Nash's replacement scores season-high 22

PHOENIX (AP) -- Steve Nash didn't play and Amare Stoudemire was
in foul trouble. Usually, that would mean big problems for the
Phoenix Suns.

Not this time, not against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.

Leandro Barbosa, playing in place of the injured Nash, scored a
season-high 22 points, helping the Suns hand the Clippers their
eighth consecutive loss, 118-101 Wednesday night.

Barbosa, who was averaging only 5.8 points per game in brief
relief appearances of Nash -- sidelined with a strained left
hamstring -- scored nine straight points in the first period and
surpassed his previous season high of 19 early in the fourth period
with a 3-pointer.

"I'm going to call him 'Young Triggerman Jr.' now," teammate
Quentin Richardson said of Barbosa.

Barbosa said he didn't find out he was starting until the
pregame introductions.

He credited his teammates for his big game.

"The guys gave me a lot of confidence," he said. "Also, my
coach gave me a lot of confidence. I had a little more playing time
than usual and I felt very comfortable. I just let a lot of things
happen and tonight, everything good happened to me."

The victory over the depleted Clippers gave the Suns a 42-13
record and assured them of a winning season with 27 games
remaining. It also was their first win over Los Angeles in their
last four meetings at America West Arena and their first this
season in four games without Nash in the lineup.

The loss ended a disastrous nine-game road trip -- the longest in
the NBA this season -- for the Clippers, whose only victory during
the journey came in their opening game against Memphis.

Joe Johnson also scored 22 points for the Suns, Richardson added
18 and Stoudemire had 17, including 13 in the last quarter. With
Stoudemire in early foul trouble, Steven Hunter was a big plus off
the bench, tying his career high with 10 rebounds, scoring nine
points and blocking four shots.

"I was most happy with the rebounding and the blocked shots,
because that's what the team needs," Hunter said. "With Steve out
and Amare in foul trouble, this (win) was big."

Bobby Simmons led Los Angeles with 23 points, Corey Maggette
added 20 and Elton Brand had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

"They have a lot of weapons and Barbosa plays and leads the
team in scoring," Brand said. "They got out there and got steals
off our turnovers and poor shot selection and just ran.

"This trip was terrible."

Earlier in the season, when the Suns played three games without
Nash, they averaged a meager 87.3 points per game and lost all
three. During that time, they appeared out of sync without their
All-Star playmaker, who leads the league in assists.

This time, they had no problems. Their fast break worked to
perfection and they easily surpassed their NBA-leading average of
110.2 points per game.

The Suns overwhelmed the Clippers with a barrage of 3-pointers
in the first half and took a 60-49 lead at intermission. During the
first two periods, they hit eight of 15 treys, including three by
Richardson, the league leader in 3-pointers made. In contrast, the
Clippers, last in the NBA in 3-pointer, connected on only one.

Richardson finished the half with 14 points, and Jim Jackson,
coming off the bench, scored 10. Brand and Simmons each had 13
points for the Clippers and Maggette scored 10. Brand also had nine

Stoudemire, the Suns' leading scorer at 26.2, got into early
foul trouble, picking up his third personal with 26 seconds gone in
the second period, and had only two points, both on free throws, at
halftime. He hit one field goal in the third quarter before being
tagged with his fourth foul at the 1:41 mark.

The Suns took command with a 12-0 run during a 2:47 span early
in the second period, turning a 29-28 lead into a 41-28 advantage.
Walter McCarty began the spurt with a 3-pointer and Jackson capped
it with another shot from long range.

Playing their usual frenetic style, the Suns never let the
Clippers get closer than eight points in the third period, and
twice built leads as much as 16. By the end of the quarter, the
Suns led 88-73.<
^Notes@: The Clippers were short-handed in the backcourt because of
the absence of Marko Jaric (stress fracture right foot), Kerry
Kittles (degenerative disc lower back) and Shaun Livingston (torn
rib cartilage). ... Phoenix's scoring average of more than 110
points per game is the best in the league since Orlando averaged
110.9 during the 1994-95 season. ... Richardson has made more
3-pointers (172) than the entire Clippers' team (155). ... Noted
recording artist Lou Rawls sang the national anthem. ... The
Clippers need to finish 18-10 to avoid their 12th consecutive
losing season. Their last non-losing season was 1992-93, when they
were 41-41.