J-Rich Scores 36 as Warriors Beat Suns

Friday, March 30th 2007, 8:15 am
By: News On 6

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Don Nelson has used 36 starting lineups while trying to coax consistency and chemistry out of his Golden State Warriors this season. The coach might want to stick with this 36th combination. It produced a 45-point first quarter and a key victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Jason Richardson made a franchise-record eight 3-pointers while scoring 36 points, and the Warriors rode a big early lead to a 124-119 win Thursday night.

Stephen Jackson scored 29 points and Baron Davis added 21 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds as the Warriors leaped to a 20-point lead in the opening quarter, but blew most of their advantage in the fourth before hanging on for an important win for their playoff hopes.

The Warriors repeatedly exposed the Suns' porous defense during the first three quarters, scoring with style and ease. Richardson's performance was his best of a difficult season that began with knee surgery, and his teammates loved it.

``Jay can do that every night,'' Jackson said. ``I think this game is going to get him on the right track, and we need him if we're going to get to these playoffs.''

In Thursday's other NBA games, Chicago beat Detroit 83-81, and Memphis topped Portland 96-92.

Golden State moved within one game of the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference's final postseason spot. Though they won just twice in a five-game span against probable playoff teams, the Warriors (34-39) aren't giving up on their first playoff berth since 1994.

``It shows what our character is,'' Richardson said. ``We just put everything out there, left everything on the court. After my first shot went down, it felt good. Then the second went down, and after that, I knew it was going to be a good game for me.''

The Warriors set season highs for points in a quarter as Richardson scored 19 in the opening period, and they had a season-high 77 by halftime. Richardson didn't score in the fourth quarter, but his 12 rebounds also were a season high.

``They would have beaten every team in the league tonight,'' Suns guard Raja Bell said. ``They were that hot. This is one where you chalk it up and say, 'Hey man, what were you going to do?'''

Leandro Barbosa scored 27 points for the Suns, who lost in Northern California for the second time in five days with another unpleasant defensive effort. Boris Diaw, Barbosa and three Phoenix reserves trimmed Golden State's 25-point lead to five in the fourth quarter of the Suns' first loss to Golden State in four meetings this season.

``We've got to be a little careful,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. ``They're fighting for the eighth spot, and we're not. Sure, we're trying to stay ahead of San Antonio, but when they come out like that and have that juice, and the crowd is behind them, it would have been hard for anybody.''

Diaw scored 18 points and Amare Stoudemire added 17 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix, which already has clinched its third straight Pacific Division title. But the Suns' defense didn't look any more playoff-ready than it did in their exits from the previous two postseasons.

Steve Nash had 14 points and nine assists, while Shawn Marion managed just 10 points. Nash, Marion and Stoudemire all sat out the fourth quarter as the Suns' second-teamers made it interesting against Golden State's starters.

Richardson broke the club record of seven 3-pointers, which he held along with six other players. He was the second player in five days to set his franchise's record for 3-pointers against the Suns, after Mike Bibby's Sacramento-best nine 3-pointers in the Kings' 107-100 win on Sunday.

Richardson broke the franchise record on a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:49 left in the third quarter, and Golden State led 109-86 entering the fourth. Barbosa and Marcus Banks got the Suns within 122-116 in the final 2 minutes, but Davis stripped the ball from Banks and drove for a layup with 58 seconds left.

Bulls 83, Pistons 81

At Chicago, Kirk Hinrich hit two of three free throws with 2.8 seconds left, and the Bulls clinched their third straight playoff berth.

After Tayshaun Prince tied it with a put-back with 9.8 seconds left, Hinrich caught a pass at the top of the key and got fouled by Carlos Delfino on a 3-point attempt.

Hinrich missed the first free throw but hit the next two.

It was the fourth straight win for the Bulls and their 11th in 14 games. Chicago trails Eastern Conference leader Detroit by three games and second-place Cleveland by a half-game, with the Cavaliers visiting the United Center on Saturday.

Ben Gordon led the Bulls with 25 points, and Ben Wallace grabbed 19 rebounds against his former team.

Prince scored 26 points for Detroit.

Grizzlies 96, Trail Blazers 92

At Portland, Ore., rookie Tarence Kinsey had 20 points to lead four starters in double figures and Memphis won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick added 18 points apiece and Pau Gasol had 17 for the Grizzlies, who made 35 of 36 free throws (97.2 percent), including their first 29.

Zach Randolph had a career-high 43 points and tied a season high with 17 rebounds.