Nash scores 10,000th point, Suns win
East Valley Tribune
Dec. 30, 2006
The New York Knicks came to Phoenix having won an overtime game, a double-overtime game and a triple-overtime game in the last two weeks. Apparently, Isiah Thomas’ boys wanted to balance their workload a bit by playing a game that was over in the first quarter. The Suns were happy to oblige, taking a 20-point, firstquarter lead for the first time all year and cruising past another Eastern Conference foe, 108-86, Friday at US Airways Center.
It was just the kind of game Phoenix – just back from Thursday’s tough loss in Dallas and ready to embark on a dicey three-game road trip that starts Sunday in Detroit – needed: building their defensive confidence without exerting much energy from their stars.
“It was too bad about last night, but our guys snapped back and we’ll see what we can do with the trip coming up,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It was a game we should have won, we won, and we did what we were supposed to do. This team understands the importance of winning games we’re supposed to win.”
The Knicks came in winning four of their last five, but at their core they are the kind of bad team (13-19) the Suns feast on. Phoenix is 12-1 against teams with losing records, the only blemish coming in an eight-point road loss to the Clippers way back on Nov. 4.
Steve Nash and Raja Bell led the Suns with 20 points – the first time since the tripleovertime win in New Jersey (Dec. 7) that both guys reached 20 points. Nash’s total included his 10,000th NBA point, coming on one of his five 3-pointers.
Nash and Bell combined for nine 3-pointers in 16 attempts as the Suns hit 12 shots from beyond the arc to make sure their early lead stood up.
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But as has been the case of late, a bigger story is going on at the other end of the court. The Suns held New York to 14 first-quarter points and held an opponent under 90 for the seventh time in the first 28 games – a good number for them, considering holding a foe under 100 all but guarantees a win (12-0 this season).
“We are doing a better job of adjusting to each situation defensively,” D’Antoni said. “We’re taking steps forward on defense, which we need to do. The guys are following our principles and homing in.”
The Knicks missed 22 of their first 30 shots and all seven of their 3-point attempts in the first half. Ex-Sun Stephon Marbury was booed in the pregame introductions – which turned out to be warranted after missing 10 of his first 12 shots and picking up a technical foul early in the third quarter.
“They had a lot to do with making us not look as good as we normally look,” Thomas said. “We’ve got a ways to go before we get to their level … they’re just better than we are right now.”
Amaré Stoudemire had a steady 11 points and 11 rebounds, the only double-double among the six Suns who reached double figures. Afterward, he was already thinking about Sunday’s game with the Pistons, who lost to the Knicks 151-149 in triple overtime Wednesday in New York.
“It’s going to be a showdown,” he said. “We wanted to get Dallas and we don’t want to let this one get away. I think we’ll be ready.”
NASH HITS MILESTONE
Nash became the 39th player in NBA history to score 10,000 career points and dish out over 5,000 assists in a career Friday when he hit a 3-pointer with 8:49 left in the first quarter. He joins five other active players in the 10,000/5,000 club: Sam Cassell, Jason Kidd, Stephon Marbury, Gary Payton and Damon Stoudamire.
Nash is the 274th player in NBA history to hit 10,000 points and the second Sun to get there this season. Shawn Marion turned the trick on opening night in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
‘Q’ STILL A FAN
Quentin Richardson was back in Phoenix for the first time since being traded by the Suns for Kurt Thomas in June of 2005, but still hasn’t played against his former teammates. He missed two games last year (brother’s funeral and back injury) and sat out again Friday due to back spasms.
“It’s crazy. I really wanted to play here. I’ll definitely be ready when they come to New York (Jan. 24),” Richardson said. “I had a great time here. I still root for them. I was mad they lost (in Dallas) last night. I’ll always root for this team.”
Richardson said this Suns team reminds him of the 2004-05 Suns he helped to 62 wins – the only time he’s been to the playoffs in his career – with a few exceptions. “We didn’t have a Boris Diaw who is so versatile and can play so many spots, but they lack a Joe Johnson-type player who can defend three different spots on the perimeter.
“They have the constants with Steve (Nash), Shawn (Marion) and now Amaré back, but that starting five we had that year with myself and Joe … that five we rolled out to start the game was pretty good. We had a great time, it was all about winning and having fun. On and off the court, we were a close team.”
Over the last three seasons, the Suns are a combined 36-9 in the month of December. They have one game left this month, New Year’s Eve in Detroit…
Thomas had a strong performance off the bench against his old team, collecting 12 points and nine rebounds in just 17 minutes. He played a key roll in a 17-4 run at the end of the first quarter than put the Suns in command.
The Suns are now 34-4 against the East at home since the beginning of the 2004-05 season.
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