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Stoudemire helps Suns run winning streak to 11

Dec 12, 2006 - 2:29 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Amare Stoudemire's matchup with Dwight Howard turned into a mismatch.

Stoudemire scored a season-high 30 points while outplaying Howard as the Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to 11 games with a 103-89 victory over the Orlando Magic.

Playing for the fourth time in five nights, the Suns were full off energy, using a 20-3 run to open the third quarter to break open a close game.

Stoudemire was a major reason the Suns (14-6) continued their resurgence from a disappointing 1-5 start as he clearly got the best of Howard in a battle of two of the NBA's best young forwards.

Continuing to get stronger from microfracture surgery on his left knee that limited him to 19 games last season, Stoudemire's body more than withstood the challenge of the Suns' recent demanding schedule.

Stoudemire made 9-of-19 shots from the field and 12-of-14 free throws in 30 minutes.

"Amare was obviously huge on both ends of the court," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "His defense was really good; best probably he's ever played. Offensively he is what he is. He's a beast there but now it's rebounding and defense."

"I wasn't surprised at how far Amare's come (so far this season)," Howard said. "I played with him this summer and he's been working extremely hard on his game. And to get his legs back right. I'm proud to see the progress that he's made."

While the 24-year-old Stoudemire shined, it was an extremely frustrating night for Howard, who battled foul trouble and never was able to get into a groove.

"It's a new situation for me," Howard said. "I've just got to learn. The next time we play them, I really have to be careful about how they play defense and try and not get frustrated with not getting calls."

Howard picked up two fouls in the first quarter and sat the entire second quarter. He was whistled for a technical foul and picked up his fourth foul at the 7:20 mark of the third quarter, again sending him to the bench.

Howard's night ended for good when he fouled out with 6:44 remaining. The 21-year-old, who had 15 double-doubles in 22 games, finished with season lows of four points and three rebounds to go along with five turnovers in 14 minutes.

"They (the Suns) did play good defense, but I was being too careless with the ball," Howard said. "I put that on myself. That was my fault."

"Even Superman has his Kryptonite," Magic guard Keyon Dooling said. "There are going to be nights like this where he can't catch his rhythm. And nights like that is where we have to pick him up."

Stoudemire, who went to high school just outside the Orlando area, deflected credit for the job on Howard. "Our defense on Dwight was a team effort," Stoudemire said. "We just tried to contain Dwight and the Magic as much as we could. We just did a great job of corralling the whole team and Dwight."

Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and Grant Hill added 14 for the Magic, who shot 45 percent (38-of-84) from the field and made just 11-of-21 free throws in losing for the third time in four games.

"This is the third game in a row where we have shot poorly from the free-throw line," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "I can assure you we'll be spending some time on it tomorrow."

Shawn Marion had 19 points and 11 rebounds and reigning two-time MVP Steve Nash had 18 and 15 assists for the Suns, who also used some surprising defense in the third quarter.

After Jameer Nelson converted a layup with 11:29 left in the third quarter to pull the Magic within 58-55, the Suns held them without a basket for over 7 1/2 minutes.

"I thought the third quarter was the best defense we've ever played, kind of shocking," D'Antoni said.

"This was more of a defensive win for us, even though we scored 100 points," Stoudemire said. "We've definitely got the potential to be a great defensive team and as a young group we're definitely trying to improve and stay students of the game. This was a personal step forward for me and our team defensively."

By the time Hill converted a layup at the 3:54 mark, the Suns had raced to a 77-60 advantage.

Stoudemire scored 10 points in the third quarter, which ended with the Suns holding an 85-67 cushion.

The Magic got as close as 11 points on two occasions in the final quarter, the last time at 96-85 on Bo Outlaw's jumper with 4:24 remaining.

Phoenix, which closes its five-game road trip against Miami on Wednesday, shot 51 percent (38-of-74) and made 23-of-27 free throws.

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