for this game

Stoudemire, Shaq help Suns edge Hawks

Jan 26, 2009 - 3:45 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Amare Stoudemire picked the right time to help the Phoenix Suns snap out of their Eastern Conference funk.

Amare Stoudemire scored 23 points, including a crucial three-point play down stretch, and Shaquille O'Neal recorded a double-double with 19 and 11 rebounds as the Suns escaped with a 104-99 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Jason Richardson scored 15 points and Steve Nash added 14 and 13 assists for Phoenix, which snapped a rare three-game losing streak against Eastern Conference foes.

"Tonight was a big win for us," Stoudemire said. "We needed to stop our losing streak."

Josh Smith poured in 19 points and Marvin Williams added 17 for Atlanta, which saw its three-game winning streak come to a screeching halt.

"We tried our best to hold them, but they made shots in the end," Smith said. "Stoudemire made some jump shots at the end of the game. We were trying to keep up with Shaq, but he made us pay for that."

Ironically, it was the run-and-gun Suns' defense that won this one.

After reserve Solomon Jones connected on a dunk off a pass from Mike Bibby, giving Atlanta a 95-94 lead with 6:06 remaining, the Hawks fell silent from the field for almost six minutes.

Atlanta missed eight straight shots from the field and turned the ball over three times as Phoenix had just enough left in the tank for the win.

"Down the stretch, baskets were definitely hard to come by, but you have to find a way to will your way to a win," Stoudemire said. "We put a great team effort out there professionally. I think the key tonight was that we made it tough for Joe (Johnson) and Mike."

O'Neal connected on a pair of free throws to give the Suns a one-point lead with 5:02 remaining before Leandro Barbosa's 3-pointer extended the advantage to 99-95 with 3:48 left.

Jones connected on a pair of free throws to make it a one-possession game with 43 seconds remaining, but Stoudemire took the pass from Nash and slashed his way to the basket and was fouled by Smith while draining a layup. ??He nailed the ensuing free throw to give the Suns a 102-97 lead with 26 ticks left on the clock.

"It was a pick-and-roll with Steve (Nash) driving," Stoudemire said. "Steve found me. (Smith) is a weak-side blocker. Steve had him contained and when he dropped it off to me, (Smith) had no answer."

The play capped a sensational second half for Stoudemire, who was limited to six points and turned the ball over five times in the first two quarters. Stoudemire connected for 17 points in the second half on 7-of-13 shooting.

"He was more aggressive," Williams said. "It seemed like they made a point to come out in the second half and get him touches early."

Jones connected on Atlanta's lone field goal down the stretch - a putback layup to cut the lead to three 10 seconds later, but Nash drained a pair of free throws with 6.9 seconds left to put away the game.

Leandro Barbosa added 20 points off the bench for Phoenix, which won for the sixth time in seven games at Philips Arena and eighth time in 10 contests against Atlanta.

The Suns improved to 2-3 on their season-long six-game East Coast swing and swept the season set from the Hawks for the sixth time in the last eight years.

However, Stoudemire and the Suns expected a tough game from the Hawks, who have won 17 of 22 here this season.

"The Hawks have been playing well at home," Stoudemire said. "This was a pretty good game for us, because we picked up the intensity when we needed to."

It was the containment of Atlanta's backcourt of Johnson and Bibby, which paved the way for Phoenix's success.

Johnson was held to 15 points on 5-of-20 shooting against his former team. Bibby hit just 2-of-13 shots to finish with five points for Atlanta, which fell to 5-12 when allowing an opponent to eclipse the century mark.

"We just couldn't make shots," said Johnson, who was 1-of-9 from the field in the game's last two quarters. "We had some good looks, but just couldn't make them. I even missed a layup. It was one of those nights."

Phoenix opened the contest with a similar defensive flourish, scoring 22 of the game's first 31 points to establish a 13-point lead on Richardson's 20-foot jumper with 4:28 remaining in the first.

But Atlanta clawed back into it, closing out the quarter with a 17-5 run to cut the Phoenix lead to one on Joe Johnson's 3-pointer with 29 seconds remaining in the frame.

"We did a good job," Nash said. "We started the game with a lot of defensive energy. We got it back at the end of the game and were rewarded for it."