Amare Stoudemire scored 34 points and the Suns won their seventh straight, and 18th in 19 games, 122-107 over the Heat on Tuesday night in what turned out to be a mismatch of the teams with the best record in the West and East.
All five Suns starters hit double figures—in the first half—and Phoenix improved its NBA-best record to 31-4, the sixth-best start for a team with four losses in league history. Four of the five ahead of them went on to win the NBA title.
“I don’t know that I’ve seen a quicker team in my 10 years in the league,” Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They’ve got great athletes at every position.”
Shawn Marion added 26 points and 11 rebounds, Steve Nash 16 points and 16 assists and Joe Johnson 24 points and nine rebounds for the Suns, who topped 120 points for the second game in a row and seventh time this season.
“Just right now it’s fitting all together,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He (Nash) makes it look easy, and the other guys make it look easy. They play off each other. This is probably our best stretch we’ve had all year.”
O’Neal had 34 points and 11 rebounds, but the Heat—beaten at Seattle on Sunday—lost two in a row for only the second time this season. The first was early November, the fifth and sixth games of the season. Dwyane Wade added 23 points for Miami.
Stoudemire relished his matchup with O’Neal, his boyhood idol.
“I did a little bit of everything,” Stoudemire said. “I tried to mix it up on him, and use my jumper. I figured he was going to back up a little bit and let me shoot, and when he came out, I took it to the rack and tried to get fouls or make plays for my teammates.”
O’Neal has always liked Stoudemire.
“Tonight it was the old me versus the young me,” O’Neal said. “I wanted to make him shoot the jumper, and he shot it, and he shot it real well. He’s a great kid.”
Phoenix shot out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter, and Miami never was closer than 10 again.
The Heat cut the lead to 63-53 on Eddie Jones’ 3-pointer with 2:06 left in the half. Stoudemire responded with a 14-foot jumper over O’Neal, then Richardson’s breakaway stuff after a Miami turnover made it 67-53 with 1:21 to go.
Wade lost control on a baseline drive, but the ball went in with 19.9 seconds to play in the half to cut the lead to 67-55.
The Heat were down 71-61 on Wade’s basket early in the second half, but the Suns went on one of their trademark runs, this one 18-4, to go up 89-65 on Stoudemire’s soaring dunk with 6:40 left in the third.
In the fourth quarter, Stoudemire was knocked down by O’Neal, but flipped the ball in sidearmed as he fell. He made the free throw for a three-point play to put Phoenix up 105-85 with 9:46 left.
O’Neal’s basket cut it to 106-89, but Marion responded with a baseline jumper, then Johnson made his fourth 3-pointer of the game, and third of the half, and it was 111-91 with 7:24 remaining.
Despite Miami’s attempts to slow the tempo, the Suns raced to their highest-scoring first quarter of the season, taking a 40-25 lead. Stoudemire made all four of his first-quarter shots—each one from beyond 15 feet.
O’Neal scored 17 in the first half on 8-for-9 shooting, five of them dunks.
The game’s pattern was the same, but less one-sided, than Phoenix’s 124-89 rout of Indiana on Sunday. In that game, the Suns led by 22 in the first quarter.
The Heat and Suns are a combined 30 games ahead of their pace from last season. … Phoenix began a stretch of four games in five nights, the next three on the road. … The Suns had their sixth sellout of the season. … O’Neal and Stoudemire are 1-2 in the NBA in dunks. … Suns chairman and CEO Jerry Colangelo, who underwent prostate cancer surgery on Dec. 30, attended the game and got a big cheer when shown on the arena’s big screen.