Daily Confidential

Now that Amare Stoudemire appears back to form and their defense is looking a little more stout, the Phoenix Suns are hoping their early-season struggles are behind them.

The Suns look to build on their first win in five games when they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

Phoenix (2-5) ended its four-game losing streak by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 96-87 on Saturday. The Suns, who are giving up a league-worst 108.1 points per game, allowed fewer than 104 for the first time this season. They also outrebounded Memphis 52-42, the first time all season they grabbed more boards than its opponent.

The Suns did score fewer than 100 for the first time and were outscored 29-7 in the fourth, setting a new franchise-low for scoring in a quarter. Nonetheless, they were pleased with the outcome.

``I think we did our job tonight,'' said guard Steve Nash, who had 11 points and nine assists. ``We played a little better and showed more toughness. Throughout the game, it was more determined play and the fight in us that got us the big lead.''

The Suns were also encouraged by the play of Stoudemire, who missed all but three games last season following two surgeries on his knees. Stoudemire recorded season highs of 25 points and 14 rebounds for his first double-double since Game 5 of the 2005 Western Conference finals.

He had scored 16 points in each of his previous two games after averaging seven points in his first four.

``My thing is I'm just trying to knock off some rust,'' said Stoudemire, who has played more than 24 minutes in each of the last two games after doing so just once in the season's first five contests. ``It may take a week, it may take two weeks, but it's definitely turning out good for me. It's getting better and better for me each game.''

Raja Bell did not play for the second straight game because of bruised ribs, but is expected to return against the 76ers.

Philadelphia (4-3) opened a three-game road trip Wednesday with a 96-90 victory at Seattle, its first win in four games. Allen Iverson scored 28 points, but was just 6-for-22 from the field and needed plenty of help from his teammates.

``In the last four games, I've been struggling. Just trying to get my rhythm back I've been struggling with it,'' Iverson said. ``But the most positive thing when you're struggling is to win anyway. That lets you know the type of guys you're playing with. That's just a good feeling.''

Starting forward Andre Iguodala had 12 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, and Philadelphia's bench outscored Seattle's 30-12.

The Sixers were also much more pleased with their defensive effort after allowing their previous two opponents to score at least 106 points.

``We just have to continue to go to the drawing board,'' guard Kevin Ollie said of his team's defense. ``It's a process and everyone was kind of getting down on us after the three-game losing streak, but we just stayed with it and Coach Maurice (Cheeks) keeps preaching it to us and it's going to transfer.''

The Suns have won four straight meetings with the 76ers and seven of eight. Philadelphia has not won at Phoenix since April 3, 2002.

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