PHOENIX (AP) -- The victories are getting easier and easier for
the Phoenix Suns. Now, come some big tests.
That followed Sunday's 18-point victory over the Atlanta Hawks,
the team with the worst record in the league, and moved the Suns
within a half-game of the first-place in the Pacific Division.
The Suns, who set a season high for points and margin of
victory, have held their last nine opponents under 100 points.
Next up are the Golden State Warriors, who are in a virtual tie
with Phoenix behind the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific
Division. The Suns and Warriors meet Wednesday night at Oakland and
the Suns play at the Clippers on Saturday.
"We'll have to play well tomorrow night (against Golden
State)," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "But we feel pretty good
about ourselves right now."
They should after the rout of the young and inexperienced Trail
Shawn Marion added 21 points for the Suns. Steve Nash had 14
points and 12 assists, Kurt Thomas added 12 points and 13 rebounds,
Boris Diaw finished with a career-best 13 assists, and Pat Burke
had a season-high 12 points.
"Golden State will be a tough challenge for us," Thomas said.
"Their motor is Baron Davis, one of the toughest guards in the
league," D'Antoni said of the Warriors' standout playmaker.
The 45-point margin of victory was the Suns' second-largest at
America West Arena, behind a 46-point victory over the Clippers in
The Suns also finished with a season-high 16 3-pointers,
including six by Jones, who matched a career high. Phoenix also had
a season-best 15 blocked shots.
"I was able to knock down some shots early and my confidence
increased from there," Jones said. "Our shots were falling from
Indeed they were. The Suns hit 55.6 percent of their field goal
attempts (50-for-90) and were 16-of-32 from 3-point range.
Portland coach Nate McMillan agreed with Jones' assessment.
"It was just an outstanding performance by the Suns," he said.
"I think they shot the ball as well as I have seen a team shoot in
a long time."
Zach Randolph's 15 points led the beleaguered Trail Blazers, who
lost their fifth straight and seventh in eight games, and have yet
to score 100 points this season.
"When you play a team like that, you have to contest their
shots," Randolph said. "If you're contesting their shots and
they're still hitting them, there's not a whole lot you can do. If
you don't get stops, you're not going to beat a team like that."
The Suns, who averaged 120 points and beat Portland by an
average of 18 points in three games last season, began piling up
big numbers in the first half. At the break, the Suns led 66-47,
matching their highest output for a half this season.
Bell keyed Phoenix's offense, scoring 19 points, one shy of his
season high, while the Suns had three other players in double
figures -- Marion with 12, Jones with 11 and Thomas with 10. The
Suns had 18 assists and 25 field goals in the first half.
Phoenix took control of the game early. Trailing 7-4, the Suns
scored 10 straight points, including consecutive 3-pointers by
Bell, and never trailed again. They attacked the basket, scoring 19
points off fast breaks in the half and extended their lead to 21
Only Sebastian Telfair, with 12 points, was an offensive force
for Portland. The Blazers' leading scorer, Darius Miles (18.2), was
placed on the inactive list Sunday with cartilage damage to his
The Suns extended their lead to 37 points in the third quarter.
^Notes:@ When Telfair (20 years, 178 days old) and Martell Webster
(19 years exactly) started in the backcourt for Portland against
Utah on Sunday, they comprised the youngest backcourt in modern NBA
history. The previous youngest backcourt had been Cleveland's
LeBron James (19 years, 14 days) and Dajuan Wagner (20 years, 343
days) when the Cavaliers played Seattle on Jan. 13, 2004. ...
McMillan and D'Antoni will be assistants on the USA Men's senior
national team. ... Portland has a league-leading five players who
jumped from high school to the pros: Telfair, Webster, Miles, Ha
Seung Jin and Travis Outlaw.