Nash, Marion Propel Suns Past Magic
Phoenix 123, Orlando 118
PHOENIX, March 3 (Ticker) -- Steve Nash has a new weapon in Tim Thomas, but the reigning Most Valuable Player still has an old one that he has no trouble going to down the stretch.
Nash fed Shawn Marion for two alley-oop dunks in the final minute as the Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to nine games by rallying for an exciting 123-118 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Thomas, who had not played since November 14, showed little rust as he scored 20 points. He made five 3-pointers and went 7-of-13 from the floor overall.
"I was just happy that I was able to work out with Villanova and my old high school," Thomas said. "The game seemed 10 times faster to me. When you are not playing, you are going to have some type of rust, and my rust is on the defensive end.
"Playing with this team is unbelievable. You get open threes on this team. I always wanted to be in a situation like this. To be able to run and use my athletic ability - what better situation to be in?"
Nash also praised his new teammate.
"The addition of Tim Thomas was pretty seamless," Nash said. "I am amazed that the guy can come after not playing for so long and not even practicing with us and score 20 points."
While Thomas is a new face, the two constants in the desert remain Nash and Marion, who have the Suns (40-17) on top of the Pacific Division in the absence of injured star center Amaré Stoudemire.
Outplayed by Jameer Nelson virtually the entire night, Nash was at his best with the game on the line. From the top of the key, Nash found Marion for the first alley-oop dunk with 56 seconds remaining to give the Suns the lead for good, 117-116. Twenty-six seconds later, the duo hooked up again on the fast break for a 119-116 edge.
"It was one of those nights we just weren't playing our best," said Nash, who committed half of the Suns' 12 turnovers. "They were making an unbelievable amount of shots and they were geared up. We have a bit of a target on us and people are going to come after us. We were able to shut them down at the end."
Marion also had a key block of Keyon Dooling's layup with 16 seconds left to preserve the lead. After Hedo Turkoglu missed a 3-pointer for the Magic, Nash made two free throws with 10 seconds left to seal things. Nash had 18 points and 13 assists and Marion 24 and nine rebounds for Phoenix, which also won nine straight from Nov. 22-Dec. 9.
"They were making shots the whole night but we were able to make some stops and got some blocks at the end," Marion said. "We got the stops when we needed to. It shouldn't have come down to that but we got the win."
In the Suns' run-and-gun offense, Boris Diaw also continued to benefit as he collected 18 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. The block by Marion was one of the few big defensive plays for the Suns, who looked a step slow on the end of the floor the entire night.
"It is funny, I guess our defense won it, but gosh, they got 118 points," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It is hard to say that with a straight face. We shut them down. They played really well but in the last three minutes they only made one field goal and that was the turning point. We turned it on got some good blocks and really upped the intensity."
In the third quarter, the Magic scored 40 points on 77 percent (17-of-22) shooting to take a 96-92 lead entering the final period. The entertaining third quarter featured nine lead changes. Nelson made all five of his shots and scored 14 of his 24 points in the third quarter. The second-year point guard scored seven points in an 11-0 run that turned an eight-point deficit into a 86-83 lead.
"With myself and Carlos (Arroyo) out there, we were pushing the ball up," said Nelson, who was playing in his first game since Jan. 20 because of an injured right foot. "We didn't execute at the end of the game or control the tempo like we did throughout the game."
Darko Milicic, who had eight points and a career-high 10 rebounds, made a nice move to the basket to give the Magic a 116-111 lead with 3:51 remaining. But the Magic went cold down the stretch, missing 12 of their final 15 shots.
"We weren't able to execute down the stretch," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "We had guys play extremely hard and we had every chance to win the game but we made a couple of mistakes at the end."
Arroyo scored 21 points and Turkoglu added 20 for the Magic, who shot 56 percent (50-of-90) but lost for their 16th time in 18 games. Orlando also has lost nine straight on the road. Leandro Barbosa scored 17 points off the bench for Phoenix, which shot 52 percent (46-of-89), including 13-of-31 from behind the arc.