Nets Stymie Suns, Run Win Streak to Nine
New Jersey 110, Phoenix 72
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., March 27 (Ticker) -- If a win over the league-leading Detroit Pistons was a message, the New Jersey Nets made a resounding statement against the Phoenix Suns.
Nenad Krstic had 21 points and 10 rebounds as the Nets extended their winning streak to nine games with a dominating 110-72 victory over the Suns.
"We're fighting every day to be consistent," New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd said. "Going on the road and beating the next team in the league, and coming home and beating another great team, it was a carry over of the emotion and us coming together as a team."
"It's about getting wins right now, it doesn't matter by how many," Nets guard Vince Carter said. "We're just clicking on all cylinders. We're playing at a high level and we're a very confident team right now."
New Jersey rolled to its most lopsided victory of the season with a dominant defensive performance. Phoenix was held to its lowest total of the season - nearly 40 points lower than its 108.4 average - and a franchise-low 27 percent (26-of-97) from the floor, which eclipsed the dubious mark of 30 percent set on March 10, 1971 at Atlanta.
"We just didn't make shots," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You have to give (the Nets) credit. They did a great job. I really don't have a lot of answers."
The key matchup was Kidd shutting down Nash. The NBA's league leader in assists who is a strong contender to win another MVP, Nash endured one his worst games in his 10-year career as he missed all five of his shots and went scoreless for the first time since February 1, 2003 with Dallas.
"I wouldn't say I was on, but I give Jason Kidd a lot of credit," Nash said. "He played outstanding defense on me. We all take responsibility for what happened out there, but I'm the guy with the ball. I have to do my job and make sure we play the right way."
"He's one of the best players in this league," Kidd said. "We just tried to make it tough on him and try to wear him down so he gets tired."
Krstic led a balanced offensive attack and helped dominate the paint for New Jersey, which grabbed a season high in rebounds and held a 65-45 edge on the boards. Kidd had 10 rebounds, Carter added eight and Richard Jefferson and Clifford Robinson had seven each.
New Jersey stifled Phoenix's high-powered offense in the first quarter but did not pull away until the second, scoring 22 of the final 28 points in the first half. Six different players scored during the stretch for New Jersey led by Krstic.
The Serbian center assisted on a layup by Kidd with 1:28 left, buried a turnaround jumper 33 seconds later and added 1-of-2 free throws as the Nets closed the quarter with nine straight points for a 50-31 halftime cushion.
"They almost missed as many shots as we did in the first 1 1/2 quarters, but then they caught fire and we just had no answer," Nash said.
Phoenix followed its worst first half of the season with a dismal third quarter, managing just 14 points while New Jersey scored 33 on 13-of-25 shooting.
Any hopes of a Suns' comeback were thwarted when the Nets reeled off 14 straight points midway through the period. Carter started the run with a 3-pointer from nearly 30 feet away and Krstic made a running hook shot before Kidd banked a 3-pointer off glass with 3:52 left.
Robinson followed with an off-balance 3-pointer and Krstic capped the stretch with a three-point play to give the Nets an 80-39 cushion with just under 15 minutes left in the game.
"We were up by 20, then all of a sudden we were up by 40," Kidd said. "It just comes down to playing defense and holding them to one shot."
By the fourth quarter, the Nets had Kidd, Jefferson and Carter on the bench as they led by as many as 42 points - their largest lead since November 22, 2002 against Cleveland and the Suns' largest deficit of the season.
"It's a helpless feeling," Nash said. "We have to use this as a positive, to learn that we have to play hard for 48 minutes. We have a lot of work to do before the playoffs."
Carter finished with 20 points, Jefferson had 16 and Kidd collected nine and seven assists for the Nets, who made a season-high 13 3-pointers and moved nine games ahead of Philadelphia atop the Atlantic Division.
New Jersey will try to match its longest winning streak of the season against Memphis on Wednesday.
Shawn Marion had 17 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Suns, who already have clinched a playoff berth and were playing the opener of a five-game road trip.
Marion made 8-of-15 shots but the rest of the Suns were just 18-of-82 (22 percent). Amare Stoudemire was scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting in his third game back from knee surgery.
"We've added some new elements to our team and we're out of sync," D'Antoni said. "We hope to play through it and just play hard. It is what it is."
Phoenix has split 10 games following a season-high 11-game winning streak and has lost five straight games on the road.