Suns win 20th in 21 games

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns' high-octane offense stalled
Sunday night, but not long enough to slow down their stellar start.

After squandering a 20-point lead, the Suns went on a decisive
12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter and defeated the Toronto
Raptors 106-94 for their 11th consecutive victory.

Amare Stoudemire scored 33 points and Steve Nash had 18 points
and 13 assists to become the first NBA player to register 10 or
more assists in 11 consecutive victories.

In winning for the 20th time in 21 games and boosting their
NBA-best record to 24-3, the Suns maintained their grip on first
place in the Pacific Division -- but it wasn't easy against the
struggling Raptors.

"You can't overlook those teams," Shawn Marion said. "You
can't take them for granted."

The Raptors whittled a 20-point Phoenix lead to 75-69 by the end
of the third quarter, then tied the game at 80-all on Matt Bonner's
jumper with 8:38 to play.

"We kind of took it easy for a couple of minutes," Stoudemire
said. "We can't do that. But we were able to close it out."

The Suns responded by scoring the next 12 points to seal the
win. Nash had three assists during the pivotal stretch.

Nash had shared the record of 10 straight victories with at
least 10 assists with Magic Johnson, who did it twice during the
1986-87 season.

"It is kind of embarrassing in a way," Nash said of surpassing
Johnson's mark. "He is one of the greatest players ever to play
the game, and to be mentioned with him is a big thrill and honor.
But in no stretch am I Magic."

Nash also tied a franchise record with 10 or more assists in 11
consecutive games. Kevin Johnson did it twice, in the 1990-91 and
1993-94 seasons.

"That's a huge accomplishment for any point guard," Stoudemire
said. "Steve's the best point guard in the league. That's just the
way Steve plays. That's his determination. He comes out great every

Marion added 18 points and 18 rebounds, and Quentin Richardson
also scored 18.

Jalen Rose led Toronto with 19 points, while Chris Bosh scored
18 and Lamond Murray had 14. The Raptors are 2-3 since trading
Vince Carter to New Jersey on Dec. 17.

"We always play hard when we get down 20," Toronto coach Sam
Mitchell said. "You can't keep getting down 20 points. You've got
to play like you're getting embarrassed to start the game. For
whatever reason, we get down 20, our pride is challenged and we
play hard."

During the Suns' latest winning streak -- they won nine in a row
earlier this season -- they have scored at least 100 points in each
game. The last time Phoenix won 11 straight was March 20-April 10,
1997. The 11 consecutive wins ties Miami for the longest streak
this year.

The Suns came out running early and bolted to a 24-8 lead in the
first 7 minutes. Stoudemire scored 15 during the span, including a
thunderous dunk and an acrobatic layup.

Nash contributed 12 points in the opening period, including
three 3-pointers, to help the Suns take a 32-14 lead.

Rose, who was demoted from the starting lineup on Wednesday,
scored 10 points for Toronto in the second quarter. But the Suns
led by as many as 19 before settling for a 56-39 advantage at the

Game notes
The Suns didn't win their 24th game last season until game
No. 71, March 23, at Orlando. ... Their last loss this season was
Dec. 3, 97-93 at home to Minnesota. ... C Alonzo Mourning (right
knee tendinitis) did not make the trip with Toronto. He has yet to
play for the Raptors since being acquired from the Nets in the
Carter trade. ... The Raptors are 2-15 on the road, the most losses
away from home by any NBA team. ... On Tuesday, Phoenix has a
showdown against the Spurs, the Southwest Division leaders, at San
Antonio. ... The Suns play 13 of their next 19 games on the road.
Phoenix is an NBA-best 11-1 away from home. ... The Suns are the
only team in the NBA not to lose by 10 or more points. Their losses
have been by 2, 4 and 5 points.