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PhoenixSunsPHX
51-16, 28-7 Away
120
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CharlotteBobcatsCHA
13-53, 11-22 Home

Phoenix stays ahead of Spurs for West's best mark

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Charlotte Bobcats were just a blip on
the radar for the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns jumped all over the Bobcats, beating them 120-105 on
Wednesday night for a franchise record 28th road victory.

Now, it's on to Miami, for a Friday night showdown with the Heat
with the NBA's best record at stake.

"This is a game we've been waiting for," Phoenix coach Mike
D'Antoni said. "It's big for us, because if we win it, we get the
tiebreaker."

The Suns beat Miami 122-107 in Phoenix on Jan. 11.

Shawn Marion had 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Suns, who
are now 28-7 on the road. That bests the mark of 27-14 set in 1993
and 1995. The victory was also Phoenix's ninth straight on the
road, which tied the club record.

To make it 10 in a row, the Suns will have to win in Miami. So
even though they were playing the Bobcats, it was hard not to look
ahead.

"It's going to be a big-time game," said Amare Stoudemire, who
had 23 points and 14 rebounds. "Even though we take it one game at
a time, that game has definitely been lingering in the back of our
minds."

Joe Johnson scored 26 points for the Suns. Jim Jackson scored 15
and Steve Nash finished with 11 points, 10 assists and no
turnovers.

It was clear from the opening tip that the Suns are a far better
team than the expansion Bobcats, who trailed by double digits less
eight minutes into the game.

Stoudemire opened the game with a 19-footer, then Nash stole the
ball from Bernard Robinson, who was making his first start of the
season, and used a crowd-pleasing behind-the-back pass to feed it
into Marion for a dunk.

Before the Bobcats knew it, Stoudemire had added a dunk and
Quentin Richardson hit a 3-pointer for a 9-2 lead that had them
gasping for air during a frustrating timeout.

The Suns stretched their lead to 29 in the second quarter, and
took a 70-47 lead into the break.

"They are really good," Charlotte guard Brevin Knight said.
"They understand their style. You make shots the way they did
tonight, you don't need to play much defense."

Mathematically, it wasn't the worst Charlotte loss of the season
-- that was a 112-80 defeat to Philadelphia on March 11. But it had
the makings to be just as bad until a strong second-half effort
made it respectable.

The Bobcats cut it to 13 in the third quarter while many of the
Suns' starters were on the bench. Then Jason Hart hit a 3 to cut it
to 91-81 with just over 10 minutes to go.

Then Phoenix sent its starters back in, and promptly took
control when Richardson fed an alley-oop dunk into Marion.

"We put ourselves in a hole and played horrible," said Gerald
Wallace, who returned from a seven-game absence with bruised ribs
to score 17 points in 30 minutes.

"But we worked hard to end the game on a positive note."

After an Emeka Okafor dunk for Charlotte, Nash hit a long jumper
and Jackson hit consecutive 3-pointers to push the Suns' lead back
up to 16.

Hart led Charlotte with 21 points in a reserve role. Gerald
Wallace returned from a seven-game absence with bruised ribs to
score 17 points in 30 minutes.

Jason Kapono added 15 points, Okafor had 13 points and Brevin
Knight had 12 points and 15 assists.
^NOTES:@ Charlotte's Keith Bogans did not play because of back
spasms. ... The Suns were 12-of-29 from 3-point range. ... Only
Paul Shirley and Jake Voskuhl didn't get in the game for Phoenix.
... Pop diva Brandy was sitting courtside and cheering on
Richardson, her fiance.

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