No Nash, Suns Still Roll
Posted Nov 18 2006 2:12AM
Phoenix 106, Philadelphia 94
PHOENIX, Nov. 17 (AP) -- If the Phoenix Suns keep having these injuries, Leandro Barbosa is going to lose his chance at winning the NBA's Sixth Man Award.
Barbosa, expected to be the Suns' first player off the bench this season, has started six of the team's eight games. On Friday night, playing in place of ailing Steve Nash, the cat-quick Barbosa had 26 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as the Suns beat the Philadelphia 76ers 106-94.
It was the second consecutive double-double for Barbosa, who didn't have one in his first 196 games in the league. In his previous game, he had 16 points and 12 assists.
"The whole team did a great job, even though we didn't have Steve Nash,'' said Barbosa, who leads all NBA reserves with 18 points per game. "We knew we'd have to go out there and play hard, with a lot of energy.
"I was just trying to go out there, have fun and make everybody feel comfortable like (Nash) does.''
Amare Stoudemire, coming back after two knee surgeries and a slow start this season, also had his second straight double-double for the Suns, with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Stoudemire also said he was impressed with the Suns' energy after their second victory in a row.
"We're the team to beat,'' he said of the two-time defending Pacific Division champions. "A lot of teams want to beat us. We go into games knowing we're the hunted.''
The Suns, who began the day in last place in the Pacific Division, beat the 76ers, who were tied for the lead in the Atlantic Division, for the 18th time in 20 meetings at home.
Banks, who was scoreless in his two previous games, sparked the Suns with several spectacular shots.
"They were in my pocket,'' he said, laughing. "I couldn't wait to get them out.''
Allen Iverson, playing despite an abcessed wisdom tooth, led Philadelphia with 23 points. Willie Green had 20 points and Andre Iguodala scored 14.
"It was tough having to play with the pain,'' said Iverson, who shot 8-for-22.
"Tonight was not one of our better nights,'' Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. "We didn't defend and we didn't score. In the first quarter, they got eight layups. I think our defense was bad, but our offense was worse.''
Nash, winner of the NBA's last two MVP awards, missed the game with lower back spasms. Barbosa certainly was up to the task of replacing him.
The Suns, with Barbosa scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, managed a 59-52 halftime lead after blowing a 15-point second-quarter advantage.
Phoenix, sparked by Barbosa and reserves Banks and Jalen Rose, forged a 47-32 lead midway through the second period. The 76ers then rallied with a 16-0 run in a 2:55 span, capped by a stuff by Iguodala, and took a 48-47 lead. But the Suns finished the period with a 12-4 spurt for their seven-point advantage.
Except for the first two minutes, the Suns led the entire first quarter, thanks to a 10-1 burst in two minutes that broke an 8-all tie. During a 4:08 stretch of the period, Barbosa scored nine consecutive Phoenix points.
Iverson, meanwhile, shot poorly through the first half, shooting only 4-of-12 while being guarded closely by Shawn Marion - who towered over the 76ers' star by seven inches. However, Iverson hit all seven of his free throw attempts and finished the half with 15 points, 10 in the second quarter.
Green also provided a spark for the 76ers' comeback in the second period with 10 points.
The Suns again opened a huge lead in the third period, pushing their advantage to 89-70, with the help of two 3-pointers by Bell and one each by Barbosa and Marion. The 76ers closed the gap to 89-76 by scoring the final six points of the quarter.
Notes: The Suns are the only NBA team to hold Iverson to a scoring average below 25 points per game. In 13 meetings with Phoenix before Friday, Iverson was averaging 19.7 ppg. Portland was second with a 25.0 scoring average in 18 games. ... Barbosa, who had been slated to be the Suns' sixth man this season, has started five of the past six games because of the injuries to Nash and Bell. ... Iverson has scored 20 or more points in 20 consecutive games, an NBA high. ... The game against the Suns marked the beginning of a stretch where Philadelphia will play three consecutive back-to-backs, which amounts to six games in nine days. ... The 76ers' Steven Hunter limped off the court in the third period with a sprained right knee. ... Chris Webber, the 76ers' star forward, sat out the final period for the fourth time in eight games this season. He also was benched in the second period and played only 20:42.
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