Suns 112, Knicks 107
NEW YORK (AP)—The Phoenix Suns took nearly 40 years to win 15 straight games. They needed only a month to do it again.
Barely a month after establishing the longest winning streak in franchise history, the Suns equaled it by turning things around after a sluggish first half in the second night of a back-to-back.
“I think you’ve got to be a good team,” Steve Nash said. “I think we have a lot of talent and have great chemistry and some mental toughness. Whatever mental toughness we lack to start games we find somewhere in us to win games. I think that’s part of the key.”
Nash finished with 22 points and 14 assists as the Suns scored 63 points in the second half after an un-Sunslike 49 in the first two periods. Shawn Marion added 20 points and 10 rebounds, Leandro Barbosa scored 15 points, and Stoudemire grabbed 11 rebounds.
Phoenix became the first team to have two winning streaks of at least 15 games in the same season since the Los Angeles Lakers had streaks of 19 and 16 in a row during the 1999-00 season. The Suns, who joined the NBA for the 1968-69 season, will go for a franchise-record 16th straight win Friday night at Milwaukee in the third game of a five-game trip.
“Especially in the first 41 games (actually 42), it’s pretty tough,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said of the streaks. “We take care of business, guys come out and play hard every night. They know when we should win. We’ve had some breaks along the way. Some people have been out. Hopefully it just keeps going and we keep getting better.”
D’Antoni will coach the Western Conference in next month’s All-Star game as a result of Wednesday’s victory and San Antonio’s 90-85 loss to Houston. With Dallas’ Avery Johnson ineligible because he coached last year, D’Antoni earned the spot by clinching the highest winning percentage among coaches through games of Feb. 4.
Jamal Crawford scored 29 points, 23 in the fourth quarter in an attempt to keep New York close. Eddy Curry added 25 points for the Knicks, but only four in the final 33-plus minutes. He also left with an injury in the final quarter of New York’s second straight loss.
The Knicks were already without starting point guard Stephon Marbury, who missed his first game of the season because of left knee tendinitis. New York doesn’t know if either will be available Friday night against defending champion Miami.
“It’ll be tough, but we’ll manage,” Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. “We’ll find a way to make it work. We got some pieces missing, but we’ll find a way to somehow scratch out a win here and there.”
One night after scoring 76 points in the first half at Washington, the Suns didn’t reach that total until the final 2 minutes of the third quarter—right as they were taking control of the game.
“For me personally, I just got in foul trouble,” Stoudemire said. “As a team, we just started a little slow. Eddy Curry was on fire early. So second half we came out with a little more intensity.”
Even with Stoudemire scoring 16 points in the third, New York was down just four after Nate Robinson’s 3-pointer with 3:08 remaining in the period. But James Jones answered with a 3 and Barbosa converted a three-point play after a steal to give Phoenix a 74-64 lead with 2:31 to go. Stoudemire added a basket and Barbosa had five more points before period’s end, making it 81-68 headed to the fourth.
Jones nailed a pair of 3-pointers early in the fourth, extending the lead to 17 with under 10 1/2 minutes remaining. Adding injury to insult, Curry hobbled off the court and into the locker room with a strained left calf after his basket early in the period and did not return.
“I’m not expecting to miss any time, but you kind of don’t really know with these kind of things,” he said.
The Suns committed four turnovers in the first three minutes of the game. Even when they did get going, they couldn’t contain Curry, who scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter to give New York a 25-24 lead.
The Suns finally slowed Curry with double- and even triple-teams, and got their running game going late in the half, using a 14-2 spurt that gave them a four-point advantage on Boris Diaw’s jumper. Marion’s layup on the fast break with 0.8 seconds remaining made it 49-46 at halftime.
The other teams with two 15-game winning streaks are the 1996-97 Utah Jazz (both 15); the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (20, 16); and the 1946-47 Washington Capitals (17, 15). … Phoenix improved to 10-0 on the road and 19-1 overall against East teams. The last team to start 10-0 on the road in interconference games was Utah, which opened 11-0 in 1994-95. … Phoenix has won six of the last seven meetings. New York’s only victory in that span was a 140-133 triple-overtime win on Jan. 2, 2006.