for this game

Suns win fifth straight, scorch Wizards

Dec 8, 2007 - 4:47 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Amare Stoudemire had 27 points and an assortment of dazzling dunks, and Steve Nash dished out a Verizon Center-record 19 assists to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 122-107 wire-to-wire victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday.

Raja Bell added 22 points and Leandro Barbosa had 20 for the Suns, who have won five straight and 13 of their last 15.

The Suns assisted one another on an NBA season-high 42 of their 50 field goals, including nine by Grant Hill, seven by Leandro Barbosa and five by Bell.

"That's pretty crazy, right?" Bell said with a big grin. "It is, but it's the way we play and what makes it such an appealing team to play for and such a fun team to play on. It's something that starts with the top - with Steve, obviously - and what (coach) Mike (D'Antoni) preaches.

"It becomes infectious and you have guys out there trying to set each other up. Even when you're hot and somebody's open, you're looking to make that extra pass. That's the beauty of it. That's the way the game's supposed to be played."

Bell's 3-pointer capped a 13-4 Suns' run to begin the third quarter that gave Phoenix a 73-61 lead with 8:07 left. He shot 5-of-5 in the period - including four 3-pointers - as Phoenix outscored Washington, 40-21, in the period and transformed a 60-55 halftime advantage into a 100-76 lead after three quarters.

"Raja did that the other night in Toronto," D'Antoni said. "His third quarter, he was on fire. Somebody's always stepping up at a certain time and knocking down shots. (When) everybody shares the ball and nobody cares who's getting the credit, (it makes for) a pretty easy game."

Hill scored back-to-back buckets, capped by a layup on the run - courtesy of Nash's 19th assist - for a 111-90 lead with 6:45 left. In fact, Nash had more assists himself than the entire Wizards' team (18).

"We're moving the ball well and making shots," Nash said. "When the ball moves like that, we're difficult to guard and guys get open looks and you knock them down, there's lots of assists to be had. I think it's just a little run we're on. I think we've still got a lot of work to do, even though we're playing well.

"Our mentality is to always have it turned on. I know that's impossible, but if your mentality is that, then you have a chance to be consistent and not have to turn it on. If your mentality is that you're always engaged, then you have a chance for consistency and that's what we're searching for."

D'Antoni said his team has been so consistent during the past four games that he won't dare tinker with anything.

"The last four games we've had over 37 assists every game, so it's been the same way," D'Antoni said. "We're just finding our rhythm now and everybody's getting healthy and we're clicking along pretty good. (Trying) not mess it up is all I can do. If I think too much, I'll mess it up. I just stay out of the way right now."

Hill, who had 18 points and five rebounds in 37 minutes, is happy just to to be healthy again - meshing well with his new team is a bonus.

"The last time he was healthy, he was an All-Star," D'Antoni said. "And he's healthy, so he's an All-Star. He's playing at that level. He hasn't missed a beat, and I think he's enjoying playing. He takes care of himself. He's been terrific for us."

Reserve forward Boris Diaw scored seven points off Phoenix's bench in the third quarter.

"No matter who's in the game, they are going 100 miles-an-hour on both ends of the court," said Antawn Jamison, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Wizards.

Barbosa scored the first six points of the second quarter for Phoenix. After rookie Nick Young's jumper pulled Washington to within 36-35, Stoudemire answered with a dunk, a three-point play and a breakaway jam off an assist by Nash that gave the Suns a 43-35 lead.

"I've been on target," said Stoudemire, who shot 12-of-14 from the field. "And they're not all layups - let's get that on file."

Stoudemire's two-handed baseline slam elicited a flurry of high-flying dunks to close the first half. Caron Butler answered at the other end for Washington, and Shawn Marion countered with one of his own to give the Phoenix a 60-55 halftime lead.

Andray Blatche recorded his second double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who fell to 2-1 on their five-game homestand.

"We got to see a big-time playoff team," said Brendan Haywood, who had 14 points but managed just two rebounds. "You have to realize we're playing at a good level, but that's the next level. That's the level you have to get to if you want to be serious contenders."

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