Suns 127, Wizards 105
WASHINGTON (AP)—The Phoenix Suns wannabes have quite a ways to go before they can be mistaken for the real thing.
Steve Nash and the Suns made Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards look more like pretenders than contenders Tuesday night, putting the East’s top-scoring team in its place with a 127-105 thumping.
“I did hear that they wanted to be the Phoenix Suns of the East,” said Amare Stoudemire, who had 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting. “I think there’s only one Phoenix Suns, and we rest in the West. And that’s how it’s going to be for a while.”
Nash scored 27 points on 11-for-13 shooting and added 14 assists in the Suns’ 14th straight win, clearly outplaying fellow MVP candidate Arenas. Phoenix led by 21 after the first quarter, won for the 30th time in 32 games and avenged an overtime loss to the Wizards last month in Phoenix, where Arenas scored 54 and was yelling “Hibachi” when making his shots.
“I think respect, more than revenge,” said Nash, who had the same number of assists as the entire Wizards team. “We know they’re a good team, and we didn’t want to underestimate them or have a lack of energy to start the game. That was, I think, our motivation. We respected how well they played at our place and we wanted to give them a better game.”
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said before tip-off that he was so excited he didn’t sleep well the night before. His players looked just as edgy, starting 3-for-15 from the field.
“It was a big game,” Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said with a big sigh. “We knew that they remember Gilbert yelling ‘Hibachi,’ scoring 50 and Caron (Butler) yelling after the game. We knew that, so it’s a surprise for us to come out and just not play well at all.
“It lets you know we’ve still got a long way to go before we can truly become contenders. We definitely knew that, but it’s a disgrace to come in and play like this on our home floor.”
Arenas finished with 31 points, but he started 1-for-6 and the game was essentially over before he got going. When he finally made his second field goal, it only served to cut the Suns’ lead to 24 in the second quarter. The Wizards trimmed the lead to 13 midway through the fourth, but the Suns responded with a 6-0 run to put the game out of reach.
“We’d rather play teams like that than sit down and play boring, slowdown basketball,” Arenas said. “And tonight we got a chance to go up and down and let the horses go, and they beat us at their game. They hit shots. They were running. The first five minutes we weren’t running like we said we were going to run. We weren’t going out there playing free-for-all like we usually do.”
Arenas considered his big game in Phoenix as payback for getting cut last summer from the U.S. national team, on which Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni served as an assistant. The Suns remember it more for the Denver blizzard that caused them to arrive only two hours before tip-off.
“We had a tough day that day, busing two hours and three hours of flying in right before the game,” said the clean-shaven Nash, who bucked superstition and ditched the beard he said he would keep until the Suns lost again. “Tonight, we were a little sharper.”
The Suns shot a season-high 60.8 percent, had assists on 35 of their 48 field goals and had five players in double figures before halftime. Nash was 7-for-7 from the field and had eight assists in the first half, and his best move was a baseline hesitation step that got him past Brendan Haywood for a three-point play.
Butler added 24 points for the Wizards, who had won a Verizon Center-record 10 straight at home to move atop the Eastern Conference standings. Antonio Daniels had a season-high 20 points.
“We just got beat very thoroughly by a good team and a very well-coached team,” Jordan said. “They were very sharp. They were motivated. Steve Nash was picking us apart.”
D’Antoni said he didn’t think Arenas was burning bridges with his revenge games against coaches from the U.S. national team. “Not from me—I think it’s funny,” D’Antoni said. “I think he’s having fun with it. Whatever it takes to motivate you. You would think making about $80 million might motivate you, but if it takes something else that’s fine, too. But he’s a good guy. I’m sure he’s disappointed in what happened this summer, but it happened. Somebody was going to get ticked off. You can’t take everybody, so it was either him getting 50 on me or LeBron (James) getting 50. Somebody’s going to get 50.” … Phoenix didn’t lose its intensity with the big lead—Stoudemire and D’Antoni were called for technical fouls for arguing in the second quarter.