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Nash, Suns turn away late rally from Artest, Kings

PHOENIX (AP) -- Another night, another lead nearly blown for the
Phoenix Suns.

Steve Nash scored 24 points, including a key basket and a pair
of late free throws, helping the Suns withstand a furious
fourth-quarter Sacramento comeback and beat the Kings 112-104
Friday night.

"It's pretty common for us to give up big leads," Nash said.
"But I'm just looking at the big picture, which is we got another
win."

Nash finished with 13 assists, Shawn Marion added 18 points and
Raja Bell had 16 for the Suns, who won for the seventh time in nine
games.

"We had a good game, and we played three really good
quarters," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "For some reason we
have had the habit to let the other team in a little bit at the
end. We simply do not have a middle man to help us finish it off."

Ron Artest scored 10 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter as
the Kings nearly rallied from a 93-76 deficit at the start of the
period. Kevin Martin's 10-foot jumper capped a 26-8 run that pulled
Sacramento within 104-102 with 2:50, the closest the Kings had been
since early in the first quarter.

"Guys just didn't give up," Artest said. "Everybody kept
playing hard and we cut it down to two. We showed character. We
didn't play the right way at the beginning but played the right way
at the end."

Before the Kings could tie the game, Nash connected on a 12-foot
jumper, Artest missed a jump shot and Shareef Abdur-Rahim missed
two more shots before Nash made two free throws to make it 110-102
with 10 seconds to play.

"We had them where we wanted them," Martin said. "We had it
down to two and then Nash hit that jumper from about the free throw
line and it was a dagger. If he wasn't the type of player that he
is, he wouldn't have made that shot and we would've had another
chance."

Brad Miller scored 21 points and Martin added 18 for the Kings,
who had their three-game winning streak snapped.

"They'll let you back into the game, but they've been
together," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "When you have Nash out
there on the floor with Marion -- especially Nash -- those other guys
were getting rattled and Nash came back in and hit a big shot. He
controlled the offensive end."

The Suns led by 15 at the half but missed their first six
second-half attempts. Sacramento took advantage, pulling within
67-55 on Miller's two free throws with 8:06 left in the third.

"Sometimes we have a team down 20 points and then start missing
some shots," Marion said. "That's when we need to clamp down on
defense. It's not easy, but at the same time we've got to do it."

Marion then took over, scoring off an alley-oop pass from Nash
to end the Suns' drought, then hitting a pair of jumpers and
completing a three-point play off a layup to put Phoenix back in
front 76-57 with 5:14 to go.

"You can't shoot 60 percent all the time," D'Antoni said. "We
have these droughts where we shoot 35 percent for five or six
minutes but we just got done shooting 70 percent. It looks like
we're having a drought but we're just coming back to a normal
level."

The Kings, who trailed by as many as 20 in the first half,
pulled within 83-70 on Mike Bibby's layup and a pair of free throws
by Martin. Bibby then short-circuited the rally, getting called for
a technical after fouling Bell. Marion made the technical, Bell
sank both of his shots and added a 3-pointer moments later to give
the Suns an 89-70 lead.

Phoenix took advantage of a slow start by Sacramento to open an
early lead. Artest converted a three-point play to cut the Suns'
lead to 17-13, but Nash sank a 3-pointer and the Suns hit seven
straight free throws over the final 2:56 to open a 33-21
first-quarter lead.

The Suns took their largest lead at 59-39 on James Jones' layup
with 1:49 left before halftime.

Game notes
Artest's 28 points were his most since being traded to
Sacramento. ... All five Phoenix starters finished in double
figures. ... Marion pulled down seven rebounds to become the second
player in Suns history to grab at least 5,000 rebounds. Marion has
5,002, second only to Alvan Adams' 6,937. ... Sacramento had won
the first two meetings between the teams. ... The Kings have yet to
win four straight this season, losing in all four attempts to
extend a three-game winning streak. ... D'Antoni earned his 116th
win for the Suns, tying him with current Bulls coach Scott Skiles
for fifth on the franchise coaching list.<