<
>

Barbosa, Stoudemire enough for Suns to beat up Sixers

PHOENIX (AP) -- If the Phoenix Suns keep having these injuries,
Leandro Barbosa is going to lose his chance at winning the NBA's
Sixth Man Award.

Barbosa, expected to be the Suns' first player off the bench
this season, has started six of the team's eight games. On Friday
night, playing in place of ailing Steve Nash, the cat-quick Barbosa
had 26 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as the Suns beat the
Philadelphia 76ers 106-94.

It was the second consecutive double-double for Barbosa, who
didn't have one in his first 196 games in the league. In his
previous game, he had 16 points and 12 assists.

"The whole team did a great job, even though we didn't have
Steve Nash," said Barbosa, who leads all NBA reserves with 18
points per game. "We knew we'd have to go out there and play hard,
with a lot of energy.

"I was just trying to go out there, have fun and make everybody
feel comfortable like (Nash) does."

Amare Stoudemire, coming back after two knee surgeries and a
slow start this season, also had his second straight double-double
for the Suns, with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

Stoudemire also said he was impressed with the Suns' energy
after their second victory in a row.

"We're the team to beat," he said of the two-time defending
Pacific Division champions. "A lot of teams want to beat us. We go
into games knowing we're the hunted."

The Suns, who began the day in last place in the Pacific
Division, beat the 76ers, who were tied for the lead in the
Atlantic Division, for the 18th time in 20 meetings at home.

Reserve Marcus Banks scored a season-high 17 points for the Suns
and Raja Bell, back after missing two games with a rib injury, had
15.

Banks, who was scoreless in his two previous games, sparked the
Suns with several spectacular shots.

"They were in my pocket," he said, laughing. "I couldn't wait
to get them out."

Allen Iverson, playing despite an abcessed wisdom tooth, led
Philadelphia with 23 points. Willie Green had 20 points and Andre
Iguodala scored 14.

"It was tough having to play with the pain," said Iverson, who
shot 8-for-22.

"Tonight was not one of our better nights," Philadelphia coach
Maurice Cheeks said. "We didn't defend and we didn't score. In the
first quarter, they got eight layups. I think our defense was bad,
but our offense was worse."

Nash, winner of the NBA's last two MVP awards, missed the game
with lower back spasms. Barbosa certainly was up to the task of
replacing him.

The Suns, with Barbosa scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting,
managed a 59-52 halftime lead after blowing a 15-point
second-quarter advantage.

Phoenix, sparked by Barbosa and reserves Banks and Jalen Rose,
forged a 47-32 lead midway through the second period. The 76ers
then rallied with a 16-0 run in a 2:55 span, capped by a stuff by
Iguodala, and took a 48-47 lead. But the Suns finished the period
with a 12-4 spurt for their seven-point advantage.

Except for the first two minutes, the Suns led the entire first
quarter, thanks to a 10-1 burst in two minutes that broke an 8-all
tie. During a 4:08 stretch of the period, Barbosa scored nine
consecutive Phoenix points.

Iverson, meanwhile, shot poorly through the first half, shooting
only 4-of-12 while being guarded closely by Shawn Marion -- who
towered over the 76ers' star by seven inches. However, Iverson hit
all seven of his free throw attempts and finished the half with 15
points, 10 in the second quarter.

Green also provided a spark for the 76ers' comeback in the
second period with 10 points.

The Suns again opened a huge lead in the third period, pushing
their advantage to 89-70, with the help of two 3-pointers by Bell
and one each by Barbosa and Marion. The 76ers closed the gap to
89-76 by scoring the final six points of the quarter.

Game notes
The Suns are the only NBA team to hold Iverson to a scoring
average below 25 points per game. In 13 meetings with Phoenix
before Friday, Iverson was averaging 19.7 ppg. Portland was second
with a 25.0 scoring average in 18 games. ... Barbosa, who had been
slated to be the Suns' sixth man this season, has started five of
the past six games because of the injuries to Nash and Bell. ...
Iverson has scored 20 or more points in 20 consecutive games, an
NBA high. ... The game against the Suns marked the beginning of a
stretch where Philadelphia will play three consecutive
back-to-backs, which amounts to six games in nine days. ... The
76ers' Steven Hunter limped off the court in the third period with
a sprained right knee. ... Chris Webber, the 76ers' star forward,
sat out the final period for the fourth time in eight games this
season. He also was benched in the second period and played only
20:42.