Suns stay hot, hand Grizz fourth straight loss

PHOENIX (AP) -- The NBA's highest-scoring team was matched up
against the league's best defensive club.

This time, offense won out.

Shawn Marion scored 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, Leandro
Barbosa had a season-high 24 points, and the Phoenix Suns hung on
to beat Memphis 108-102 Wednesday night, handing the Grizzlies
their fourth straight loss.

The victory increased the Suns' Pacific Division lead to two
games over the Los Angeles Clippers, who were beaten by the Detroit
Pistons on Wednesday night.

"We had a great first half and a super second quarter, and then
we just held on," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.

The Suns beat the Grizzlies for the first time in three meetings
this season and scored 100 or more points for the 12th straight

Boris Diaw added 18 points for the Suns, James Jones had 16 and
All-Star Steve Nash contributed 14 points and 10 assists.

Bobby Jackson led the Grizzlies with 17 points. Eddie Jones
scored 16, Pau Gasol had 15, Antonio Burks scored 12, including 11
in the fourth quarter, and Shane Battier had 10 rebounds and nine
points. Memphis has lost five of six games.

The Suns took command with a season-high 42-point second quarter
that included six 3-pointers, two each by Barbosa and Jones, and 11
points by Marion. That padded the Suns' 22-21 lead after one
quarter to 64-46 at halftime. During the period, the quick-striking
Suns hit 66.7 percent of their shots (16-for-24).

"We came out of the gate sluggish," Nash said, referring to
the 15-5 deficit the Suns faced after the first 5:16. "But then we
created a lot of shots for ourselves. This is a great
confidence-builder for us, after being down by 10."

By halftime, Marion had 18 points, Barbosa 14 and Jones and Diaw
11 apiece.

Phoenix scored the most points against the Grizzlies in any
quarter this season.

Gasol, who scored 11, was the only player in double figures at
halftime for the road-weary Grizzlies, who were playing their third
straight road game and second in two nights. The Grizzlies are 1-9
in their last 10 road games.

The Suns continued their torrid shooting in the third quarter,
hitting 10 of 18 shots (56 percent), but Eddie Jones wouldn't let
Phoenix pull away. He hit three consecutive 3-pointers and finished
the period with 11 points as Phoenix led 91-75.

But the Grizzlies, sparked by Burks, twice whittled the Suns'
lead to five points in the final period.

"It was a rough finish, but we pulled out the win," Marion
said. "At the start, we got some good looks, but the shots weren't
going down. In the second quarter, we opened up more and got our
rhythm going."

Barbosa's point total was the second-highest of his career and
the first time he led the team in scoring since Nov. 10.

"We were running the floor and that's what coach D'Antoni was
looking for tonight," Barbosa said. "Coach has been giving me a
lot of minutes, and that makes it easier for me to get into the
flow of the game."

All of Memphis' 27 points in the fourth period came from

"He (coach Mike Fratello) put in the guys who would play
hard," Jackson said. "We were down by 16 going into the fourth
quarter, so he had to try something different. So he went to the
bench and we got something going."

Added Fratello: "I thought the guys in the fourth quarter did a
terrifc job of fighting back and being more representative of what
we're about than in the second and third quarters. We gave
ourselves a chance down the stretch."

Game notes
The Grizzlies' Mike Miller injured his left ankle when he
fell on a drive by Barbosa with 2.3 seconds left in the third
quarter and had to be helped to the dressing room. ... Marion is
ranked in the top five in the league in rebounding and steals. If
he remains there in both categories at the end of the season, he
would become the first player to do it twice. Marion did it last
season and David Robinson of San Antonio is the only other player
to do it. ... Marion also is only one of three players averaging at
least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. The others are
Minnesota's Kevin Garnett and the Los Angeles Clippers' Elton
Brand. The last Suns' player to accomplish the feat was Charles
Barkley, who did it in each of his four seasons in Phoenix
(1992-96). ... In their first meeting in Phoenix on Nov. 16, the
Grizzlies beat the Suns 115-103, Phoenix's most lopsided home loss
of the season. ... The Suns' previous second-period high this
season was 37 points, against the Clippers on Jan. 18. ... Fratello
has 638 career victories, tied with Chuck Daly for 17th on the
NBA's all-time list.


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