for this game

Stoudemire dominates as Suns hold off Pacers

Nov 6, 2008 - 4:26 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- An offensive outburst by the Phoenix Suns apparently no longer is contingent on the play of point guard Steve Nash. Amare Stoudemire proved as much on Wednesday.

Stoudemire had 49 points - one short of a career high - and 11 rebounds as the Suns raced by the Indiana Pacers, 113-103, at Conseco Fieldhouse.

"I wanted to dominate from the start," Stoudemire said. "It was up to me to dominate out there and get guys involved, especially defensively. Tonight, coming off a back-to-back and us having a somewhat older group, I wanted to take it upon myself to give ourselves a spark.

"I was able to do that tonight and carry the load for the win."

Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa combined to score 23 points off the bench for the Suns, who engineered a 14-0 run to close the third quarter, setting the stage for a strong finish.

A two-time league MVP, Nash was the catalyst of an up-tempo offense under former coach Mike D'Antoni, who allowed everything to flow through his floor general. Nash had just seven points and six assists in this one, committing three turnovers in 33 minutes.

New coach Terry Porter favors a defensive-minded approach, which hasn't completely negated Phoenix's running game but certainly has allowed for more half-court sets - and a greater emphasis on its powerful forward.

Stoudemire, who scored 14 points in the third, shot 17-of-21 from the field and 15-of-15 from the line to dominate Indiana's challenged frontline, which is without star center Jermaine O'Neal this season. O'Neal was traded to the Toronto Raptors for point guard T.J. Ford over the summer.

"He was unbelievable," Nash said of Stoudemire. "Maybe the best game I've seen him play. Rebounding. He got steals and passed the ball really well. He shot an unbelievable percentage from the field tonight."

The 6-10 Stoudemire scored 27 points in the first half, hitting his first 11 shots from the floor. He originally was credited with one more basket - on a putback he and Diaw both pursued - but a late scoring change left him one basket short of a career-high performance. Stoudemire scored 50 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 2, 2005.

"Scoring, rebounding ... he just played the total game tonight," Porter said. "It's great to see him play that well. It's nice to have someone of that caliber to lean on when you need to. We needed every one of those 49 points."

The Suns also had to overcome a big first-half performance by the Pacers, who shot a blistering 61 percent in the opening two quarters to take a seven-point lead into the locker room.

"We started well and they were able to keep their composure and come back," Ford said. "We just couldn't figure out how to keep doing the things we were doing earlier. We lost our offense and our defense."

Indiana stayed in control most of the game thanks to Ford and Danny Granger, who scored 23 points apiece. The Pacers also received 21 points from their bench, including nine from from rookie Brandon Rush.

Indiana sprinted to a 38-27 lead in the first quarter - led by 12 points from Granger, who was 3-of-6 from the floor, including 2-of-2 from the arc.

It was Ford's turn in the second quarter, scoring 11 of his 18 first-half points on 5-of-5 shooting and helping the Pacers maintain their halftime advantage.

Indiana struggled to hold the lead in the third, with Phoenix cutting its deficit to two on a pair of free throws by Stoudemire with just over four minutes left. But two free throws from Jarrett Jack and buckets by Marquis Daniels and rookie Roy Hibbert pushed the lead back to 84-76.

The Suns pressed back and took the lead with their decisive run to end the third. It started with a short jumper by Stoudemire and a 3-pointer from the left corner by Leandro Barbosa.

A turnover by Indiana at the other end led to a three-point play for Diaw and a chance to tie. Diaw missed the free throw, but Barbosa quickly hit a three from the left corner to give the Suns their first lead since the opening minutes at 86-84 en route to a six-point lead entering the fourth.

Daniels scored 19 for the Pacers, who were outscored, 54-37, in the second half.

"The story tonight was Stoudemire," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "That was a terrific performance and we had no answers for him. We stood around in the third quarter and lost our rhythm because they were scoring buckets. We played a brilliant first half of offensive basketball and not even an average third quarter."