he was a high school star, Mike Bibby had 11 points and four assists.
"We put ourselves in a position top win," Abdur-Rahim said. "But they hit some big shots."
Trailing 56-53 after three quarters, the Grizzlies outscored the Suns 10-2 to start the fourth period, taking a 63-58 lead with 8:24 to play on Michael Smith's stuff after a Phoenix turnover.
Vancouver, playing without Bryant Reeves and Doug West because of injuries, led 69-65 on J.R. Henderson's inside basket with 5:18 to play. But Kidd flipped the ball over his head on a reverse layup, then converted a three-point play on Phoenix's next possession. George McCloud, who missed his first five shots, sank a 3-pointer on a pass from Kidd, and Tom Gugliotta scored on a baseline drive to put the Suns up 75-69 with 3:01 to go.
The Grizzlies wouldn't fade, though. Abdur-Rahim made six of seven free throws to cut it to 76-75. Robinson's 3-pointer boosted it to four and the Suns managed enough free throws to keep the lead the rest of the way.
"Given the circumstances, I don't know that we can play a whole lot better," Vancouver coach Brian Hill said. "It's like we have to play a perfect game in the situation we're in to get a win."
With the Suns facing three games in three nights later this week, including road contests at the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland on Wednesday and Thursday, coach Danny Ainge sat Kidd, Gugliotta and Robinson for 12 minutes in the first half.
Notes: Reeves sat out the game with a sore right knee. ... Phoenix's 37 points tied a season-low for the first half and the 33 by Vancouver were a season-low for a Suns' opponent. ... The Grizzlies are 2-12 all-time against Phoenix. ... Kidd, leading the NBA in minutes played at 41.1 per game, played 36. ... Phoenix hasn't lost four in a row since the 1996-97 season.
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