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Long layoff doesn't slow Phoenix

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns had no trouble revving up the
engines again. They're just too fast to gather rust.

With Amare Stoudemire powering for career playoff highs of 40
points and 16 rebounds, the Suns blew past the Dallas Mavericks
127-102 on Monday eight days after sweeping Memphis. The Suns came
out rested and running for Game 1 of the Western Conference
semifinals against the Mavericks, who were coming off a 40-point
victory over Houston in Game 7 of their first-round series Saturday
night.

"We're going to force the issue every time we come out until
somebody stops us from doing it," Quentin Richardson said.
"That's our game. We've been doing that all year long."

Joe Johnson had 25 points and Shawn Marion 23 points and 11
rebounds in a game the Suns never trailed.

Steve Nash, going against the team he left after six seasons
when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban refused to come close to the
five-year, $65 million he got from the Suns, was presented the
league's most valuable player trophy by NBA commissioner David
Stern before the game, holding it high above his head for the
cheering crowd.

Then Phoenix was off and running, scoring the first eight
points, leading by as many as 18 in the second quarter and 26 at
the end of three.

The Suns even played some defense, forcing 17 turnovers and
converting them to 26 points.

"It's not great defense," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said,
"but it's pretty good."

D'Antoni will receive the NBA coach of the year award on
Tuesday, but he said such honors are just a sidebar to the real
story of the Suns.

"Individual awards, somebody has to get them, because that's
the way society is set up," he said. "But it is a team sport, and
I'm telling you what, that's a pretty good team."

Dallas coach Avery Johnson wasn't around to watch the final
quarter, drawing two quick technicals from referee Dan Crawford
after complaining vehemently that Dirk Nowitzki wasn't fouled on a
turnover. Dirk Nowitzki was fouled on a turnover. Johnson was
tossed with 3:20 left in the third quarter and his team down 89-68.

Nash had 11 points and 13 assists and Quentin Richardson added
12 points as Phoenix improved to 5-0 in the playoffs.

Nowitzki scored 28 for Dallas. Jerry Stackhouse scored 14, Jason
Terry, Michael Finley and Marquis Daniels 13 apiece.

"You're angry, you're disappointed," Nowitzki said. "They
scored 130 points (actually 127) and they were laughing at us."

Johnson blamed himself for his team coming out so flat.

"This one's on me," he said.

"We came out here, I guess we thought it was a vacation. You
know, it's about 88 degrees out there and it's sunny. I think we
were more in the resort mood rather than a semifinals of a playoff
type of mood. That will hopefully change come Game 2."

The Dallas coach decided not to double-team Stoudemire, with
disastrous results. In the battle of starting centers, Stoudemire
outscored Erick Dampier 40-0. Alan Henderson didn't fare any
better. Neither did big Shawn Bradley.

"I guess they figured Dampier was a big enough center to hold
me," Stoudemire said, "but I do what they let me do, just take
what the defense gives me."

The remarkable 22-year-old was asked if it was the best game of
his three-year NBA career.

"I don't know about my career, you know I've got a lot of
big-time games," he said with a big smile, "but it's a big game
in Game 1 of the conference semifinals."

D'Antoni put Stoudemire's performance near the top.

"Defensively and offensively, that's one of his best if not the
best," the coach said. "He was awesome at both ends."

Stoudemire, easily driving past his slower defender, had 32
points and 11 rebounds with 8 minutes left in the third. He
finished 13-for-21 from the field and 14-for-17 at the foul line.

Nowitzki said the Mavericks have to get a better game from
Dampier to have any chance in the series.

"We've got to get something out of our center position,"
Nowitzki said. "He was always a step slow. He got in foul trouble
and couldn't be aggressive. He's got to find a way to stay in the
game."

Phoenix outscored Dallas 15-6 to start the second quarter to go
up 44-28 on Nash's 3-pointer. The Suns were at their acrobatic
best, with Johnson batting a pass volleyball-style to a streaking
Stoudemire for a stuff, Nash tossing a behind-the-back pass to
Stoudemire for a stuff, then firing a bullet pass crosscourt to
Johnson for a 3-pointer.

Nash's 12-footer put Phoenix up 63-45 with 22.6 seconds left in
the half. Stackhouse made two free throws to make it 63-47 at the
break.

While falling on his back, Nash sank a 14-footer over Jason
Terry to ignite a 9-0 spurt that gave Phoenix a 74-51. Stoudemire's
acrobatic inside basket on a pass from Nash with 8:27 left in the
third quarter ended that spurt.

A 3-pointer by Marion and two by Quentin Richardson made it
87-64 with 5 minutes left in the third, and Steven Hunter's slam
from the baseline put Phoenix ahead 99-73 entering the final
quarter.

Game notes
Richardson drew three offensive fouls, two from Josh Howard
in the second quarter. ... Stoudemire scored 40 or more six times
in the regular season. ... Counting the end of the regular season,
the Suns have won 10 of 11, with the lone loss a meaningless
regular-season finale at Sacramento. ... Nash left the game to
chants of "M-V-P" with 4:35 to play.