CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 23 (Ticker) --
Sharing the ball makes
travel easier to tolerate for coach Mike D'Antoni
and Shawn Marion
scored 26 points apiece and the
Suns won a franchise-record 28th road game by posting a 120-105
triumph over the Charlotte Bobcats.
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The Suns (51-16) also tied a team mark with nine consecutive
road wins and are 1½ games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs in
the battle for first place in the Western Conference.
"It's a little goal we've talked about," D'Antoni said. "Plus
we're 28-7 on the road. Those two things we are very proud of.
That's a testament to this team. I think we've proved we're a
pretty good team."
Johnson scored 18 first-half points, including nine during a
22-4 spurt bridging the first two quarters that gave the Suns a
36-14 lead early in the second. Phoenix finished the half with
a season-high 70 points.
"You cannot afford to have deficits against a basketball team of
that caliber," Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff
are the real deal as a basketball team, with Steve Nash
distributing the basketball and the way they can make those open
"We played great defense to start the game," Nash said. "But we
got very complacent and that allowed them to fight back. For
us, the game was won in the first quarter."
The Bobcats opened the third quarter with three buckets by Jason Kapono
and got within 75-60 before Stoudemire converted a
three-point play after dunking a feed from Nash, giving the Suns
an 80-62 edge.
"Once we move the ball, we can get anything we want," Stoudemire
said. "Tonight was one of those nights. Everybody was pretty
made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and
helped Charlotte cut the deficit to 91-81 with 10:36 remaining.
But Marion put an exclamation point on the contest by hitting a
bucket with 2:42 left for a 120-102 edge.
"We established ourselves early," Marion said. "The key was
maintaining our energy level on the defensive end, especially
when the Bobcats made their run. But we just kept our composure
and closed it out."
Stoudemire scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Nash had
11 with 10 assists for his 41st double-double. The Suns had a
55-44 rebounding edge and improved to 22-5 against the East.
Coupled with Tuesday's victory at Atlanta, Phoenix has posted
back-to-back wins against the two weakest teams in the East and
will meet Miami on Friday in a battle of 50-win squads.
"It will be a great game with teams (that) play two different
styles," D'Antoni said. "We'll see who has the will to play
their style for 48 minutes. This is a game we've been waiting
for. It's big for us because if we win, we get the tiebreaker,
which would be nice."
Hart scored a career-high 21 points to lead six players in
double figures for Charlotte, which has lost 11 of 12. Gerald Wallace
scored 17 points and Brevin Knight
added 12 with 15
"We just showed our pride, character and heart," Hart said. "We
just kept fighting. When you're down, all you can do is keep
fighting and try to make a game out of it."
"The Bobcats never quit," D'Antoni said. "They never have all
year. They shot the ball extremely well after the first quarter
and made it a game. We were just glad they were cold at