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Marion, Nash spark Suns to comeback win

PHOENIX (AP) -- Raja Bell was not involved in many high-scoring
games in his first five seasons in the NBA.

In his first season with the Phoenix Suns, he has played in both
the highest-scoring regulation and overtime games in the league
this year.

On Saturday night, he took part in the regulation high as the
Suns, the league's highest-scoring team, rallied past the Charlotte
Bobcats 136-121. Shawn Marion had 31 points and a career-high 24
rebounds, and Steve Nash had 29 points and eight assists for the
Suns.

"I hadn't been involved in too many like this until I got
here," Bell said.

Phoenix also was involved in the highest-scoring game this
season, a 152-149 double-overtime loss to Seattle on Jan. 22.

The Suns have scored at least 100 points in 17 consecutive
games, matching a total they had last season. It's the longest
streak in the NBA since Seattle had 19 in a row in 1994-95.

The victory was the Suns' sixth in a row -- the longest current
streak in the league -- and their ninth in 10 games, and increased
their Pacific Division lead to six games over the Los Angeles
Clippers.

Bell added 27 points for the Suns, while Boris Diaw had 20
points and 11 rebounds, and Leandro Barbosa scored 14.

Raymond Felton led the Bobcats with 31 points, the most by an
NBA rookie this season. Jumaine Jones scored 22 for Charlotte,
Gerald Wallace had 18, Matt Carroll 17, and Primoz Brezec 13.
Brevin Knight had 14 assists.

"It was fun, like being back in high school," Jones said of
the fast-paced style of basketball.

The Bobcats, who were averaging only 94.8 points coming in,
blitzed the Suns for a franchise-high 74 points in the first half
and led by six. Four of their five starters already were in double
figures, with Felton and Jones scoring 16 apiece, Carroll 15 and
Brezec 12.

"Seventy-four points at the half -- that's like being at the
South Pole for us," Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.

Marion was the first Phoenix player to score 30 or more points
and grab at least 20 rebounds in a game since Charles Barkley had
34 points and 26 rebounds on March 24, 1995, against Houston.

Although it was such a high-scoring game, Marion thought the
Suns' defense -- in the second half -- was vital.

"We came out with a little more energy in the second half and
we were more aggressive," he said. "We started getting
deflections and we got more active in the passing lanes and that
opened the game for us in the third quarter. Then, we got stops
when we needed to."

Marion, coming off a career-high 44 points against Boston on
Wednesday night, already had 20 points and 13 rebounds at half --
assuring him of his league-leading 42nd double-double of the
season.

"He's an All-Star and on any given night, he can do what he has
done the last two games and we're never surprised to see what he
does next," the Suns' Eddie House said.

Nash had 16 points at the half, all in the first quarter, and
Bell had 13 as the undersized Suns -- starting the game without a
true center -- couldn't match the pace of the energetic Bobcats.

With their surprisingly good shooting (51.8 percent) -- the
Bobcats began the game as the worst shooting team in the NBA -- and
the playmaking of Knight, who had eight assists in 12 minutes,
Charlotte built a 14-point lead with 3:26 remaining in the half.
But a 10-2 run by Phoenix cut the lead to 74-68 at the break.

The Suns closed the third quarter with an 18-4 run to take a
108-102 lead. The Suns scored 40 points, their season high for that
period.

Charlotte never got closer than four points in the fourth
quarter.

Both teams were playing short-handed. The Suns without starting
center Kurt Thomas (foot), swingman Dijon Thompson (knee) and
forward Nikoloz Tskitishvili (ankle), and the Bobcats were missing
Emeka Okafor (ankle), forward Sean May (knee), and forward Melvin
Ely (ankle).

However, the Bobcats still had 12 eligible players, while the
Suns had only nine. The Suns learned before the game of the
seriousness of Thomas' injury. The team said he would miss six to
eight weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot.

Game notes
The Bobcats are only 1-11 against West teams on the road
and 5-18 overall. ... Charlotte's 74 first-half points were the
most allowed by the Suns since Washington scored 77 on April 6,
1995. It also was an NBA high this season. ... The Bobcats have
five players who won NCAA championships: Felton and May with North
Carolina in 2005, Okafor in 2004 at Connecticut, Lonny Baxter with
Maryland in 2002, and Jake Voskuhl in 1999 at UConn. ... Former NBA
"iron man" A.C. Green was a courtside spectator.