The Phoenix Suns' high-octane offense stalled last night, but not long enough to slow down the team's stellar start. After squandering a 20-point lead, the Suns went on a decisive...
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ high-octane offense stalled last night, but not long enough to slow down the team’s stellar start.
After squandering a 20-point lead, the Suns went on a decisive 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter and defeated the Toronto Raptors 106-94 for their 11th consecutive victory.
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Amare Stoudemire scored 33 points, and Steve Nash had 18 points and 13 assists to become the first NBA player to register 10 or more assists in 11 consecutive victories.
In winning for the 20th time in 21 games and boosting their NBA-best record to 24-3, the Suns maintained their grip on first place in the Pacific Division — but it wasn’t easy against the struggling Raptors.
“You can’t overlook those teams,” Shawn Marion said. “You can’t take them for granted.”
The Raptors whittled a 20-point Phoenix lead to 75-69 by the end of the third quarter, then tied the score at 80 on Matt Bonner’s jumper with 8:38 to play.
“We kind of took it easy for a couple of minutes,” Stoudemire said. “We can’t do that. But we were able to close it out.”
The Suns responded by scoring the next 12 points to seal the win. Nash had three assists during the pivotal stretch.
Nash had shared the record of 10 consecutive victories with at least 10 assists with Magic Johnson, who did it twice during the 1986-87 season.
“It is kind of embarrassing in a way,” Nash said of surpassing Johnson’s mark. “He is one of the greatest players ever to play the game, and to be mentioned with him is a big thrill and honor. But in no stretch am I Magic.”
Nash also tied a franchise record with 10 or more assists in 11 consecutive games. Kevin Johnson did it twice, in the 1990-91 and 1993-94 seasons.
“That’s a huge accomplishment for any point guard,” Stoudemire said. “Steve’s the best point guard in the league. That’s just the way Steve plays. That’s his determination. He comes out great every night.”
Marion added 18 points and 18 rebounds, and Quentin Richardson also scored 18.
Jalen Rose led Toronto with 19 points, while Chris Bosh scored 18 and Lamond Murray had 14. The Raptors are 2-3 since trading Vince Carter to New Jersey on Dec. 17.
“We always play hard when we get down 20,” Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. “You can’t keep getting down 20 points. You’ve got to play like you’re getting embarrassed to start the game. For whatever reason, we get down 20, our pride is challenged and we play hard.”
During the Suns’ latest winning streak — they won nine in a row earlier this season — they have scored at least 100 points in each game. The last time Phoenix won 11 in a row was March 20 to April 10, 1997. The 11 consecutive wins ties Miami for the longest streak this year.
The Suns came out running early and bolted to a 24-8 lead in the first seven minutes. Stoudemire scored 15 during the span, including a thunderous dunk and an acrobatic layup.
Nash contributed 12 points in the opening quarter, including three three-pointers, to help the Suns take a 32-14 lead.
Rose, who was demoted from the starting lineup on Wednesday, scored 10 points for Toronto in the second quarter. But the Suns led by as many as 19 before settling for a 56-39 advantage at the half.