Nash, Suns Start Fast, Rout Clippers
Phoenix 126, L.A. Clippers 95
PHOENIX, March 15 (Ticker) -- It didn't take long for Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns to show the Los Angeles Clippers that they have a ways to go to play with the Western Conference's elite.
Nash scored 14 of his 25 points in a huge first quarter as the Suns quickly built a 20-point lead and cruised to a 126-95 pasting of the Clippers, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.
The run-and-gun Suns (45-19), who lead the Pacific Division, wasted no time jumping on the second-place Clippers (37-26), putting together runs of 10-0 and 12-0 in the first six-plus minutes to open a 24-4 lead.
At the controls was Nash, who was looking for his offense. The reigning MVP had a jumper and found Shawn Marion for a dunk to cap the first burst and drained a jumper and 3-pointer to complete the second surge.
"We all knew this was a big game for us and in many ways it would be tough not to say this clinches the division," Nash said. "We had that frame of mind going into the game and we played like that the whole game, from start to finish."
"I think he's had a better year this year and he was the MVP last year," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "As far as I am concerned, that is who I'd vote for. He has an incredible IQ, the ability to shoot the ball, his decision-making. Everything he does is just terrific."
The Clippers closed to 36-22 after one period and narrowed the deficit to 45-37 on a 3-pointer by Vladimir Radmanovic with 7:28 left in the second quarter. They were within single digits for a grand total of 12 seconds as Diaw converted a three-point play and Tim Thomas dunked.
A 3-pointer by Marion rebuilt the advantage to 70-50 with 1:07 left in the first half. Phoenix went to the break with a season-high 73 points.
"We just had a great game, Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "When you combine our offense and the defense we had tonight, we played as well as we can play. They understood how important this game was for the Pacific Division and they gave everything they had and played great. We don't call plays and right now there is great ball movement and I don't know how you guard it."
Los Angeles got no closer than 18 points in the second half as its problems against the West's top teams continued.
The Clippers have the fourth-best record in the West and appear headed for their first postseason berth in nine years. However, they are just 2-5 against Phoenix (1-2), San Antonio (1-1) and Dallas (0-2), the conference's top three teams.
"The good news is now we know where we stand, that we have a lot of work to do," Dunleavy said. "It is like someone just bit us in the (rear) as far as I am concerned. So I hope they take it that way, that we have a way to go and a lot of work to do."
Raja Bell scored 16 points, Marion added 14 and 12 rebounds and Nash handed out 12 assists for Phoenix, which made 16-of-31 3-pointers and eclipsed 125 points for the second time in as many nights.
The Suns returned from Tuesday's win at Seattle at 3 a.m. local time.
"It is crazy because I didn't go to bed until 5:30 and woke up at 11, but we came out there and we were focused," Marion said. "We did everything we wanted to do. It says a lot about this team, how we can come in early in the morning and come out here and beat a good team like them and take them out from the jump. It was no contest from the beginning of the game. We were off and running.
Elton Brand and Corey Maggette scored 18 points each and Chris Kaman grabbed 16 boards for the Clippers, who shot 34 percent (35-of-102) to neutralize a 59-47 advantage on the glass.
"They totally outworked us," Maggette said. "This is a team you can't relax with. Tonight they were making shots on all cylinders and we just didn't bring our game tonight and it showed."