Loss spoils O'Brien's home debut

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The new Phoenix Suns are sure making winning look easy.

"We're still trying to feel everyone out," forward Shawn Marion said. "We've got some additions, but I think we're jelling."

Amare Stoudemire scored 29 points, Marion had 24 and Joe Johnson 22 to lead Phoenix to a 108-98 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

The young, athletic Suns have made an early impact, blowing out Atlanta in a 30-point win and running out to a 21-point first-half lead against the Sixers. With arms flailing on a hustling defense and an up-tempo, fast-breaking offense, Phoenix seems ready to prove it can contend in the strong Western Conference.

"We play defense and then we run," said Marion, dabbing a blood-red scratch near his right eye. "It doesn't matter who's getting it, we've got so many more weapons on this team."

The Suns also got big games from their two major offseason acquisitions -- Quentin Richardson scored 15 points and Steve Nash had 10 assists. Phoenix made 11-of-28 3-pointers.

"It's an exciting team to be on. It's an exciting time to be here," Nash said.

The loss spoiled the home debut for 76ers coach Jim O'Brien, the Philly native who was a three-year starter at Saint Joseph's and is the son-in-law of former 76ers coach Jack Ramsay.

Allen Iverson led the Sixers with 25 points, Willie Green had 16 and Kenny Thomas had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

"You want to play the best teams early in the season so you can see what you have to work on," said Iverson, wearing a Philadelphia Eagles No. 81 Terrell Owens jersey.

The Suns' early cushion proved critical when the Sixers started chipping away in the second half. But with every basket that brought the opening-night crowd alive, Phoenix came right back with one of its own.

Philadelphia sliced the deficit to nine on Kyle Korver's
3-pointer late in the third quarter, but the mop-topped shooter barely had time to get off his fist pumps when Richardson dribbled down and drilled a 3.

Richardson made another 3 early in the fourth, pushing the lead to 13 after Iverson revived the crowd again when he connected with
Andre Iguodala for a breakaway dunk. Iverson pulled the Sixers to 94-86 with 6:50 left, but that was little worry for the speedy Suns as Stoudemire responded with a thunderous dunk and they cruised from there.

"The potential's there," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There's flashes of brilliance and things we have to work on. We have to keep getting better."

The Suns played like a blurring ball of energy in the first half, with nifty passes, high-flying dunks and determined defense. The Suns used a 19-6 second-quarter run to take a 68-49 halftime lead.

"We're going to go on runs because we have so much firepower," Nash said.

The fast-paced offense must have seemed familiar to Nash, who played in a similar system with Dallas before joining Phoenix in the offseason. He led the Suns perfectly, dishing out three assists and adding a couple points during the first-half spurt.

"I'm more concerned about the turnovers than the defense," O'Brien said.

While Nash's Mavericks weren't known for defense, the Suns forced 11 turnovers in the first quarter and the Sixers had 23 overall. Phoenix scored 27 points off first-half turnovers.

"They maybe have more shooters and we may be more athletic," Nash said of the Mavericks. "It's slightly different, but a similar mold."

Game notes
Iverson thanked the crowd for its support before the game.
"I'm sure we won't win every game, but I promise we'll play every game like it's our last," he said. ... Heather Mitts, a member of the U.S. women's gold-medal soccer team, sat courtside. ... There was a brief delay in the second quarter when the camera on the shot clock needed repairs. ... Former Grammy nominee Brian McKnight sang the national anthem. ... Sixers center Samuel Dalembert left in the fourth quarter with a right hamstring strain and didn't return.


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