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Nash directs Suns to 17th straight win

Jan 28, 2007 - 10:24 PM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns showed LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers what all the fuss is about.

Nash directed the offense with a flawless floor game and the Suns added a sprinkling of defense in a thorough 115-100 beating of the Cavaliers, their 17th straight win.

The franchise-record winning streak ties the seventh-best in NBA history and is the longest since the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls won 18 in a row. Phoenix (36-8) has not lost since December 28 and just twice since November 18.

"We have fun with it," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We're proud of what we're doing. We do bring it out and give it a little sugar. We're just happy the way we're playing, and the camaraderie and the chemistry is good. Our big thing is if we get beat, it's going to be the other team that beats us. We're not going to beat ourselves.

"It's just a swagger. I don't think it's the streak," Suns forward Shawn Marion said. "It's more about us and the thought that we can't lose."

In a nationally televised contest, Nash outplayed James in an MVP candidate showdown. The two-time MVP, Nash had 23 points and 15 assists without committing a turnover, taking apart the Cavaliers primarily in half-court sets and piloting an unstoppable balanced attack.

"He's pretty good, huh?" D'Antoni said. "We talk about him all the time, and there's a reason for it. You saw it tonight and he does that every night. Steve has a lot of options. There's so many guys to choose from."

"He has a lot of guys around him, but he runs that ship." James said. "He can make shots and he can get other guys great looks at the basket."

James collected 30 points and nine rebounds but was shut down with the rest of his teammates in the fourth quarter, when the Cavaliers managed two points in the first 7 1/2 minutes and the Suns took control of the contest.

Both teams went cold for a bit before Marion threw in a scoop shot to give the Suns a 93-87 lead. While the Cavaliers kept missing, James Jones and Leandro Barbosa threw in 3-pointers for a 99-87 bulge with 8:11 to go.

"It was a three-point or four-point ballgame and we got distracted," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "There was a stretch there where they hit two or three threes. I don't know what happened."

"They make you pay," Cavaliers forward Drew Gooden said. "You give them an inch they take a yard. It just shows how good the Suns are. They don't even have double-figure losses yet."

James had a steal and dunk, but Nash made a tough layup before Amare Stoudemire's two free throws extended the advantage to 103-89 with 4:53 left.

"We take a lot of pride in our defense," Nash said. "We realize it's important for us, and our defense has improved a lot this year. We know that we can win games with our defense. Tonight was one of those nights where we were scoring enough to probably win. But if we wanted to not have a tight game at the end, we had to have our defense step up."

Cleveland missed 12 of its first 13 shots in the fourth quarter and got no closer than 10 points thereafter.

"It (defense) was good, but I think it was a combination," D'Antoni said. "Maybe their legs were a little weary from running up and down. We just try to play solid and make them take contested jump shots."

Marion scored 23 points, Stoudemire added 22, Barbosa 19 and Raja Bell 15 for the Suns, who shot a blistering 57 percent (44-of-77) from the field, including 13-of-28 from 3-point range.

"I think D'Antoni is an offensive mastermind," James said. "No matter what you do defensively, he's going to find a way to counter it. No matter how you try to stop him and he has enough weapons on that team that he can do that. That's a heck of a team."

Gooden had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavs (25-19), who shot 48 percent (40-of-84) but lost for the seventh time in 10 games.

James scored nine points in the first period as the Cavs grabbed a 26-23 lead. But the Suns scored 68 points in the middle two quarters, ultimately setting a tempo that the Cavs could not keep pace with.

"If we do that, they're going to hit stretches where they don't make a lot of baskets," D'Antoni said. "We're good enough to sustain our offense the whole game."

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