Boston (21-32) at Phoenix (35-17)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Wed Feb 22, 2006
  • TV: FSAZ
Preview | Box Score | Recap

If the Phoenix Suns can pick up where they left off before the All-Star break, they could be primed for an excellent stretch run.

The Suns, winners of seven of their last eight games, take a five-game Pacific Division lead into their meeting with the Boston Celtics.

Phoenix played one of its best all-around games of the season in the final contest before the break, winning its fourth straight game with a 109-75 rout of Houston on Thursday.

The Suns are a season-high 18 games above .500.

“Let’s bottle it,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think it was one of our best defensive efforts of the season. Even the coaching staff was stunned.”

The 75 points allowed were the fewest allowed by Phoenix since a 94-74 victory on Nov. 9, 2004 at Chicago. The Suns held Rockets All-Stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming to a combined 16 points.

Meanwhile, both Phoenix All-Stars had strong efforts. Steve Nash had 21 points and eight assists, and Shawn Marion added 16 points and 12 rebounds for his league-leading 40th double-double.

Marion also performed well in Sunday’s All-Star game, with 14 points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. Nash started in the Western Conference backcourt and finished with two points, six assists and five rebounds.

Phoenix has scored 100 points or more in 15 consecutive games, going 11-4 over that span.

Celtics All-Star representative Paul Pierce comes to Phoenix playing some of the best basketball of his career.

Pierce has scored at least 30 points in six straight games, including a career-best 50 in a 113-109 overtime loss to Cleveland last Wednesday. He is the league’s leading scorer in February, averaging 34.0 points per games.

Pierce continued his hot shooting in Boston’s 103-83 victory Tuesday at Utah. He scored 30 points, including 17 on 6-for-6 shooting in a pivotal third quarter, when the Celtics turned a 47-43 halftime deficit into an 80-64 lead.

“We got it going. I was feeling good,” said Pierce, whose 17 points matched Utah’s total for the period. “I think the guys were feeding off of what I was doing on offense.”

The victory snapped a seven-game road losing streak for the Celtics. Boston has won three of its last four games overall.

Michael Olowokandi added 12 points and 11 rebounds—his best totals since arriving last month in a trade with Minnesota. Olowokandi also had to help carry teammate Wally Szczerbiak from the floor after a scary moment early in the game.

Szczerbiak dropped to the floor in pain for several minutes after colliding with Utah’s Milt Palacio in the first quarter. The Celtics said Szczerbiak only suffered a bruised knee, and could play Wednesday at Phoenix.

The road team has won the last four meetings in the series, including a 102-94 Suns victory at Boston on Feb. 1.

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