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Nash hits seven 3-pointers in 31-point night

PHOENIX (AP) -- Steve Nash didn't intend to shoot a lot of
3-pointers. They just came naturally in the flow of the game.

"I wasn't looking for them, I don't ever focus on them," Nash
said after scoring a season-high 31 points, including a career-high
seven 3-pointers, as the well-rested Phoenix Suns beat the tired
Indiana Pacers 109-91 Wednesday night for their fourth straight
victory.

Coming into the game, Nash had hit only 12 of 42 long range
shots in 12 games. This time, he was 7-for-8.

"I don't shoot that many in the summer, so it takes me some
time to get into my rhythm," he said, after hitting 10-of-15
overall from the field.

The Suns now have the NBA's longest current winning streak,
after holding an opponent under 100 points for the sixth straight
game. During that stretch, the Suns have held opponents to an
average of 88.3 points per game.

"Now, we're showing teams we can play defense," Shawn Marion,
who added 21 points and 12 rebounds, said. Last season, Phoenix was
the worst defensive team in the NBA, allowing 103.3 points per
game.

Boris Diaw scored a season high-tying 17 for the Suns on 8-of-10
shooting and had eight rebounds and six assists. Kurt Thomas had 11
points and nine rebounds, and Eddie House scored 10 points.

Jermaine O'Neal topped the Pacers with 25 points and nine
rebounds, Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 16, Fred Jones 13 and Ron
Artest 12.

Nash, who finished with nine assists and eight rebounds, had a
sensational first half, hitting all five of his 3-point attempts
and scoring 18 points, to go with six assists and four rebounds as
the Suns built a 61-44 lead. Phoenix's first-half total was one
point more than the Pacers allowed in an 84-60 win at Utah on
Tuesday night.

The Suns, who hadn't played since Friday, took advantage of the
road-weary Pacers, constantly pushing the ball and capitalizing on
Indiana's inability to get back on defense. Overall, the Suns hit
24-of-47 shots (51 percent) and outrebounded the Pacers 23-18 in
the half. Marion also had 13 points, eight rebounds and three
blocks in the half.

The Suns never trailed during the first 24 minutes, and an 18-7
run over the final 4:31 of the first period gave them a 35-17 lead
at the end of the quarter.

"We didn't play well enough early to give ourselves a chance,"
Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our undoing was the first
quarter, when we were outscored by 18. Our energy level wasn't
where it needed to be early."

Perhaps that was because the Pacers were playing their third
game in four nights on the road.

"We wanted to push the ball up and get a comfortable lead
early," Thomas said.

"They were in back-to-back games and we wanted to make their
legs heavier," Marion said. "We took advantage of what we had to
take advantage of."

Nash added, "We didn't want to be sluggish after four days of
practice. We didn't want them to force their slowdown game on us.
They're better than us in a halfcourt game."

The Suns increased their opening advantage to as much as 20 in
the second period. Indians then closed within 10, but Nash
connected on two 3s and Raja Bell hit one in the final 4:15,
restoring the commanding advantage before halftime.

Indiana did not attempt a free throw in the half.

Phoenix hiked its lead to as much as 34 points in the third
quarter, with the help of a 17-0 run over a 5:15 span midway
through the period. Marion began the run with a slam dunk and
finished it with two free throws, while Nash hit his record
3-pointer. No player other than O'Neal, who had eight points in the
third, scored for the Pacers until Jones made a layup with 2:42
remaining in the period.

Indiana never got closer than 16 points in the fourth quarter.

Game notes
Carlisle was ejected early in the fourth quarter after
incurring two technical fouls. ... Artest and O'Neal are both
averaging more than 20 points per game. No Pacers teammates have
averaged over 20 since Billy Knight (26.6) and John Williamson
(20.7) in 1976-77, Indiana's first season in the NBA. ... James
Jones played against Indiana for the first time since Phoenix
acquired him from the Pacers for a second-round draft choice in
August and scored two points, going 1-for-6. ... Artest leads the
league in steals, while Nash is the NBA leader in assists and free
throw percentage.