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Nash helps Suns to big first quarter

Nov 25, 2006 - 6:42 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns got off to an unreal start.

Nash collected 26 points and 13 assists and Amare Stoudemire finished with 25, 10 rebounds and a season-high seven blocks as the Suns raced ahead early and held on for a 99-93 victory over the struggling New Jersey Nets.

Raja Bell scored 18 points, including four 3-pointers, and Shawn Marion added 16 and 10 boards for Phoenix, which has won 13 straight home meetings with New Jersey.

The Suns netted 16-of-19 shots in the first quarter for a 39-21 cushion.

"We had a terrific quarter," Nash said. "I don't know if it is the best we can play but we are certainly pleased with that. We were also terrific defensively. That is the thing we are most pleased about."

"They came out and blitzed us," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "They shoot 85 percent in the first quarter. Fifteen of their first 18 shots, we didn't contest, so it was a combination of multiple things. We can live with Nash being a scorer as long as we take the other guys out of the mix."

Stoudemire triggered a 14-0 burst with a three-point play before Nash impacted the game. The two-time MVP found Marion for a dunk, converted a layup, located Bell for a 3-pointer and Stoudemire for a jumper, making it 17-4 with 6:39 left.

"Last game (against the New Orleans Hornets), I was still feeling a little ill but tonight, I felt a little better," said Stoudemire, who went scoreless and attempted just one shot in his last game. "I still have a little illness in me but I had to fight it off."

Nash added a pair of free throws one minute later to cap the run.

Phoenix led, 57-41, at the break and 82-63 after three quarters before holding on in the closing period for its third straight win.

"For three quarters, I thought we played really well," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We played really good defense for three quarters and for whatever reason, we kind of turned down a little bit. I don't know if we have a hangover from last year or what but we are not finishing games real strong."

"We are .500 now and that is very important," Nash said. "We can't fall too far behind so for us to pick it back up has been pivotal. Most important is we are playing harder and working at it."

Rookie Marcus Williams scored 21 of his season-high 27 points in the closing quarter and Vince Carter added 23 for the Nets, who fell to 0-3 on their four-game West Coast road trip.

"He (Williams) controlled the game with the pick-and-rolls," Frank said. "He had drives. He had pocket jumpers and showed that when you make a team work and put pressure on a team, good things happen."

A jumper by Williams helped New Jersey close to 96-93 with just 21 seconds to go. Nash sank three free throws to end the late rally.

"Me and (rookie) Hassan (Adams) knew we were the last option to try to put something together for our team," Williams said. "We got a couple of stops, a couple of baskets and some confidence. We both tried to work hard together. It helped my confidence a lot. You have to start off with something like that and get a lot of energy off the bench and try to produce.

The Nets' bench outscored the Suns' 46-10.

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