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Stoudemire paces Suns to blowout win

Apr 5, 2008 - 5:39 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Amare Stoudemire is making a late-season push for the MVP award.

Stoudemire scored 24 points on Friday night to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 117-88 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With the win, Phoenix (51-25) remains in the fifth spot in the West - 2 1/2 games behind the top-seeded New Orleans Hornets (53-22) and trails the Los Angeles Lakers (52-24) by just one game for third place.

"If we win all the games, somebody will have to match that, so that's what we're going to try and do," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It's going to be tough, we've got some good games coming up - all these games are tough. But we could run the table and we'll see where we are."

The All-Star Stoudemire, who entered the game averaging 32.0 points over his last seven contests, made 9-of-15 shots from the field and pulled down nine rebounds to help the Suns pick up their fourth win in the last five games.

"We came out very focused," Stoudemire said. "We knew it was a game that we definitely wanted to win and win big and go ahead and rest in the fourth and we did that tonight."

Grant Hill had 16 points and 10 rebounds and former MVP Steve Nash contributed 14 and 11 assists, but committed seven turnovers, for the Suns.

Al Jefferson scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have lost four of their last five games but had forged two victories in three matchups with Phoenix earlier this season.

"They kind of took advantage of me when it was just me out there in the paint," Stoudemire said. "But now I have a bodyguard with me with (Shaquille O'Neal). Tonight, they had a hard time with us, and we got a win. We played well defensively, active, and we won by a pretty big margin."

However, on Friday, the game was never in doubt as Minnesota managed just 15 points in the first quarter and trailed by 21 at the end of the opening period as Stoudemire poured in 10 points during the stanza.

"I thought we played well," Nash said. "We had good intensity defensively and sustained it. So much of our success is just being tuned in and active and aggressive defensively and being on the same page."

The Timberwolves kept pace in the second quarter but couldn't narrow the deficit and trailed, 62-41, heading into the locker room.

Minnesota held Phoenix scoreless for the first 3:41 of the second half, narrowing its lead to 62-49.

However, Stoudemire stepped up when he needed to, scoring 13 of the Suns' final 25 points over the last 8:19 of the third quarter, as Phoenix's lead bulged to 86-64 entering the final quarter.

"I thought we came out and scrapped in the third quarter to set ourselves up to get back into the game, but you've got to convert," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said.

Despite sitting their starters with the game well in hand, the Suns still outscored the Timberwolves, 31-24, in the fourth on the strength of some inspired play by reserves Eric Piatkowski, Sean Marks and rookie D.J. Strawberry.

The trio combined for 11 points in the final quarter on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.

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