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Suns lose Shaq early but still burn Pistons

Nov 17, 2008 - 5:07 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Amare Stoudemire scored 29 points to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 104-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Stoudemire also grabbed 11 rebounds on his 26th birthday to help the Suns overcome the second-quarter ejection of Shaquille O'Neal.

Steve Nash added 17 points and seven assists for the Suns, who lost O'Neal when he was ejected for a flagrant foul two with 5:19 left in the first half.

"It looked like he just went for the ball but it is a judgment call," Suns coach Terry Porter said. "All three of them agreed on it. There is nothing I can do about it but sometimes the fall actually looks worse then the contact and I think that is what happened."

Richard Hamilton scored 19 for the Pistons, who handed the Los Angeles Lakers their first loss of the season Friday night in Los Angeles.

"We talked about it before the game that we just had a road trip where we went 2-1 and now we were 3-1. It was a really good road trip but a great trip would be 3-0 or 4-0," Detroit coach Michael Curry said. "The big fella was doing well. Shaq has been playing well as of late. Stoudemire got into the paint, they were aggressive. They were posting. Overall our team, defensively we weren't good and they were really good offensively."

Boris Diaw had 13 points and O'Neal scored 10 of his 12 points in the second quarter before his ejection.

"It is a great way to start off the week. We have tough week and that team was very hot," Porter said. "It was nice to see our guys step up. They were really into the game from the start. We moved the ball well."

O'Neal was tossed with 5:19 left in the half when he fouled Rodney Stuckey on a layup, sending him down to the court chest-first. The call was a flagrant foul two, which is an automatic ejection and it was upheld after a review by referee Ken Mauer.

"I was going for the ball. The little guy ran into a brick wall and he added a little bit to it at the end. The referees looked at how he fell but it is nothing I am worried about," O'Neal said. "I have never been that type of player. If you understand physics like that, anytime you come in out of control like that and you run into a brick wall you are going to get that effect."

Despite O'Neal's absence, the Suns rolled to a 61-46 lead at the half and they were up 81-67 after three.

"Our guys did a good job when we lost him," Porter said. "We were still able to get the good flow and had Amare run pick and rolls and do what he has done so well for so many years. We did a good job of having a mixture. We did attack the paint and we did try to keep the pressure on them."

Phoenix scored 52 points in the paint and shot 57 percent (41-of-72) from the field.

"When Shaq went out we went to the fast breaks, more up-tempo," Stoudemire said. We got everybody going and we were able to speed the game up a bit. Shaq is playing well inside and we have to take advantage of his inside play but when he goes out we can still speed it up. "

Aside from losing O'Neal before the half, the Suns were without forward Matt Barnes and guard Leandro Barbosa for the second game in a row. Barnes sat out Sunday to finish his two-game suspension for his part in an altercation with the Houston Rockets. Barbosa remains in Brazil following the death of his mother.

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