SEATTLE (AP) -- Joe Johnson tossed balls through the hoop with
ease. Amare Stoudemire slammed buckets in the lane. And Steve Nash
ran the controls from the point, driving the fleet Phoenix machine.
Johnson matched a season-high with 30 points on 11-of-18
shooting and Stoudemire added 22 points, leading the Phoenix Suns
to a 110-99 win over the Seattle SuperSonics on Sunday night.
"This was a good game for us," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said.
"It follows up winning at Dallas and against Detroit, so we have
had three good wins in the last couple of weeks. We are playing at
a high level."
Shawn Marion had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Nash added 12
points and 10 assists, and the NBA's top scoring offense helped the
Suns improve their road record to a league-best 24-7.
"The key is not to be complacent," Nash said. "We're a young
team. We have to stay focused to keep this thing going."
Ray Allen led the Sonics with 27 points, while Rashard Lewis had
26 points and 11 rebounds. But Seattle, which had won six of seven
after the All-Star break, couldn't match a series of runs by the
"Everybody came to play. We just didn't have the rhythm,"
Antonio Daniels scored 14 points and Jerome James had 12. The
perimeter-oriented Sonics also came up short in a very important
statistic -- shooting 3-of-27 from 3-point range for a season-low 11
"We missed some shots that we ordinarily hit," Daniels said.
"In the fourth quarter, we should have put more of an emphasis on
attacking the rim. Sometimes, we bailed them out by just launching
It was a matchup between two of the top three teams in the
Western Conference, and both wanted it badly.
That was evident from the way the Suns' bench players celebrated
with the game in hand and by a rare ejection for Sonics coach Nate
McMillan, whistled for two technical fouls in the fourth quarter.
When it was finally over, D'Antoni let out a deep breath and
wiped his brow.
"We always step up to the plate, but this was a big game,"
Stoudemire said. "I'm pretty sure both teams understood that."
The Suns appeared to have things in hand after Nash's jumper
with 4:57 to play put Phoenix ahead 99-85, but Seattle crawled
back. Allen made four free throws and Daniels completed a
three-point play to trim the margin to 99-92 with 3:59 remaining.
Seattle couldn't get the margin below 101-94 after two free
throws by Lewis with 2:48 remaining. Johnson sealed the victory
with two free throws of his own and a jumper that put the Suns up
105-94 with 1:48 to go.
"I think they wanted to see if I could make a couple," Johnson
said. "I ended up making some, and it got me into a pretty good
Asked about Johnson's performance, Allen said: "He was pretty
good today. He kept us on our heels. Just when we were worried
about the pick-and-roll, we got hit from the other side."
McMillan was ejected with 8:01 remaining after his second
technical foul in the fourth quarter. In both cases, he protested
animatedly to game officials -- the last after a no-call when
Daniels was flattened on a drive.
"The new rule is that you can't extend, and I thought there was
a lot of hand-checking," McMillan said. "They were allowed to use
their forearms to defend, and you can't do that."
In the end, the Sonics simply couldn't keep up.
The Suns attacked in surges, one burst after another. Every time
the Sonics erased a deficit and got the crowd charged, it seemed
someone wearing a purple jersey found a way to put Phoenix back in
Usually, it was Johnson swishing his smooth jumpers, but
Stoudemire inflicted his share of damage with fastbreak dunks.
Marion was a force inside, scoring off the block and on the break.
"We came out with a lot of willpower, a lot of determination to
play strong throughout the whole game," Stoudemire said. "Despite
the physical play, we maintained it and we got the win."
Seattle pulled to 77-73 late in the third on a basket by Lewis,
but the Suns steadied themselves and led 82-77 going into the
fourth. Then Phoenix opened the final period with a 10-0 run,
leading 92-77 after Steven Hunter's basket.
Nash, from nearby Victoria, British Columbia, is having an
MVP-caliber season, and he had a solid day -- to the delight of
fellow Canadians who made the trip to Seattle to cheer him on and
wave Maple Leaf flags.
"All Steve did was bring 700 kids down from Canada, and that
helped a lot," D'Antoni said.
Sonics F Nick Collison left with a broken nose early in the
second period, sustained in a collision with Hunter. ... The Suns
took the season series 2-1. The teams won't meet again in the
regular season because of the unbalanced schedule, forced by
realignment. ... James and Stoudemire each had first-quarter