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Stoudemire, Nash help Suns handle Sonics

Mar 20, 2008 - 6:18 AM SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Good 3-point shooting has been called the "great equalizer". On Wednesday, the Phoenix Suns sure needed it.

Amare Stoudemire had 26 points and Steve Nash added 23 and 11 assists as the Suns overcame a season-high 27 turnovers en route to a 110-98 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.

Unlike its last two wins where an improved defense saved the day, Phoenix's long-range assault prevailed in this contest as it shot a sizzling 71 percent (15-for-21) from 3-point range.

"It was one of those nights where we were hitting everything - and thank goodness - because if we would have been cold, we would have been in trouble," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "The Sonics played hard and they played well. It took everything we had to beat them. We had to shoot extremely well from three."

"They're one of the best offensive teams in the league and they're also one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league," Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "They were exceptional."

Nash was far from pleased with his or his team's ability to value each possession against a Sonics' team which lost by 52 points on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.

"I thought we were just sloppy and tired," Nash said. "I think everyone wanted it to be easy, and that's not the way it is. We have got to continue to improve all the way through the playoffs. We've got a lot of work to do. This cannot be our best. We've got to continue to improve."

The win was the Suns' sixth straight, the most the team has strung together since their season-high, eight-game run from November 9-23. They also improved to 9-6 since center Shaquille O'Neal joined the lineup for the first time on February 20.

Seattle quickly fell behind 17-5 just five minutes into the game as the Suns - behind eight points from Stoudemire - built a 34-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Nick Collison scored eight of his 10 first-half points in the second quarter to help the Sonics close the gap to 50-49 with 3:12 left in the half. But Nash started the Suns on a 14-6 run to close out the period with two 3-pointers to take a 64-55 advantage at intermission.

But unlike Sunday's dreadful performance, the Sonics hung in as Donyell Marshall converted a pair of free throws with 3:10 remaining in the third period to give the Sonics a brief 78-77 lead.

However, Phoenix rallied for an 84-78 advantage heading into the final quarter when Raja Bell capped off his perfect game from the arc when he hit the final one of his six 3-pointers.

Unfortunately, the eight-year veteran guard landed on the foot of a defender on his way down, forcing him to leave for the remainder of the contest with a sprained ankle.

Stoudemire and O'Neal combined for five unanswered points - and the first 12 overall for the Suns in the final period - to give Phoenix some breathing room at 96-87.

"Raja Bell was 6-for-6 and hit some tough 3s with people flying at him, and Steve Nash coming off screens knocking them down," Sonics rookie Kevin Durant said. "And it's hard to guard Shaq (O'Neal) and Amare holding down the post. We wanted to get them off the line and we did a better job of that in the second half. The threes kind of hurt us."

Leandro Barbosa hit consecutive shots - including another 3-pointer - to leave the Suns ahead, 101-87, with 5:20 remaining. Seattle could not get any closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Rookies Jeff Green and Durant scored 19 and 16 points, respectively, for the Sonics, who have lost nine straight.

"We played much better than we did the last couple of games," Durant said. "We had a chance to pull it out and we didn't."

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