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Stoudemire, Suns blast slumping Hawks

Jan 30, 2008 - 6:01 AM By Bob Huhn PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PHOENIX (Ticker) - Amare Stoudemire scored 24 points and Shawn Marion chipped in 19 as the Phoenix Suns crushed the Atlanta Hawks, 125-92, on Tuesday night.

Grant Hill netted 19 points and Boris Diaw contributed 16, nine assists and seven rebounds as the Suns improved to 19-2 against the Eastern Conference.

Known for their high-powered offense, the Suns have made an effort in recent games to improve their defense by holding opponents to 43 percent shooting in their previous seven games.

Phoenix set the tone immediately with eight blocks in the first quarter - a franchise record - giving it a 28-17 lead after one while holding Atlanta to just 20 percent (7-of-34) from the field.

The Suns finished with 19 blocks to establish a team record.

"Right from the beginning our defense was good," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We didn't let up until the second group came in. I think from start to finish that was our best effort defensively, and it has been getting pretty good in the last few games."

The Suns continued their defensive intensity during the second, holding the young Hawks under 20 points once again to create an impressive 52-33 lead at intermission.

"The last few games we have been playing great defense especially down the stretch the last five, seven games," Stoudemire said. "This game is about getting better every time out.

"For me personally, I came out of high school so athletically gifted, I didn't learn to play defense. But now it is more than a mind game - a focus on the details - especially defensively."

The 1-2 duo of Stoudemire and Diaw combined for 34 first-half points to outscore Atlanta.

"Everybody was ready and on the same page from the start," Diaw said. "Now we must be consistent and be that way all game like we were."

The onslaught continued after halftime as the Suns extended their lead to as many as 31 points in the third and never looked back thereafter.

"We just didn't show up," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Marvin (Williams) was pretty good but the other four guys didn't compete. We had no defensive presence from the field. They shoot 66 percent form the field. We were just awful especially our starters. You get a butt-whooping like that you should be embarrassed."

Former Sun Joe Johnson was held in check with nine points on 3-of-14 shooting for the Hawks.

"They came out with great energy and we just weren't ready to play," Johnson said. "They are hitting on all cylinders right now and showed why they are one of the top teams in the league."

Williams led the charge with 18 points and eight rebounds for Atlanta, which fell to 1-3 on its five-game road trip that concludes at the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

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