O'Neal, Nash lead Suns past HawksJan 14, 2009 - 6:18 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal scored 26 points and Steve Nash added 23 to help the Phoenix Suns pull away from the Atlanta Hawks and claim a 107-102 victory on Tuesday.
Leandro Barbosa added 22 points off the bench and Amare Stoudemire chipped in 17 for the Suns, who have won three straight and six of seven.
Phoenix shot 51 percent (38-of-74) from the field, including 11-of-21 from beyond the arc.
Suns coach Terry Porter said it was O'Neal's presence that opened up the floor for the outside shooters.
"Shaq had good patience down there and was able to score," Porter said. "Early on, Shaq was in the post and they came to double him and never rotated. Matt (Barnes) hit a couple of shots from the corner and that was because of Shaq in the post. We also ran the ball and got some kicks which were open."
"I just try to bring a lot of energy," Barbosa said. "That is the way I like to play. We knew they were going to double Shaq so everybody was prepared to take the shot. I was pretty good tonight from the 3-point shot so I took advantage of that. Everyone on the team did a great job with the threes."
After Mike Bibby knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:06 left to tie the game at 98-98, O'Neal split two free throws and Nash and Stoudemire hit back-to-back jumpers to push Phoenix to a 103-98 lead with 29 seconds left.
"We got the stops and we made some big baskets down the stretch," Nash said. "I think we are a really good team now we just have to keep working and keep proving it. We are all feeling really good about ourselves now. The improvement is there, and we are tough to beat."
Josh Smith knocked down a pair of shots for the Hawks, but Grant Hill hit four free throws over the final 18 seconds to seal the win.
Smith led with 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who have dropped four straight.
Phoenix jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter, taking a 31-16 advantage into the second period. Nash, Stoudemire and O'Neal scored six points apiece in the first and Barbosa added four.
But Atlanta responded in the second quarter, getting 10 points off the bench from Ronald Murray and outscoring the Suns, 30-19, in the frame to cut the deficit to 50-46 at the break.
"I thought the first quarter was great," Porter said. "We had a little let down in the second quarter but came out in the third and really established ourselves."
"I thought we were very flat again coming out in the first quarter and then we picked it up," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "We can't spot these good teams 19, 20 points and think you are going to come back and win basketball games."
Phoenix did not lead by more than five points at any point during the final quarter, but the Hawks could never wrest away the lead. Atlanta finished the night shooting 42 percent (37-of-89) and could not match the Suns from 3-point range, hitting 4-of-15 attempts.
"(Poor starts have) been our trademark the last (four) games and we have not won any of them," Smith said. "The starting unit has to get off to a better lead because our bench is coming in and doing a good job for us."
PHOENIX 107 FINAL
Jan 13 11:31 PM
NBA ATLANTA 75
PHOENIX 81 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 13 11:28 PM
PHOENIX 81 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 13 10:54 PM
PHOENIX 50 HALFTIME
Jan 13 10:16 PM
PHOENIX 31 END, 1ST QTR
Jan 13 9:39 PM
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