Suns Sizzle in First, Cruise Past Heat
Phoenix 111, Miami 93
PHOENIX, Jan. 6 (Ticker) -- The Phoenix Suns present a difficult matchup for many teams, but for the Miami Heat without Dwyane Wade, it's an even taller order.
Steve Nash collected 11 points and 19 assists and Raja Bell scored 24 points as the Suns tallied a league season-high 47 points in the first quarter and cruised to a 111-93 victory over the Heat.
"Wade is one of the best players in the league and Williams is a starting point guard in this league, so without them, it was a tough game for them on the road," Nash said.
"I have seen a lot of good first quarters. I don't think I have ever seen one exactly like that," said Heat coach Pat Riley, who fell to 8-5 since taking over for Stan Van Gundy last month. "We didn't play well."
The Suns, who entered leading the NBA with 104.2 points per game, clearly brought their "A" game from the opening tap, led by their floor leader and the reigning league MVP.
Nash scored nine points and had a franchise-record 12 assists in the first quarter as he continued to fuel the league's top offense even without injured All-Star center Amaré Stoudemire.
With the game tied at 4-4 just over a minute in, Bell's jumper ignited a flawless 27-6 run over the next seven minutes that set the tone for the entire game.
Bell scored 10 points in the burst, including a 3-pointer that gave Phoenix a 30-10 lead with 4:18 to go in the period. The bucket also marked the eighth assist of the quarter for Nash, who would finish the period two assists shy of the all-time record for any quarter.
"It was one of those freaky quarters," said Nash, who accumulated more assists than the entire opposition for the ninth time in his career. "We got hot and on a roll. We were unconscious. I had no idea we had 40 points. When things are going well like that, that is when the game is most fun."
Nash drilled a 3-pointer and James Jones hit two shots from the arc in the last two minutes of the first period, which was capped in thrilling fashion when Nash made a lefthanded bounce pass upcourt to Bell for a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Suns finished with 38 assists on 42 baskets, including 24 on their first 25 shots as they posted a season-high 72 points in the first half and topped 100 for the ninth straight game.
"We played extremely well and Steve Nash had more than 15 assists in the first half. It was ridiculous," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "When we shoot like that and we are active defensively, we are a pretty good team."
The final basket completed a stellar quarter for the well-traveled Bell, who shot 6-of-7 for 15 points in the period as he continues to dispell myths that he is simply a stopper.
"It was critical for us to get off to a good start against a team that was a little undermanned," Bell said. "I shoot the ball. ... People who know and watch the game know what you can do. If you get praised for it or not, it is irrelevant for me."
The hoop also capped an incredible period for the Suns in which they shot 18-of-25 (72 percent) from the floor, including 8-of-11 from the arc.
"I think it's safe to say the first quarter made the difference," said D'Antoni, whose team never trailed in improving to 11-2 in its last 13 home games. "It was a phenomenal first quarter. It was unbelievable."
Shawn Marion had 19 points and 16 rebounds, Jones scored 16 points and Boris Diaw 14 for Phoenix, which finished 13-of-26 from 3-point range en route to its sixth win in seven games.
"The first quarter was very fun," said Marion, who shot 8-of-16 from the floor. "We were just out there playing and knocking down shots. We were so hot and they just couldn't get anything going. ... We came out blazing tonight and got a big win."
Antoine Walker led the Heat with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Shaquille O'Neal was a non-factor, scoring a season-low eight points in 23 minutes for Miami, which has dropped the first two games of its seven-game road trip by a combined 33 points.
"It's a big difference when we are missing a lot of key guys," said Heat guard Gary Payton, who scored 15 points. "It is hard when we don't make shots and we are playing a team that runs and is so good at home and played Shaq the way they did."
"We didn't play with great desire and we got our heads handed to us for the second game in a row," Riley added. "Crossroads No. 1 is where we're at right now."