MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Steve Nash dishes out the compliments just as
eloquently as he does the basketball.
"A lot of guys played well tonight," Nash said after scoring
21 points and amassing 17 assists in leading the Phoenix Suns to a
121-115 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
Led by Nash, the Suns had 29 assists on 43 baskets.
"Oh, my teammates are perfect players. They can finish,
shoot," Nash said with a shrug.
Of course, it all starts with Nash, who has had just as big an
impact on his new team as Shaquille O'Neal has had in Miami.
Behind Nash, the Suns (34-10) are on pace to become just the
10th team in NBA history to go from 50-plus losses one year to
50-plus wins the next.
"Right now, I'd say he's the MVP of the NBA," Bucks coach
Terry Porter said. "The way he's changed that team around? I don't
know if you could bring another point guard in the league and put
him on that team and assume they'd have the same type of success
they've had. I think it would be very difficult."
Nash, who joined the Suns as a free agent last summer after
leading the Dallas Mavericks' high-scoring offense for several
seasons, also had three crucial steals and two clutch free throws
at the end.
His best play of the night came on a nifty behind-the-back save
under the Bucks' basket late in the game.
"You have to realize, he is a true point guard," teammate
Shawn Marion said. "He is looking to pass first, shoot second.
That is very rare in this league and that is what we need."
His great games have become so customary that Suns coach Mike
D'Antoni said, "it doesn't even register anymore. Seventeen
assists, 21 points. Not too bad for an old man. He's on a different
Bucks guard Mo Williams had no answer for Nash on the court and
none in the locker room when asked how to stop him.
"You can't," Williams said. "You've got to pick your poison
with him, either give him the jumper or play up on him and he's
going to find the open guy. He's a great player and that offense is
made for him. And he does a good job of running it."
"That's the way we're most successful," Nash said of the
high-scoring, spread-it-around offense. "If we keep the game under
100, we're not going to be nearly as dangerous. It's important for
us to play like that."
The only thing Phoenix did wrong was missing four free throws in
the final minute, which allowed Milwaukee to cut an eight-point
deficit to two, 117-115, when Desmond Mason sank two foul shots
with 13 seconds left. But Nash sank two free throws with 12.5
seconds left and Richardson did the same with 5.8 seconds left to
thwart the comeback.
Tired legs had finally gotten to the Suns 24 hours after scoring
a season-high 133 points at New York.
"I think that we were a little tired down the stretch," Nash
said. "But not tired enough. We made the plays when it counted. We
have a lot of guys that we can lean on."
Michael Redd led Milwaukee with 27 points, and Mason added 19.
After Nash's two fast-break baskets, the second off a steal,
keyed a 10-2 run that put the Suns ahead 80-72, Jim Jackson, in his
third game with the Suns, swished three jumpers as Phoenix built
its lead to 93-82 entering the fourth quarter. Jackson, acquired
from New Orleans last week, finished with 11 points.
"He's been terrific for us," Nash said. "It's great to have
another veteran. It's great to have another guy who can play."
And who gives Nash another veteran he can lavish with both
praise and passes.
Bucks F Marcus Fizer will miss 7-10 days following surgery
on his right elbow, which he banged onto the court Friday night
against Detroit. Fizer sustained a deep cut and needed an operation
to repair the bursa sac. ... Bucks PG T.J. Ford, who won't play
this season because his spine is still bruised following surgery
last year, is rehabbing in Houston and will rejoin the team after
the All-Star break. ... Milwaukee is 1-9 when opponents shoot
better than 50 percent. Phoenix shot 50.6 percent, prompting
D'Antoni to say: "I'm getting way too spoiled."