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Stoudemire dominant as Suns run away from Spurs

Feb 2, 2007 - 8:31 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Amare Stoudemire is back, and the Phoenix Suns are better than ever.

Stoudemire grew stronger as the game went on, collecting 24 points and a career-high 23 rebounds, as the Suns used a decisive fourth-quarter run en route to an impressive 103-87 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

All-Star Steve Nash had 13 points and 11 assists for Phoenix, which was a combined 0-6 against contenders Dallas, Utah, the Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers entering Thursday's contest. The Suns were 16-2 against the rest of the Western Conference.

"I think it is us improving and getting better as a team," Stoudemire said. "We hadn't beat this team this year, we definitely wanted to come out and get a win. Mission accomplished."

Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni admitted his team is much better at this juncture of the season than it was earlier on.

"The team that played those guys in early November is not even close to being the same team," D'Antoni said. "I'm not saying we are so much better than they are but it's going to come down to games where there are three or four teams where we're going to battle, hoping we make some big shots and get some calls, and we win the game."

However, Phoenix broke through on the back of its superstar forward, who was selected earlier Thursday as a reserve for the West squad for the upcoming All-Star game. Recovering from microfracture knee surgery, Stoudemire is slowly rounding into form this season. Matched up with former MVP Tim Duncan, Stoudemire was dominant, shooting 9-of-18 from the field and controlling the glass.

"It feels pretty good," Stoudemire said. "It was a goal of mine. I told you guys that before the season started, back in training camp that I was planning on making (the All-Star team). So, I was really striving for it.

"It makes its worth more that the coaches selected me to go, that they appreciate your hard work and what you do for your team. It feels great."

Using a devastating combination of power and athleticism, Stoudemire powered home numerous dunks after snatching tough offensive rebounds in traffic. The 6-10 forward even showed some competitive fire after taking a blow to the midsection from San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili, drawing a technical foul in the fourth quarter.

"Amare had an excellent game on the glass," Duncan said. "He's not usually someone who will get 20-something boards a game. He was great on the glass."

Leading, 85-84, with 5:20 left, the Suns finished the game on a 18-3 run, capped by Leandro Barbosa's two free throws with 18 seconds left.

"This is what I like to," said Barbosa, who scored 25 points in 39 minutes. "I got a couple of runs and Steve found me open, and I was able to make the layups. It was a good game. We did a good job."

Nash, who also was selected as a reserve for the West All-Stars along with forward Shawn Marion, was 5-of-11 from the floor.

"It's always an exciting honor to be recognized," Nash said. "It will be great to be able to go with our coaches and teammates. It will be great to have them there and have them be recognized, too."

Tim Duncan had 20 points and 18 rebounds and Ginobili added 32 points for the Spurs, who shot just 39 percent (32-of-82).

"We played pretty well. There were just too many mistakes for us," Duncan said. "I also missed a whole lot of stuff close to the basket that they were able to transition with. Our turnovers, they would transition with. They just turn those things into points very quickly."

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