Kings 100 - 118 Suns
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Stoudemire powers Suns past Kings without Artest

Mar 23, 2007 - 7:04 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- With Ron Artest out of the lineup, Amare Stoudemire took advantage of the Sacramento Kings.

Stoudemire had 33 points and 21 rebounds and Steve Nash added 17 points and 16 assists as the Phoenix Suns coasted to a 118-100 victory over the undermanned Kings.

Boris Diaw collected 15 points and 14 rebounds off the bench for the Suns, who played their first game since clinching their third straight Pacific Division title on Wednesday.

"We still have to work at getting better at a couple of things that Coach talks about," said Suns guard Leandro Barbosa, who has replaced Diaw in the starting lineup the past two games. "The important thing is we won the game, and this is what we are looking for. We just have to keep it up."

Phoenix (52-16) now is 4 1/2 games behind Dallas (56-11) for the top spot in the Western Conference and the NBA's best record.

Looking unstoppable around the rim, Stoudemire shot 12-of-17 from the field, mostly on strong drives and powerful follow shots. The 6-10 forward benefited from the absence of Artest, who is considered one of the league's superior help defenders.

"I just wanted to set a tone early as far as a defensive presence," Stoudemire said. "That just carried me throughout the game, I just stayed aggressive and focused the whole game."

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said that his team took advantage of single coverage on Stoudemire.

"He was just real active, some games teams play us different ways, we don't know how they are going to play us, and we really don't care," D'Antoni said. "If they are going to collapse on Amare, we are going to shoot threes, and if they are going to stay out, we will get it to Amare. If they put little guys on him, we will go inside."

A mercurial forward, Artest had a court appearance in Sacramento on Thursday for his recent arrest on domestic violence charges. A storm in the Phoenix area prevented him from making his flight to the game.

"We have got to deal with what we have, to play with the guys we have, regardless of who's out there," Kings guard Mike Bibby said. "We still have to play the game. We played good, they had a slight run in the third quarter, and that's what killed us."

Phoenix outscored Sacramento, 32-21, in the third period, and according to Kings coach Eric Musselman, his team missed other injured contributors besides Artest.

"We missed all our guys," Musselman said. "Kenny Thomas has done a good job defensively against Phoenix, Ron's obviously done a real good job defensively and offensively, Brad (Miller's) a big key to us offensively.

"Having said that, I thought the guys in uniform, even the guys off the bench (gave it their all). It's a tired locker room, you walk in there and guys laid it on the line."

Nash shot 8-of-13 and Diaw was 6-of-9 for the Suns, who shot 52 percent (47-of-90) from the field despite nailing just 5-of-22 shots from the arc.

Bibby scored 28 points for the Kings, who have lost eight of their last nine contests and are 3 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"It has been frustrating, not just now, as the season is getting shorter," Sacramento guard John Salmons said. "It's getting a little hard to deal with, running out of games. We have just got to continue fighting until it's over. It's not over yet, so we're going to keep fighting."

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