SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Mike D'Antoni sometimes seemed determined to scream the Phoenix Suns out of their month-long slumber. The coach berated the officials with long tirades, and he ripped into his players at halftime.
When their ears healed, they rediscovered their swagger -- and nobody swaggers quite like the high-flying Suns.
Steve Nash had 13 points and 13 assists despite foul trouble for the Suns, who won for just the second time in five games with an impressive 72-point second half. Eight Suns scored at least nine points apiece as they made 71 percent of their shots after halftime to race past the Kings, who had won six of their previous seven games.
The game meant nothing in the regular-season standings to the Suns, already locked into a Pacific Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. But the win could inject urgency into their final week -- and it could be even bigger if the Kings turn out to be the Suns' first-round opponent.
D'Antoni, recently promoted to run Phoenix's basketball operations as well, blamed himself for the Suns' recent malaise.
"I told the team that it all has to start with me, and it's been about a month since we had a fire in the belly," D'Antoni said. "I have been a little lackadaisical and not firing from the sidelines or at practice. In the second half, we came out with the fire necessary to compete in the playoffs. That's the first time
we've seen that in a long time. We had an unbelievable second half."
Bell and D'Antoni had the harshest words at halftime, when Phoenix trailed 68-51 to the free-flowing Kings. Bell and Marion then led the Suns to an 84-all tie after three quarters, and they pulled away in the fourth in typical Phoenix fashion.
"We're all professional enough to know we need to build some momentum going into the playoffs, because we've been struggling," Bell said.
Mike Bibby, Ron Artest and Brad Miller scored 23 points apiece
for the Kings, whose awful second-half defense provided a blow to
their hopes of a playoff rematch with Phoenix. Sacramento thought
it matched up well with the Suns -- before this second-half debacle,
Sacramento (41-38) is in good position for one of the final two playoff spots in the West, fighting with the Lakers (42-37) -- who beat Golden State on Tuesday night -- for the No. 7 seed and the chance to face Phoenix instead of top-seeded San Antonio or Dallas.
"I just think we'll do better next time," Artest said. "They showed us some things that we needed to see. There shouldn't have been that turnaround, but we'll get it back. You leave them open a little bit, and they'll make their shots. We've got to get into the playoffs first, and we'll take it from there."
Sacramento lost at home for just the third time in 19 games since Jan. 8, while Phoenix won on the road for only the third time in nine games. The Suns were the first visiting team to score at least 100 points at Arco Arena in 16 games -- and with a 39-point
fourth quarter, they ended up with the third-most points scored
against Sacramento this season.
Nash picked up three fouls in the game's first 7:47, and
Sacramento made 65 percent of its shots in the first half while
shooting 24 free throws to Phoenix's three. But the Suns tied it at
84 entering the fourth quarter with an impressive roll despite foul
trouble for Nash, Marion and Boris Diaw.
"[Nash] came back in, calmed the troops down and led them like the leader he is," Wells said. "That's why he's the MVP, because he does a great job of getting everyone involved."
Bell and Marion keyed the third-quarter surge, and Leandro Barbosa added a handful of big shots in the fourth as Phoenix pulled away. Bell and Tim Thomas hit three 3-pointers apiece.
"We needed to respond at some point in the last three weeks, and we did it," Nash said. "The way we played is something we have to hold on to every day. I don't know if we were conservative or passive or soft [in the first half], but ... you've got to go out there and dare somebody to be aggressive."
Marion scored 17 points in the second half, and Bell had 16.
Barbosa scored all 11 of his points after halftime.
After Nash was called for a questionable offensive foul in
the first quarter, the infuriated point guard screamed two stiff
profanities directly at referee Dan Crawford -- but wasn't called
for a technical. ... Marion is the only player left on either team
from the Kings' first-round playoff victory over the Suns in 2001.
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