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Suns win sixth straight; Johnson nets 23 in return

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns -- and their fans -- spoiled Joe
Johnson's homecoming.

Booing Johnson incessantly, the crowd of 16,992 at America West
Arena helped boost the Suns to an easy 112-94 victory over
Johnson's Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night.

"I expected it," Johnson said, "but it was more than I
thought it would be. I'm glad this one's over."

Last season, the raucous Phoenix fans showered Johnson with
cheers during the team's 62-victory season. This time, they showed
no mercy for the veteran guard, who bolted the Suns during the
summer for the worst team in the NBA.

"It was funny," Johnson said of the fickle fans. "Now I was
on the opposite side. It was fool's gold. It was fun coming back
home, but I'm glad it's over."

James Jones scored a season-high 20 points and Shawn Marion also
had 20 to lead the Suns to their sixth consecutive victory.

The Suns' winning streak is the longest in the NBA and lifted
them within a half- game of Pacific Division co-leaders Los Angeles
Clippers and Golden State. It also was Phoenix's sixth straight
home victory and the eighth game in a row the Suns have held an
opponent under 100 points.

Johnson, who went from Phoenix to Atlanta 3½ months ago, scored
23 points in his first game with the Hawks against his former team,
but sat out the final 15 minutes when the outcome no longer was in
doubt.

"I didn't want to get out there again -- to get more boos," he
said.

The Suns' early balance was too much for the overmatched Hawks,
who lost their fifth straight and fell to 2-14, the worst record in
the league.

Eddie House and Boris Diaw each scored 14 for Phoenix, and Kurt
Thomas grabbed 11 rebounds.

Rookie Marvin Williams had season-highs of 17 points and 11
rebounds for Atlanta, most of them in the fourth quarter, and Salim
Stoudemire had 14 points.

Johnson went to the Hawks on Aug. 19 in a sign-and-trade deal
for Diaw, two conditional first-round draft picks and a $6 million
trade exemption, which the Suns used a portion of to acquire Jones
from Indiana in another sign-and-trade transaction.

"If I had to do it again, I would make the same decision,"
Johnson said.

Johnson was warmly greeted by his former teammates and Phoenix
coach Mike D'Antoni during pregame warmups, but the Phoenix fans
were not so kind during the introductions, offering much more boos
than cheers. The crowd showed its dislike even more for Johnson
during the game, booing him each time he touched the ball. As the
game progressed, the booing got louder. Only when he committed a
foul or a turnover did the fans cheer.

Johnson had a sensational first half, scoring 21 points. After
missing his first three field goal attempts, he hit eight in a row.

Still, his effort wasn't good enough, as the Suns had a 57-36
lead at halftime, with the help of Marion's 16 points, Jones' 13
and Diaw's 10.

Atlanta coach Mike Woodson and the Suns felt sorry for Johnson.

"I don't know what for," Woodson said of the booing. "This
guy gave them some good years. He didn't deserve that. He can walk
out of this locker room with his head held high."

"It was a little unfair," said Steve Nash, Johnson's backcourt
partner last season. "I was surprised, but he was tough enough to
handle it. I felt for him. It's difficult for him in that
situation."

The Suns virtually put the game away in the opening quarter,
outscoring the Hawks 25-10, Atlanta's fewest points in any period
this season and the fewest allowed by the Suns. During that
12-minute stretch, Atlanta was 4-of-20 from the field, including
0-for-7 by Tyronn Lue. Atlanta also had seven turnovers, leading to
12 Phoenix points, and by halftime, the Hawks had 12 turnovers,
four by Johnson, helping the Suns score 18 points.

Phoenix held Johnson to two points in the third quarter and
increased its advantage to 37 points, 88-51, by the end of the
period. The turnover parade continued, with Atlanta committing nine
more, leading to 11 Phoenix points.

The Suns, who had an 11-0 run spanning the first and second
periods, had a 13-0 spree in the third quarter.

Game notes
The Hawks' Josh Smith was ejected 1:31 into the third
quarter for elbowing Raja Bell in the head, a flagrant two foul,
and teammate Zaza Pachulia was ejected 2 minutes later after being
tagged with two technical fouls. ... Johnson has played in 292
consecutive regular-season games, second to Morris Peterson of
Toronto, who has 296. ... The Hawks are on pace to win fewer than
last season's league low of 13 games. ... The last time the Suns
held eight straight opponents under 100 points was the final four
games of the 2003-04 season and the first four games of the 2004-05
season. The last time they held eight consecutive opponents under
100 in a single season was 2003-04 (Jan. 15-27).