PHOENIX, Jan. 11 (Ticker) --
The Miami Heat may be growing a bit
road-weary. The way the Phoenix Suns are clicking, it may not
scored 34 points and Shawn Marion
added 26 and
11 rebounds as the Suns bolted to an early lead and cruised to a
122-107 triumph over the Heat, their seventh straight win.
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The anticipated matchup of the top teams in each conference was
no contest. The league-leading Suns (31-4) ran the Heat ragged,
racing to a 40-25 lead after one quarter and never looking
In its last five games, Phoenix has averaged 35 points in the
opening quarter and led by an average of 13 points after one
added 24 points for Phoenix, which has lost once in
19 games since Dec. 5. The Suns improved to 16-2 at home
and 13-1 vs. the Eastern Conference.
"We had a good game," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni
said. "All five
guys played well and the two bench guys (Steven Hunter
and Casey Jacobsen
) played well. Amaré was amazing as usual. We are
back to running like we did the first part of the year."
The start is the sixth-best in league history and best since the
1996-97 Chicago Bulls -- a team that went on to win 69 games and
an NBA championship. Phoenix already has two more wins than
they mustered all of last season.
"I think this was the best we've played all year, especially in
the first quarter," Marion said. "We were doing our thing,
knocking down shots ... Everybody was into the game from the tip
off. It was rowdy, like a playoff atmosphere, and we were
playing ball. We have been playing great defense during this
"This is probably our best stretch we have had all year,"
D'Antoni added. "Now they understand it and they are taking care
of it. We told them this is something special and you don't
have it in your career too often so you better take care of it.
They are milking the moment and hopefully it will last as long
as it can."
Phoenix used just seven players and got only eight points from
its bench. But every starter had at least 10 points by halftime
and four of the five starters logged at least 40 minutes.
Miami, in the midst of a five-game West Coast road swing, shot
52 percent (44-of-84) from the field but missed eight of 20 free
throws and committed 18 turnovers.
led the Heat (27-10) with 34 points - making
16-of-20 shots - and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"It was more like the Suns against Shaq because we had to double
team on him," Stoudemire said. "He is one of the most
dominating player to ever play the game so defending him isn't
easy. I did a little bit of everything and tried to mix it up.
I figured he was going to back up a bit and let me shoot. Once
I caught fire he came out on me then I took him to the rack and
tried to get some fouls on him."
"Today it was the old me vs. the young me," O'Neal said of the
matchup between he and Stoudemire. "He is a great player. He
really didn't do much inside. I wanted him to take the jumper,
he shot it and shot it well."
added 23 points for the Heat, who fell to 21-1 when
scoring 100 points.
The game was deadlocked, 6-6, when a 17-footer by Stoudemire
ignited a 12-4 burst. Steve Nash
had six of his 16 points in
Stoudemire started a quarter-closing 11-2 burst with Marion
contributing five in the spurt.
After Miami closed to 52-44 midway through the second quarter,
Johnson had a 3-pointer and found Stoudemire for a layup. the
lead was 67-55 at the break and the Heat never got closer than
eight -- and trailed by as many as 24 -- in the second half.
"It was kind of like a smoke bomb," Suns forward Quentin Richardson
said. "We capitalized on everything. It was only a
matter of time before they got a little tired because we weren't
going to stop playing and pushing the ball and coming at them."
"We got dominated right from the get go," Miami coach Stan Van Gundy
said. "It was a difficult game, they beat us everywhere.
They defended better then us, rebounded better then us, then ran
very well. It was total domination and there wasn't an area
where I felt we outplayed them."