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Nash-to-Marion connection lifts Suns over Magic

PHOENIX (AP) -- Tim Thomas has played for six teams in his nine
NBA seasons. He might want to stick around in Phoenix for a while.

Thomas, who had not played since November and was signed by the
Suns on Friday, scored a season-high 20 points, and combined with
Shawn Marion and Steve Nash to lead the Suns to their ninth
straight victory, 123-118, over the Orlando Magic.

Marion's two alley-oop baskets in the final minute, both on
setups from Nash, rallied the Suns from a seven-point deficit in
the final 5:13.

But it was Thomas' unexpected contribution that kept the Suns in
the game before their late comeback. He hit 7-of-13 shots,
including 5-of-8 from 3-point range.

"It was a great night," the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward said.
"This is unbelievable. I always wanted to be in this situation,
where I could open up my game and run."

With the Suns still down by five, 116-111 with 3:06 left, they
reeled off eight straight points. Marion slammed home an alley-oop
pass from Nash with 56.1 seconds remaining, finally putting Phoenix
ahead 117-116. Less than 26 seconds later, Marion and Nash hooked
up again on an alley-oop play.

Marion finished with 24 points and nine rebounds. Nash and Boris
Diaw each had 18 points and Leandro Barbosa scored 17, hitting all
seven of his field goal attempts. Nash also had 13 assists and Diaw
had 11 assists and nine rebounds, barely missing a triple double.

Jameer Nelson, playing in his first game since Jan. 20, scored
20 of his 24 points in the second half for Orlando and Carlos
Arroyo added a season-high 21 points. Hedo Turkoglu had 20 points
for the Magic, Dwight Howard had 15 and Keyon Dooling 12.

The loss was the Magic's fourth in a row and 12th in their last
13 games. The Suns have won 12 of 13.

Orlando's point total was its highest of the season in
regulation, surpassing the 111 it scored in a nine-point victory
over the Suns on Jan. 24. This was the 20th straight game that the
Suns surpassed the 100-point mark.

Thomas certainly made an impression on Nash, last season's MVP.

"He's going to get better and better as he understands the
offense and what we're trying to do," Nash said. "I'm amazed that
the guy can come in after not playing for so long and not even
practice with us and get 20 points."

Orlando coach Brian Hill couldn't help but think the Magic let
one get away.

"We weren't able to execute down the stretch," Hill said. "We
had every chance to win the game, but we made a couple of defensive
mistakes at the end in transition and they got a couple of easy
baskets."

Thomas, who was signed by Phoenix after being waived by Chicago,
showed how well he would fit in with the Suns' fast-breaking and
3-point shooting offense. Thomas hit his first three shots,
including a 3-pointer, and scored seven points in 8½ minutes.

He also provided a little levity to the game, kissing official
Bob Delaney on the head after being called for a personal foul in
the final minute of the half.

Turkoglu and Arroyo kept the Magic close in the first half. With
4 minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Suns led by nine
points, 50-41, but the Magic outscored them 15-8 the rest of the
period, whittling the deficit to two.

The Suns hit eight 3-pointers in the third quarter, including
two more by Thomas, but the aggressive Magic led 96-92 at the end
of the period, thanks to 14 points by Nelson.

Phoenix's long-range shooting gave them an 83-75 lead with 4:57
left in the period, before the Magic went on an 11-0 run and took
an 86-83 lead.<
^NOTES@: The Magic's Grant Hill missed the game because of a sports
hernia. ... Orlando has lost nine straight on the road, and has not
won away from home since beating Philadelphia 119-115 in overtime
Jan. 26. ... The Suns' consecutive 100-point streak is the team's
longest since doing it 43 times in a row in the 1992-93 season.