Nash Passes for 20 Assists in Suns' Win

Wednesday, December 6th 2006, 6:22 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ Nine wins in 10 games has helped the Phoenix Suns quiet questions about their chemistry that came up after a 1-5 start.

Steve Nash had an NBA season-high 20 assists and the Suns beat the Sacramento Kings 127-102 for their seventh straight win. Phoenix also pulled within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Los Angeles Lakers in the Pacific Division.

``I think we're improving,'' Nash said. ``I think we haven't played a lot of the top teams recently as well. So I think that although we're improving and building, we haven't necessarily had the biggest tests we're going to face this year.

Phoenix will have a tough test now as it opens a five-game, seven-day road trip to New Jersey, Boston, Charlotte, Orlando and Miami.

``It's important to us to come together on the road and learn to win on the road,'' Nash said. ``The past two seasons we've been a terrific road team. This year, we've got to go out and prove that we can be another great road team.''

Look for Nash to play a big role after coming within two assists of a career high, set in the Suns' 140-133 loss to the New York Knicks on Jan. 2. That also was the last time an NBA player had 20-plus assists in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

``Phenomenal game by Nash,'' Kings coach Eric Musselman said. ``For a player to take only eight field goals and to dominate a game with 20 assists is phenomenal. It shows you what a great player he is.''

In other NBA games Tuesday night, it was: Seattle 102, Atlanta 87; the Los Angeles Clippers 101, Miami 97; Houston 118, Golden State 90; Dallas 92, New Jersey 75; and Portland 88, Detroit 85.

Nash leads the NBA with 11.4 assists per game. He's led the league in that category each of the last two years, earning MVP honors both times.

``It's nothing to get too carried away about,'' Nash said. ``We are getting back in the direction we should be headed in, and we just need to continue on this improving path.''

Leandro Barbosa scored 26 points and Shawn Marion added 23 as the Suns shot 49.5 percent from the floor.

``We were playing Suns basketball and Steve was making some great passes,'' said Marion, who hit his first seven shots.

It wasn't a perfect game for Nash: He drew a rare technical foul and had three turnovers in 33 minutes. Still, it was the sort of game that leaves his teammates shaking their heads.

Nash also scored 11 points, hitting 3-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc.

``He's the motor that makes this whole thing go,'' guard Raja Bell said.

Mike Bibby scored 21 for the Kings, who have lost four straight games, their longest skid since they acquired Ron Artest from Indiana on Jan. 26 last season. Artest did not play Tuesday night due to a sore lower back.

``We have to look and see what's wrong, what we need to do,'' Kings forward Corliss Williamson said.

The Suns had not played since Friday, while the Kings were playing their fourth game in five days.

``They came out with a lot of intensity and energy, and they were off three or four days, so we knew they were going to come out (strong) and we were trying to match them but we couldn't,'' Kings forward Kevin Martin said.

SuperSonics 102, Hawks 87

Rashard Lewis scored 29 points and the SuperSonics won consecutive home games for the first time this season with a victory over the Hawks.

Seattle was without Ray Allen, who didn't play because of a strained tendon in his right foot. Lewis helped pick up the slack with 18 points in the first half and six Sonics scored in double figures.

Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 34 points and is averaging 33 points over his last five games.

Clippers 101, Heat 97

Elton Brand had 33 points and 17 rebounds to lead the host Clippers.

Brand scored six points during a 19-6 run in the first six minutes of the second half as Los Angeles pulled out to a 68-54 lead and stayed in front _ barely _ the rest of the way.

Dwayne Wade scored 33 points to lead the Heat.

Rockets 118, Warriors 90

Tracy McGrady had 31 points and seven assists, and Yao Ming added 27 points to help the host Rockets get the win.

Chuck Hayes grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds and Juwan Howard added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who shot 54 percent (45-of-84) against the NBA's worst defense.

Monta Ellis scored 19 and Baron Davis added 18 for the Warriors, who've lost four in a row since coach Don Nelson earned his 1,199th career victory. Nelson is trying to join Lenny Wilkens as the only coaches to reach the 1,200-win plateau.

Mavericks 92, Nets 75

Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points and Josh Howard added 23 to lead visiting Dallas.

One night after their 12-game winning streak was snapped at Washington, the Mavericks were in front from the start and pulled away in the fourth quarter. Howard and Nowitzki led the surge, scoring all of Dallas' points in a 13-4 run that gave the Mavericks an 88-71 lead with 3:10 left.

Vince Carter scored 20 points for New Jersey, which lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Trail Blazers 88, Pistons 85

Zach Randolph's short jumper put Portland ahead with 21.6 seconds to go, and the visiting Trail Blazers stopped a five-game losing streak.

Randolph finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds, less than a year after scoring a career-best 37 in the same building.

Richard Hamilton had 25 for Detroit, which lost its second straight after an eight-game winning streak.