PHOENIX (AP) -- No team since Michael Jordan and the Chicago
Bulls were at their best has gotten off to a better start to a
season than the Phoenix Suns.
Amare Stoudemire had 30 points, 11 rebounds and five steals --
and Shawn Marion scored 29 points -- to lead the Suns to their
season-best 10th consecutive victory, 109-102 over the Memphis
Grizzlies on Thursday night.
The Suns -- winners of nine in a row earlier this season --
improved to 23-3, the NBA's best start the Bulls went 41-3 in
Steve Nash had 17 points and 14 assists, and sealed the victory
with four free throws in the last 23.1 seconds. Nash has had at
least 10 assists in each of the 10 victories. Only Magic Johnson --
in 1986-87 -- has managed that feat in NBA history.
But the Suns were not all that happy with their latest
performance, especially on defense.
"We're getting a bad habit of playing defense when we want
to," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We need to address that."
D'Antoni thinks the Suns are getting a bit too comfortable
because of their impressive record.
"You can see we can get a lot better," he said, "but I like
our record so I can't complain too much."
Nash agrees with his coach's concerns.
"I think our team should be proud, but I think they also should
see signs of complacency at times. We need to get more focused,"
Mike Miller scored 19 of his 22 points in the first half for
Memphis, and Jason Williams had 19 of his 21 in the second. Pau
Gasol added 19 points for the Grizzlies.
"We had it where we wanted to get it," Miller said. "I missed
the big shot and they made the free throws. That's basically it."
Down 77-70 with 2:25 left in the third quarter, the Suns called
a timeout, then went on a 17-0 run to go up 87-77 on Stoudemire's
17-footer from the baseline with 9:51 left in the game.
Memphis cut it to 103-99 on Williams' 3-pointer, followed
Gasol's inside hook with 1:53 to go. After Shane Battier missed a
3, Stoudemire sank two free throws and Phoenix led 105-99.
Miller's 3-pointer, his only basket of the second half, with
45.1 seconds left made it 105-102. Marion's air-ball from 3-point
range gave the Grizzlies the ball and a chance to tie.
But Miller, who made his first nine shots, threw up an air-ball
with 24 seconds to go, and Nash clinched it at the line.
Coach Mike Fratello felt a lot better than he did after the
Grizzlies' loss at Golden State on Wednesday.
"Overall, for us there's a lot of good I saw coming out of this
game," he said. "It's not a win, but we have to try to build on
Phoenix scored the last eight points of the third quarter and
the first nine of the fourth. Marion had seven points and
Stoudemire six in the decisive surge.
Consecutive stuffs by Stoudemire and Marion, both on passes from
Nash, made it 95-83 with 5:51 to play.
The Grizzlies, playing for the second night in a row, finished
their western trip 2-2.
Memphis used a 22-6 outburst to go up 77-70 on consecutive
baskets by Earl Watson, leading D'Antoni to call the timeout that
changed the momentum.
Miller scored 17 points, including 15 from long-range, in a 21-4
run that erased Phoenix's nine-point early lead and put the
Grizzlies ahead 35-29 with 10:11 left in the first half.
James Posey's 3-pointer gave Memphis a 49-45 lead, but the Suns
outscored the Grizzlies 11-4 over the final 3½ minutes of the half
-- including 3-pointers by Richardson and Marion -- to go up 56-53 at
The Suns became the first team in NBA history to win 10 in
a row after a 50-loss season. ... Miller was 6-for-6 in the first
quarter, all on long-range jumpers. ... Memphis was without
Lorenzen Wright (sore right knee) and Bonzi Wells (bruised ribs).
... The Suns' Joe Johnson was 1-for-9 shooting. ... D'Antoni
improved to 44-43 as Phoenix's coach.