Atlanta 120, Phoenix 111

Phoenix, Feb. 9 (AP) -- Steve Nash didn't play Friday night. Joe Johnson did. Boy, he did.

Against a Phoenix team he helped reach the Western Conference finals two years ago, Johnson scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter Friday night to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 120-111 victory over the Nash-less Suns.

Johnson, who got his wish to be traded to Atlanta after the 2004-05 season, sank a pair of late 3-pointers, one in a decisive 8-0 surge. He made 10 of 25 shots but was 4-for-7 in the fourth quarter. He was 7-of-10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter of a game that featured 78 free throws.

Afterward, he insisted there was nothing personal about the victory.

"I'm happy we came in here and beat a great team,'' he said. "I know they were minus Steve Nash, but you've got to take advantage of opportunities like that.''

Josh Smith added 25 points in the Hawks' fourth consecutive road victory, their longest streak since the 1999 season. Atlanta snapped a five-game skid to Phoenix and beat the Suns for the second time in 14 tries at US Airways Center.

"This is not about Joe against Phoenix,'' Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "Joe's been playing well for us all season long. For him not to make that All-Star team over in the East is kind of disappointing, but he's not going to quit working. He'll continue to work until he makes that All-Star team. Next season he should get there.''

Nash has missed the last 2+ games with inflammation in his right shoulder. Phoenix beat Portland in overtime in the last outing and won at Denver when Nash sat out the second half.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said he expects Nash to play Sunday when the Suns are home against Chicago. The way the Suns played, he'd better.

Nash or no Nash, D'Antoni was extremely critical of the Suns' performance.

"I think we took a step backwards tonight. I mean big-time,'' he said, "and we need to step it up. Certain guys need to step it up, and we didn't. Our intensity wasn't there. We scored enough points but we just couldn't stop them.''

After going 1-for-8 in the first half, Amare Stoudemire scored 24 of his 29 in the second half. He also grabbed 13 rebounds. Raja Bell added 23 points, Marcus Banks a season-high 20 and Leandro Barbosa 19.

"We had to grind this one out, and I don't think we had the heart and soul to grind it out tonight,'' D'Antoni said. "We did in Portland, we did in Denver, we didn't do it tonight. Again, it's one game. We'll flush it down and go on.''

Josh Childress added 19 points for Atlanta, 17 in the second half. His two free throws with 43 seconds left sealed the victory.

The Suns lost to an Eastern Conference team for only the second time in 22 tries. The other was at home against Washington.

After Barbosa's 3-pointer put Phoenix ahead 96-95 with 5:39 to play, Johnson and Smith each made a 3-pointer in an 8-0 spurt. Atlanta's lead reached 103-96 when Smith made one of two free throws with 3:54 left.

Johnson, who played all 48 minutes, sank another 3 to put the Hawks ahead 106-97 with 2:36 left. The Suns never got closer than five again.

"We just didn't give up,'' Smith said. "We just rode Joe. Joe had an awesome night, and we just played off his energy.''

For a time in the third quarter, it looked as if Phoenix was on its way to its 40th victory.

Stoudemire scored 14 of the Suns' first 16 points in the second half in a 21-6 outburst that put Phoenix up 66-55 on Bell's three-point play with 6:59 to go. The Hawks, though, outscored the Suns 25-15 the rest of the quarter and were down only 81-80 entering the fourth.

"We weren't ready to play and we weren't paying attention to detail,'' Bell said. "On a night when you don't have your point guard and things are clicking the way they always do, you've got to pay attention to the smaller things, and we did not do that. That's what good teams do.''

Notes: Boris Diaw played despite a sore back. ... Two tiger cubs at the Phoenix's Wildlife World Zoo have been named "Nash'' and "Raja.'' The cubs appeared on David Letterman's show Thursday and Good Morning America on Friday. The cubs are to meet their namesakes next Tuesday. ... The Suns are 4-10 without Nash in the past three years, 2-2 this season. ... Marion passed Kevin Johnson for third-most field goals in franchise history with 4,373, behind only Alvan Adams (5,709) and Walter Davis (6,497).


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