for this game

Without Marbury, Knicks blitzed by Suns

Nov 14, 2007 - 6:02 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- While New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury was in the air on Tuesday, his team was getting pounded into the ground.

Amare Stoudemire collected 26 points and 12 rebounds and Steve Nash dished out 12 assists as the Phoenix Suns outclassed the undermanned Knicks, 113-102, at the U.S. Airways Center on Tuesday night.

Shawn Marion had 23 points and seven rebounds for the Suns, who took advantage of New York playing without Marbury and forwards Zach Randolph (death in the family) and Quentin Richardson (elbow).

"We'll be fine once we get those guys healthy," Crawford said. "We just have to hang together and play with the guys that are out there."

But Suns coach Mike D'Antoni admitted his team's performance left a lot to be desired.

"I thought it was OK. I wasn't fairly impressed. I thought we were still a little sluggish," D'Antoni said. "They had 15 guys hurt, but we should have had more energy, worked harder.

"The crowd was worse than we are. They're deader then we are. What are they waiting for, April? It might have been who we were playing, but that is no excuse."

The most glaring absence for the Knicks was the 30-year-old Marbury, who skipped the Knicks' morning practice on Monday after reportedly being informed that he would not start in Tuesday's game.

The enigmatic point guard flew back to New York prior to the contest in a huff - sparking rumors that the Brooklyn native had played his last game for his hometown team.

If so, Marbury's tenure in New York has been rife with unfulfilled expectations and controversy since his arrival in 2004-05.

But teammate Jamal Crawford still wants Marbury to be a part of the team.

"Of course, I want (Marbury) back. He is my teammate," Crawford said. "That is something we will deal with. It is not something you expect (his absence), but you have to deal with it."

The Knicks spent this summer fighting off an embarrassing sexual harassment lawsuit by former Madison Square Garden employee Anucha Browne Sanders. The central figures in that case - coach Isiah Thomas and Marbury - are again front and center in New York's current debacle.

Thomas' relationship with Marbury may have eroded after the point guard's testimony in the very public trial most likely caused the coach - and MSG - to lose the case. Thomas responded by reportedly benching Marbury at an odd time, just five games into the season.

As a result, the Knicks started second-year guard Mardy Collins - a defensive-minded player - and relied heavily on 5-9 sparkplug Nate Robinson against the high-powered Suns.

Collins' spot in the starting lineup was short-lived after he sprained his right foot at the 6:02 mark in the first quarter. But his presence most likely would not have mattered against the Suns.

"Injuries are part of the game, and we've certainly been hit with our share this early in the season," Thomas said. "Even with your full team and your best team, it's still hard to come into this building and get a win."

The timing could not have been worse without Marbury, who left his teammates behind just in time for the matchup with two-time MVP Nash - one of the league's top floor generals.

Nash seemed to be toying with Knicks on Tuesday, probing the lane and finding wide-open teammates for uncontested jumpers. He hit his first field goal just two minutes into the final period but still dominated the contest.

The unselfish play of Nash led to 56 percent shooting (41-of-73) from the field by Phoenix, which scored a season-high 63 points in the opening half and effectively put the game away early in the third quarter.

The Suns shot 61 percent in the first quarter but ended up with just a five-point lead going into the second at 34-29. Stoudemire, who played nearly 30 minutes while he is coming back from knee surgery, paced Phoenix with 12 points in the quarter.

"That is the best I felt since game one so, since I have been back, that is the strongest I felt," Stoudemire said. "I wanted to be aggressive from the start and supply some energy. I am an energy guy and wanted to supply energy by attacking early."

Leandro Barbosa, making his second consecutive start replacing the injured Raja Bell, scored 23 points and Grant Hill added a season-high 21.

"Everyone is telling me to keep playing and firing away. It takes guys a little while to get used to the pace here," Hill said. "When you hear about Richardson being hurt, Marbury not here, you have a tendency to be even more complacent. As coach said, we are not planning to beat the Knicks, we are planning to win a championship."

Crawford scored 21 points for New York, which plays at the Los Angeles Clippers in the second of a four-game West Coast road trip on Wednesday night.

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