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Diaw scores 31 as Phoenix runs past struggling T-Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Boris Diaw's teammates scanned the stat sheet
in the Phoenix locker room and did a double-take when they saw his
line.

"Boris had 31 and 11!?" laughed Raja Bell, as he looked across
at Shawn Marion.

Diaw sure did, sparking a Suns team that was at its up-tempo
best. Paced by a career-high 31 points, 11 rebounds and five
assists from the versatile forward, Phoenix raced past the
stumbling Minnesota Timberwolves 103-89 on Monday night.

"When it's like that, you just keep going until you miss,"
said Diaw, who shot 11-for-16 from the field and 9-for-9 from the
foul line.

Kevin Garnett (26 points and 19 rebounds) and Wally Szczerbiak
(27 points) helped the Timberwolves pull within 80-77 early in the
fourth quarter after a follow dunk by Garnett to cap a 12-2 run.
Then the Suns called timeout with 10:11 left and sped away with the
game.

All the work done by Minnesota to get back in it was negated by
a terrible stretch of transition defense. James Jones sank a
3-pointer, and Eddie House hit a jumper followed by a pull-up
3-pointer off the fast break. Jones made another shot from behind
the arc, and Diaw added an easy layup to cap the 13-0 spurt that
took just over four minutes.

"They play with the ultra-green light," a frustrated
Szczerbiak said. "Anyone that steps on the floor is a complete
basketball player."

Including the emerging Diaw. Steve Nash, too quick for Marko
Jaric and Troy Hudson, had 24 points and 12 assists. Shawn Marion
added 21 points and 16 rebounds for Phoenix, which had lost five of
its previous seven. But Diaw provided quite a spark, exactly what
the Suns need with star Amare Stoudemire out.

"That's the system we have. We've got equal opportunity out
here," Marion said. "It's just a matter of who gets it going."

A 23-year-old Frenchman who came to Phoenix this summer with two
future first-round draft picks from the Hawks in a trade for Joe
Johnson, Diaw led his team on another 13-0 charge -- this one to
start the second half. He contributed an assist, two free throws, a
dunk, a layup and another foul shot during the spurt. Quicker than
most power forwards and taller than most swingmen, the 6-foot-8
Diaw is capable of creating matchup problems.

"They got to make a choice," he said. "Sometimes it works for
me."

The Wolves, in Diaw, saw a different player than the one who
spent his first two years with Atlanta.

"It seems like anyone who goes down there, they get better,"
Szczerbiak said. "It resurrects their careers."

Minnesota wanted to keep high-energy Phoenix from playing that
frantic pace, as most opponents do, but there was little sign of
success.

"They're better at it than we are right now," coach Dwane
Casey said.

The Suns scored 12 of their first 14 points on layups or dunks,
surging to a 16-6 lead, and had four fast-break baskets before
halftime on the way to a 45-42 edge. The Wolves, who have
noticeably improved their defense this season, couldn't do enough
to disrupt the Suns' flow.

Defensive standout Trenton Hassell scored eight of his 14 points
in a one-minute span late in the first quarter, but Minnesota --
unlike Phoenix -- was again missing another consistent scoring
option. After the game, Garnett urged Casey to use up-and-down
rookie Rashad McCants more to see if he can fill that void.

"It's got to come from somewhere," Garnett said.

Bell was called for a charging foul in the first quarter for
running over the Wolves' Mark Madsen, who bruised his back and was
later taken to the locker room for examination after playing six
scoreless minutes. Madsen tried to loosen up during halftime
warmups, but he was in too much pain to return. He said he would
try to practice Tuesday.

Game notes
Minnesota's Michael Olowokandi missed the game, his first
absence this season, after having an X-ray on his right elbow in
the afternoon -- which revealed no broken bones. Olowokandi has
soreness and swelling in the joint. Madsen started at center
instead, the first starting lineup change Casey has had to make.
... Stoudemire, who hasn't played this season following left knee
surgery, has joined the team on this road trip and could be ready
to start on-court drills in a couple of weeks, coach Mike D'Antoni
said. Stoudemire is expected back around the All-Star break in
February. ... Former Minnesota Twins teammates Joe Mauer and Corey
Koskie chatted on the edge of the court at halftime. Koskie, a
native Canadian just like Nash, now plays for the Toronto Blue Jays
but still has a home in the Twin Cities area.