Suns 106, Trail Blazers 101
PHOENIX (AP)—Just winning isn’t enough right now for the Phoenix Suns.
They made it 12 in a row with a 106-101 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night, and left the court dissatisfied.
“We were very lucky to win tonight,” Steve Nash said. “They had a lot of 3s go in and out. We made some difficult shots at the end. We relied on a lot of talent and a lot of luck, and I think that’s just not good enough.”
The Suns needed six points and an assist from Nash in the final 1:17 to escape with their 28th victory in their last 30 games.
“We just didn’t come out with the juice that we should have had mentally,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Steve had some big shots at the end, but it shouldn’t come down to that. We need to develop a mentality of winning a championship, and it doesn’t start in April. It starts right now.”
Zach Randolph matched his season-high with 36 points for the Trail Blazers, who rallied from 15 down early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to three late.
Amare Stoudemire scored 23, Boris Diaw 21 and Leandro Barbosa 20. Nash had 13 points and 15 assists. Shawn Marion scored only four points but had five blocked shots, one shy of his career-high, and grabbed 12 rebounds.
For the third game in a row, the Suns started slowly.
“You beat a bunch of teams you should beat and fool yourself into thinking you’re good because you’ve won 12 in a row or whatever,” Nash said. “Our team needs to really realize the amount of ground we have to cover, the amount of improvement we have to make in order to be a championship team. Right now I think we’ve forgotten that.”
Rookie Brandon Roy added 22 points for the Blazers, who lost in Phoenix for the sixth consecutive time.
The Suns, winners of a franchise-record 15 straight earlier this season, dominated the game at the free throw line, making 22-of-23 to Portland’s 6-of-7.
“The officials are basically telling us they don’t see what I see,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “It’s been that way for a number of games. It seems to be that way when we play teams such as Phoenix, Miami and Cleveland. That’s unbelievable, but what can you do?”
The Blazers cut the lead to three four times in the final 1:34 before Nash and Raja Bell each made a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
Nash, with just two baskets up to that point, made a 20-footer with 1:17 to play to make it 98-93 and a 17-footer to boost it to 100-95 with 50.4 seconds to go. Roy’s off-balance jumper cut the lead to 100-97, then Barbosa’s 10-footer put Phoenix ahead 102-97 with 25.7 seconds to go.
Randolph’s tip-in got Portland within three one last time, 102-99, 19.9 seconds from the finish.
Nash said the Suns might be better off losing.
“It wouldn’t be a bad thing,” he said. “Obviously it would hurt us because we’re chasing homecourt, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s about being the best possible team we can be, and if we can’t learn the lessons when we’re winning …. we’ve got a lot of lessons to learn and a lot of improving to do.”
Playing Phoenix close was some consolation for the Blazers.
“It’s disappointing and encouraging,” Randolph said. “This team right here, some people picked them to win it. Just going out there and knowing we can stay in a game like this and play our game, it’s encouraging.”
Portland trailed only 65-60 after Ime Udoka’s 3-pointer with 4:49 left in the third quarter. But Stoudemire had a dunk and a three-point play in a 9-2 surge that put the Suns up 74-62 on Barbosa’s baseline layup with 3:10 left in the period. Phoenix led 81-69 entering the fourth.
The lead reached 86-71 when Diaw made an 18-footer with 10:05 to play. Portland came back, though. Randolph scored seven in an 11-2 run that cut it to 88-82 on LaMarcus Aldridge’s basket with 5:41 to play.
Stoudemire played the second half with a pair of bandages under his right eye after he was scraped across the face by Roy with 33.3 seconds left in the half. … Jarrett Jack returned for the Blazers after missing three games with a concussion, the result of a minor car accident, and scored 10 points. … At the end of a ragged first quarter, Randolph banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Portland a 28-25 lead. … The win gives this season’s Suns two of the three longest winning streaks in franchise history. … The Suns are 3-0 against Portland this season.