NBA.com Daily Confidential

Former teammates Steve Nash and Jason Kidd are widely regarded as two of the best point guards in the NBA.

They've got another thing in common this season - they're both playing for teams off to surprisingly slow starts.

Nash and the Suns look for a season-high third straight win when they host Kidd and the Nets on Friday in a matchup of 5-6 teams.

Nash and Kidd are linked from their days together in Phoenix from 1996-98. It was the first two NBA seasons for Nash, who served as Kidd's backup.

Both players truly flourished after leaving the Suns. Nash blossomed into an All-Star while playing with Dallas before returning to Phoenix in 2004 and becoming a two-time league MVP, leading the Suns to two straight appearances in the Western Conference finals.

The second team change for Kidd also resulted in the most successful years of his career, having led New Jersey to two straight appearances in the NBA finals in his first two seasons with the Nets.

The Nets have lost 12 straight trips to Phoenix since March 13, 1993, and have managed an average of only 84.4 points in five visits since Kidd joined the team. They fell 92-81 last season.

Phoenix and New Jersey are both considered contenders to reach the NBA finals this season, but neither team has been consistent to this point.

The Suns appear closer to getting back on track after winning for the fourth time in five games on Wednesday, 92-83 over New Orleans.

The usually offensive-minded Suns limited the Hornets to a total of 25 points in the second and third quarters combined in their best defensive performance of the season.

``We were being active,'' said Shawn Marion, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. ``We were limiting them to one shot and one shot only. We were just playing good, sound defense.''

Coach Mike D'Antoni wasn't thrilled with the defensive tempo of the game, but he liked the result.

``We gutted it out,'' D'Antoni said. ``We didn't play pretty all the time. We were not rolling offensively but you hold a team to 13 points in the third quarter and it's a little bit of a slower game.''

Amare Stoudemire had a forgettable night, missing his only shot and being held scoreless for only the third time in his career. Stoudemire, returning from microfracture knee surgery, averaged 20.8 points and 10.3 rebounds over his four previous games.

``It was pretty rough, but why shouldn't he have a rough game, we thought he would and he's been playing unbelievable,'' D'Antoni said. ``He's got ups and downs and he's just got to have some patience.''

Suns guard Leandro Barbosa sprained his left ankle with 8:33 remaining in the second quarter and did not return. Barbosa, listed as day to day, is second on the team with 18.5 points per game.

New Jersey has lost three straight after falling to 0-2 on a four-game road trip with a 100-97 loss at Portland on Wednesday. The Nets blew a 13-point halftime lead, two nights after being up by six at the break in a 99-87 loss at Seattle.

``Right now, I don't really have an explanation,'' Nets center Nenad Krstic said. ``I think it was very similar to the Seattle game. We had the game but lost it in the last six minutes.''


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited