Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash is turning in possibly his best season.
It's bad news for players like the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, who are
trying to unseat the two-time league MVP.

The two superstars will meet for the first time this season Thursday night as the Suns look to stretch their winning streak to eight games when they host the Cavaliers in a matchup of division leaders.

Nash is averaging career highs in points (20.1 ppg), field-goal percentage (53.1) and 3-point percentage (51.1) this season for the Pacific Division-leading Suns (26-8). He's also averaging a league-leading 11.0 assists, just shy of his career-high 11.5 average from two seasons ago.

James is one of the NBA's most dynamic players - one that many people believe will eventually have multiple MVPs of his own. This season, his scoring average has actually dipped to 26.6 points from 31.4 a year ago.

The star forward, however, may be playing on his best team since being drafted by Cleveland (22-12) in 2003. The Cavaliers, who won 50 games last season, are on top of the Central Division and enter Thursday's game as winners of five straight and eight of nine.

Phoenix, meanwhile, owns the league's second-best record, in part because of its 14-1 mark against Eastern Conference opponents.

The Suns have won seven straight home games against Cleveland, dating to March 10, 1999.

James flourished last season against the Suns' uptempo style. He averaged 45.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists as Cleveland split two meetings.

Of course, the Suns' primary concern isn't to stop James. That's because Phoenix is averaging a league-leading 110.9 points per game to offset a defense that ranks near the bottom of the NBA by yielding an average of 102.8 points.

Guided by Nash, the Suns have five players scoring at least 14.7 points per game, with none averaging more than 15 shots. Phoenix is shooting an NBA-best 49.4 percent from the field.

That balance was on display in a 113-102 victory over Seattle on Tuesday as Phoenix had six players score in double figures. Shawn Marion had 29 points and 15 rebounds while Nash added 27 points and 11 assists.

The Suns also played better defensively, limiting the SuperSonics to 14 points in the third quarter to take control of the game.

"I think we were just talking a lot better on defense,'' Marion said. "We were limiting them to one shot, then getting out and playing Suns basketball.''

James helped Cleveland rally for a 108-98 victory at Sacramento on Wednesday in the opener of a seven-game western road trip. He scored 24 of his 34 points in the second half as the Cavaliers came back from a 15-point halftime deficit.

"We know that what we've got to take care of is the defensive end,'' James said. "We got stops that helped us on the offensive end. That's the formula that's been working for us.''

Drew Gooden notched his fourth straight double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Gooden is averaging 21.5 points on 62.3 percent shooting and 12.8 rebounds in that span.

"I thought that Drew Gooden was really big and instrumental for us,'' Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "He was phenomenal. His energy got me and the bench extremely excited.''

Cleveland is 7-2 against the West, the best mark among Eastern clubs.


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