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Barbosa leads shorthanded Suns over sliding Grizzlies

Dec 31, 2008 - 4:57 AM By Jason Smith PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Leandro Barbosa scored 28 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 24 to help the Phoenix Suns rally for a 101-89 road victory Tuesday night over the struggling Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.

Barbosa, starting in place of All-Star point guard Steve Nash, and O'Neal combined to score 15 of the first 17 points in the fourth quarter for Phoenix, which erased a 78-70 deficit through three.

Barbosa's 3-pointer with 6:18 left in the fourth quarter gave Phoenix an 85-84 advantage, the Suns' first lead since the 7:16 mark of the first period.

"Our guys really grinded it out tonight. We were shorthanded without Steve and then Amare (Stoudemire) got kicked out," Phoenix coach Terry Porter said. "We had a lot of guys contribute. Shaq was a force for us again tonight. He just dominated the game.

"Barbosa stepped in and made some shots and we had other guys that made timely plays that helped us a lot. It was a great win for us."

Already without Nash (back spasms), Phoenix got even thinner with 3:52 left in the second quarter, when Stoudemire was ejected for picking up a pair of technical fouls. Stoudemire was whistled twice for arguing a foul call by official Eric Lewis.

Phoenix, which trailed by as many as nine in the third quarter, hardly seemed to miss him, outscoring Memphis, 58-18, in the paint.

"We were just a little quicker with our rotations and we were able to keep them to one shot," O'Neal said of a fourth-quarter effort that saw Phoenix outscore Memphis, 31-11.

The Grizzlies' 11 fourth-quarter points tied the club's lowest output in a quarter this season.

Hakim Warrick's 25 points led Memphis, which shot just 39 percent (29-of-75) from the field overall, including an icy 16.7 percent (3-of-18) in the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies were playing their fourth game in five nights Tuesday and were coming off back-to-back overtime losses on the road at San Antonio and Minnesota.

"This is a tough reality," Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. "We play like a team for three quarters, and then we stop playing like a team. We start going 1-on-1. We stop sharing the ball.

"We take tough shots when there are easier shots to be found and we put on the blinders. We just think we have to do it by ourselves, and you get ugly basketball."

O'Neal, who surpassed Oscar Robertson on Tuesday for eighth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, added 13 rebounds and was 8-of-10 from the charity stripe. O'Neal's 24 points increased his career total to 27,715, surpassing Robertson's 27,710.

"Oh, I did pass him up? I didn't know that," O'Neal said. "I can remember growing up and my father always bragging about 'Big Oscar.' It's just a credit to my parents for raising me well and a credit to me for working hard and playing hard.

"I'm really upset with myself that I've missed like 5,000 free throws. If I would have hit half of those, I'd probably be No. 3 right now. Maybe when it's all said and done, I'll end up in the top five."

Phoenix scored 16 of its 21 first-quarter points in the paint, but trailed, 27-21, heading into the second after shooting just 38 percent (8-of-21) from the field in the opening period.

Memphis, which shot 47 percent (18-of-38) in the first half, led by as many as seven points in the second quarter before O'Neal scored four of the Suns' final five points before the break to leave Phoenix trailing, 49-46, at halftime.

"Obviously Shaq was a presence down there," said Memphis forward Rudy Gay, who added 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting. "They came and knocked down a couple of 3-pointers and, before you know it, we were down."