PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns are running away with the
Pacific Division again, and are lighting up the scoreboard in the
Steve Nash was 9-of-11 from the floor and had 25 points and 12
assists before sitting out the fourth quarter Wednesday night while
the Suns completed a 126-95 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers, their
nearest division foe.
"I think we all knew it was a big game for us," Nash said.
"In many ways, it would be tough not to say this clinches the
division. We had that frame of mind going into the game, and we
played like it from start to finish."
The Suns made 16 3-pointers, three shy of the franchise record,
in 31 attempts.
Nash was 6-of-8 on 3s and had one turnover.
"I think he's had a better year this year, and he was MVP last
year," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "As far as I'm
concerned, that's who I'd vote for. He's incredible."
Phoenix was playing its fourth game in five nights, and arrived
back in town at 3 a.m. Wednesday. Yet there was no sign of fatigue.
Counting Tuesday night's 129-120 victory in Seattle, the Suns
scored 255 points on consecutive nights.
"That's a lot of scoring," Shawn Marion said. "We're doing it
as a team, too. That's the best thing about it."
Seven Phoenix players, including all five starters, scored in
double figures. Boris Diaw and James Jones had 17 points apiece,
Raja Bell 16, Marion 14, Leandro Barbosa 13 and Tim Thomas 11.
Marion also had 12 rebounds.
"It says a lot about this team, especially getting in so late.
To come out here and play the game we played tonight, it says a
lot," Marion said.
The Clippers' four-game winning streak was over before they knew
what hit them.
"They just totally outworked us," Corey Maggette said. "This
is a team you can't relax with, you have to play defense the whole
48 minutes on them. Tonight they were making shots on all
cylinders. We just didn't bring our game, and it showed."
The Suns, winners of 14 of their last 16, scored the first 10
points of the game and Los Angeles never was closer than eight
after that. The blowout gave Phoenix (45-19) a 7½-game lead over
the second-place Clippers (37-26) in the Pacific Division with 18
to play. The Suns never had won consecutive division titles.
"When you combine our offense and the defense we had tonight,
which was superb, things are going to go well," Phoenix coach Mike
D'Antoni said. "We played about as well as we can play."
Los Angeles had five players in double figures, led by 18 apiece
by Maggette and Elton Brand. Chris Kaman was just 3-of-10 and
scored eight points but grabbed 16 rebounds. Sam Cassell scored 14,
and Vladimir Radmanovic added 13.
The Suns had their highest-scoring half of the season to build a
73-54 lead at the break.
The Clippers scored the first three points of the third quarter,
the last two on Cassell's 20-footer, then the Suns turned on the
throttle in a 13-0 blitz to go up 86-57 with 8:28 to go.
Every point in the run came from the outside. Bell started it
with a 3-pointer, Jones sank a 22-footer, Nash made a 3, then Jones
did the same. Diaw capped it with an 18-footer.
The Suns made nine of their first 11 shots and bolted to a 24-4
lead on Nash's 3-pointer with 5:20 left in the first quarter.
Bell's 3-pointer at the 3:39 mark made it 29-8. The Clippers cut it
to 36-22 at the end of the quarter behind Cassell's eight points.
Los Angeles made it 45-37 on Radmanovic's 3-pointer with 7:28
left in the half. Diaw's three-point play and Thomas' dunk made it
50-37. The Clippers never cut the lead to single digits again.
Brand's 14-footer sliced it to 55-44 3:46 before the break.
But Jones sank a 3-pointer and scored inside on a feed from
Nash. Nash's 7-foot bank shot boosted Phoenix's lead to 62-44 with
2:35 left in the half. Consecutive 3-pointers by Marion and Nash
put the Suns up 73-51 before Radmanovic's 3-pointer just before the
halftime buzzer made it 73-54 at the break.
In the first quarter, Nash was 5-for-5 for 14 points and
four assists. ... Marion has an NBA-best 51 double-doubles, two shy
of his career high set last season. ... The Clippers need one
victory to top their total of 37 for last season. ... Maggette
missed a breakaway showboat dunk late in the third quarter. ... The
Clippers' Shaun Livingston left the game with a left ankle sprain.
After staving off elimination in the game before, the Heat seized control of this one from the get-go and will move on in the East playoffs.
While the Hornets do not have a series victory to show for their efforts, the work Steve Clifford did to get Charlotte to this point is impressive.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr explains how not having Steph Curry for most of their series against Houston has carried over to this round against Portland. Kerr also examines how Draymond Green has been able to adjust and help the team.