Phoenix 106, Seattle 99

SEATTLE, Nov. 1 (AP) -- Amare Stoudemire, playing for the third time since knee surgery a month ago, had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and the Phoenix Suns rallied past Kevin Durant and the SuperSonics 106-99 Thursday night in the home opener of the Sonics' 41st and most awkward season in Seattle.

Steve Nash had 18 points, including the clinching 3-pointer, and 12 assists, while veteran Grant Hill added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in his Suns debut. Phoenix won for just the second time in nine season openers.

Durant, the second overall draft pick, scored 27 points on 11-for-23 shooting. Chris Wilcox had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Seattle, which blew a nine-point lead it had late in the third quarter one night after getting blown out late in its opener at Denver.

Durant made a 14-foot jumper over Hill with 4:15 left to cut Phoenix's lead to 93-90. After Raja Bell made with a 3-pointer, Durant answered back with his own 3 to keep Seattle within 96-93.

But with the score 98-93, Durant had the ball stolen by Shawn Marion and then charged into Bell for another turnover with 2:11 left. Nash then made his third 3-pointer in three tries and Seattle never got closer.

The night began with fireworks exploding beneath the scoreboard and fans flashing green-and-gold signs such as "This City Needs the Sonics.'' The crowd, announced as a sellout of 17,072 though there were a few empty seats upstairs, erupted into chants of "Save our Sonics!'' during play in the second and third quarters.

Team chairman Clay Bennett, who will announce Friday his next move toward relocation to his native Oklahoma now that his deadline to get a Seattle-area arena deal passed Wednesday, watched it all while talking in a suite with Hall of Fame center Bill Russell, a Sonics regular and resident of suburban Mercer Island, Wash.

The Sonics continually ran inbounds plays for Durant, who had equaled his opening-night total of 18 points by halftime. He made a 14-footer off a set play 4 1/2 minutes into the second half to reach 20 points and put Seattle ahead 66-61. Bell - who checked the 19-year-old most of the night while giving up five inches to the 6-foot-9 guard - extended both arms with his palms toward the arena's roof and flashed a baffled look to Suns teammates.

Seattle took an 82-73 in the final minute of the third quarter on a 3-pointer by new arrival Wally Szczerbiak. But three consecutive 3-pointers by Marcus Banks tied the game at 82 with 20 seconds gone in the final period.

Phoenix outscored Seattle 19-8 to take an 88-84 lead on Stoudemire's third consecutive basket with 9:05 left. Durant was on the bench for all but the last 1:07 of that Suns run.

The fired-up crowd stood and roared after Damien Wilkins grabbed a rebound of a miss by Hill, dribbled to midcourt and launched a leaner that swished as the halftime buzzer sounded. Wilkins walked to the scorer's table and pointed into the crowd and Durant gave his teammate a bear hug as Seattle took a 58-55 lead into the locker room.

Jeff Green, the fifth overall pick, missed seven of his first eight shots - including both a botched dunk and layup in the first half. But he also took a charge and stole a pass that Durant turned into his first 3-pointer in three tries.

Durant yelled over the crowd's roar to punctuate that, which put Seattle up 35-32 three minutes into the second quarter.

Notes: Wilcox played one night after throwing up fluid that was in his lungs at halftime and scoring just two of his 14 points thereafter at Denver. He crashed to the floor after missing a dunk with 7 minutes left but returned. ... Music star Kid Rock, 12 days removed from a fist fight at a Waffle House in Atlanta, Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell and players Marcus Trufant, Rocky Bernard, Julian Peterson, Deon Grant and Josh Brown joined Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon, University of Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar and women's coach Tia Jackson courtside sitting near the court. ... F-C Sean Marks was inactive after "tweaking'' his back in a fall at practice Wednesday, Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. ... Seattle has lost its last three home openers. ... The Suns open at home Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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