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Slow start doesn't stop Suns from winning 14th straight

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Steve Nash knew it would be a struggle
before he even arrived at the arena to play the Phoenix Suns'
seventh game in 10 days.

Nash and his teammates dug down and managed to do just enough
Saturday night to earn their way into the team record book with a
record-tying 14th straight win.

"I didn't feel good tonight at all," Nash said following the
Suns' 105-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings. "I could have told
you that this afternoon in the hotel. Those are the nights you have
to be mentally tough and try to just hang in there and give
yourself a chance. We certainly hung in there tonight mentally. It
was difficult for us in stretches."

Nash had 16 points and 12 assists to help Phoenix match the
franchise record set from Dec. 1-30, 1992, en route to the team's
last NBA Finals appearance. The Suns will try to break the mark at
home on Tuesday night against Toronto.

"To accomplish that feat is definitely awesome for the group of
guys in this locker room," forward Kurt Thomas said. "Now we have
to focus on the next game and try to keep winning."

The run-and-gun Suns looked nothing like their usual selves for
most of the opening half, being held under 20 points in the opening
quarter for just the second time all season and scoring just 31
points in the first 22 minutes.

They found their shooting touch after that, sparked by Nash's
3-pointer with 1:46 left in the half for his first basket of the
game. Nash hit another big shot in the final minute after
Sacramento had cut the lead to five.

But he had plenty of help on a night when he had very little
"juice" in his legs as all seven Suns who scored finished in
double digits.

"We were stuck in the mud for the beginning of the game,"
coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Guys are unselfish, move the ball and
we just find different guys at different times to step up. That's
kind of been our trademark and hopefully we'll continue to do
that."

Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Leandro Barbosa added 18 and Raja Bell scored all 15 of his points
in the second half. Phoenix scored 74 points in the final 26
minutes, becoming the first opponent in six games to reach 100
points at Arco Arena.

The Suns trailed for nearly the entire first half before going
on an 11-0 run early in the third quarter. Nash keyed the spurt
with two baskets and two assists, helping Phoenix take a 56-54 lead
on a 3-pointer by Bell.

Phoenix expanded on the lead, hitting 14 of 24 shots in the
quarter, including four 3-pointers. Bell, who was 0-for-5 shooting
in the first half, hit five of six shots in the third, including a
steal and layup in the final seconds to make it 80-73 heading into
the fourth.

"It was just determination that got us over the hump,"
Stoudemire said. "We started off a little low energy. We were able
to come out the second half and pick it up a notch."

Sacramento's leading scorer Kevin Martin left the game with a
sprained right ankle with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter and
did not return.

Martin scored 23 points before the injury, when he landed on an
opponent's foot while feeding Brad Miller for a basket. With Martin
limping, Shawn Marion hit a 3-pointer to make it 73-66 before
Sacramento called a timeout. Martin is questionable for Monday
night's game against Dallas.

"My ankle is as good as it can be and I'm going straight home
tonight," he said. "We'll see how I feel in the morning."

John Salmons scored 20 points, Ron Artest added 16, and Kenny
Thomas has 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings, who have lost
seven of nine and failed to build on the momentum from a comeback
win in Utah on Friday night.

"We came out of a big win last night and felt we could carry it
over into tonight," Kings coach Eric Musselman said. "We played
hard, but it's going to be hard to beat Phoenix when you're only
shooting 39 percent. That's the bottom line."

Sacramento went on a 10-0 run to go up 15-5 and didn't trail
again the rest of the half. Martin keyed the fast start with 14
points in the first 8½ minutes, outscoring Phoenix's total of 13
points through that span. The Suns closed strong after Nash hit his
first basket and trailed 50-45 at the break.

Game notes
After Salmons was called for a foul while diving for a
loose ball, Musselman complained to the officials: "We don't have
enough guys in this league diving on the floor for loose balls."
... Phoenix had lost 10 of its last 12 games in Sacramento. ... The
Suns' streak is the longest in the NBA since New Jersey won 14
straight late last season.