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Suns bounce back from opening loss, beat Clippers

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns got their running game in gear --
and a welcome lift from Amare Stoudemire.

The result was a 112-104 home-opening victory over the Los
Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

Shawn Marion had 27 points and 10 rebounds, Steve Nash added 20
points and 11 assists, and Stoudemire scored 15 points in 24
minutes off the bench.

The Suns aren't at full speed yet, but they were fast enough.

"It wasn't always pretty, but we scored 64 points in the second
half by playing hard, and that's what we have to do," Phoenix
coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Right now we're not in the greatest
shape but we just have to push through it, push through the first
two weeks and we'll be fine."

Nash had 17 points and eight assists in the second half for a
Suns team that last faced the Clippers in winning a seven-game
series in the Western Conference semifinals.

Phoenix opened the season with a loss to the Kobe Bryant-less
Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, blowing an early 19-point
lead. This time, the Suns had six players in double figures -- three
of them off the bench.

"We learned a little bit of a lesson last night," Nash said,
"that we were kind of passive and kind of laid down after the big
lead. Tonight we were going to make sure that our effort was going
to be great. We were going to scrap, we were going to be tough, and
I think it showed."

Stoudemire, looking strong after missing virtually all of last
season following knee surgery, had 15 points in 24 minutes. Marcus
Banks scored 13 and Leandro Barbosa 11.

Elton Brand scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the
Clippers in their season opener. Cuttino Mobley and Sam Cassell
added 17 points apiece. Shaun Livingston scored 14 but was just
4-of-13.

Nash had 13 points and four assists in the third quarter, when
the Suns built a 73-59 lead on Boris Diaw's 18-footer with 4:35 to
play. But Los Angeles responded with a 15-4 run, capped by
Livingston's 17-footer at the buzzer, to cut it to 77-74 entering
the fourth.

But Los Angeles got no closer. James Jones started the fourth
quarter with a 3-pointer, triggering a 10-4 spurt that put Phoenix
ahead 87-78 on Diaw's 11-foot fadeaway jumper with 8:58 to go. The
Clippers got as close as six after that, the last time at 101-95 on
Quinton Ross' 13-footer with 3:21 to play.

Diaw, who scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter,
made a driving layup to make it 103-95, then Mobley was called for
an offensive foul. Nash's 18-footer put Phoenix up 105-95 with 2:15
to play.

The Suns shot 1-for-7 to start the game while the Clippers took
an 11-3 lead. But after Stoudemire and Barbosa entered the game,
Phoenix made 9-of-11 the rest of the quarter, most of them from
inside.

Stoudemire finished the quarter 4-for-4 for eight points in 7½
minutes.

"I felt like I was back to my old self," Stoudemire said.
"I'm just trying to build up some good days like that."

Stoudemire wasn't happy that he played just 12 minutes in
Tuesday night's opener, and D'Antoni agreed he should have used the
big forward more.

"We talked about that and we both agreed," Stoudemire said.
"It's off to a new day and age, and today was a better day."

The Clippers like a slower tempo, but they fell into the Suns'
fast-break trap a few too many times.

"We missed some shots, and when you miss shots, that kind of
fuels them," Mobley said. "Their guys get it on the fast break,
guys are cutting back door, guys are getting layups, guys were
getting 3s."

A 15-4 run to end the first quarter and start the second put
Phoenix up for good 28-20 on Jones' two free throws. Banks' inside
basket made it 34-26 with 7:36 to go in the half, but Brand and
Mobley scored four apiece in an 8-2 spurt that cut the lead to
36-34 with 3:57 to go.

The Suns led 48-45 at the break. Stoudemire had 13 points in 16
minutes at the half, but Nash managed just three points and three
assists.

Brand had 14 points and Mobley 10 as the Clippers shot 36
percent in the first two quarters but still trailed by only three.

Game notes
Tim Thomas, who left Phoenix for a lucrative free agent
contract with the Clippers, was booed sporadically and finished the
game 2-for-8 for nine points with eight rebounds. ... The Suns have
not started a season 0-2 since 1996-97, when they went a
franchise-worst 0-13. ... Brand scored fewer than 30 points against
Phoenix for only the second time in the teams' last nine meetings.
... Phoenix's Kurt Thomas fouled out with 7:12 to play -- after just
13 minutes on the court.