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Phoenix sweeps season series 3-0

PHOENIX (AP) -- Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash
played themselves right off the floor -- in a good way.

Marion had 26 points and nine rebounds, Stoudemire scored 20 and
Nash had nine points and eight assists -- all in the first three
quarters of Phoenix's 129-116 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers on
Saturday night.

Coach Mike D'Antoni was hoping to rest his All-Star trio, and
they weren't needed after leading the Suns to a 102-78
third-quarter lead.

"This was one of those games we knew we had to come out and be
aggressive and try to get a lead early so we could get some rest
for our starters," Marion said.

Nash has been playing with a sore hamstring and may profit the
most, but he saw his string of 11-assist games snapped at 12. Nash,
who finished with eight, was trying to become the first player with
11 or more assists in 13 consecutive games since John Stockton in
1990-91.

Jim Jackson took up the slack with 18 points and a season-high
10 assists, becoming the only Phoenix player other than Nash to
have a double-digit assists game.

Joe Johnson added 18 points and Leandro Barbosa had 16 off the
bench.

"The good thing about this team is you've got interchangeable
parts," said Jackson, acquired Jan. 21 from New Orleans. "You
know, like when Steve went down, Leandro came and stepped up.
That's what it's going to take from us anyway, when we get to the
playoffs -- a consistent team effort."

Damon Stoudamire had 30 points and Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 25
points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers, who dropped their fourth
straight and second under interim coach Kevin Pritchard.

Sebastian Telfair added 18 points, Darius Miles 16 and Travis
Outlaw 12.

Phoenix beat the Blazers 121-99 on Dec. 5 and 117-98 on Jan. 2
and completed its first sweep of Portland since the 1994-95 season.

"Phoenix is a well-oiled machine," Pritchard said. "They run
it up and down. Nash is without a doubt the MVP in my mind. He
makes them run. They've got great inside-outside guys, and it's
almost like throughout the game, you're just trying to pick your
poison."

The Suns led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter and
went ahead 106-78 on baskets by Johnson and Barbosa in the first 46
seconds of the final period.

Abdur-Rahim made a 15-foot jumper with 10:58 to go, and the
Blazers outscored the Suns 29-16 in the final 8:15, starting with
the last of Stoudamire's three 3-pointers, to cut the deficit to
113-90.

But it was mostly reserves against reserves down the stretch.

"I said it two weeks ago, and I'm going to keep saying it: With
the schedule we've got, if we can't get people to grow up real
fast, it's going to get real ugly," Stoudamire said of the Trail
Blazers, who have lost nine of 11.

Jackson, who started in place of sore-legged Quentin Richardson,
and Barbosa each made a pair of 3-pointers during a 20-8 run that
lifted the Suns to a 30-20 lead with 3:05 left in the first
quarter.

The Suns got the last basket of the first quarter, starting an
11-2 surge, and went ahead 43-26 on Marion's three-point play with
9:12 left in the second.

Portland responded with an 8-1 spurt in the next 3 minutes,
getting within 44-34 on Stoudamire's 20-footer from the corner. But
Nash answered with a baseline jumper, and the Blazers never got
closer than 10 points after that.

"After the second quarter, we got the job done," D'Antoni
said. "We got a lot of rest for our guys. The game went exactly
the way we hoped."

Game notes
Richardson sat out because of a hyperextended left knee,
but said he would play Sunday night in Seattle. ... The Suns
(45-14) hadn't won 45 games since 2000-01. ... Blazers F Zach
Randolph missed a second straight game because of a sore right
knee, originally diagnosed as a bone bruise. Randolph believes
there is worse damage and will seek a second opinion. ... The Suns
outscored the Blazers 90-18 on 3-point shots in the three-game
season series. ... The Blazers scored their season-high, but gave
up an opponent's high. ... University of Arizona coach Lute Olson,
who coached Stoudamire in college, was at courtside hours after his
team beat Arizona State in nearby Tempe.