Suns 115, Pacers 90

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PHOENIX (AP)—Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni dug deep into his bench and there among the cobwebs found a 12-year NBA veteran who can shoot.

Eric Piatkowski, who had played 7 minutes all season, shot 3-for-8 from 3-point range and finished with 11 points to help the Suns beat the Indiana Pacers for the second time in four days, 115-90 on Friday night.

“Anything you can do to contribute on the way to a championship is going to make you feel awfully good,” Piatkowski said. “You’ve just got to wait your turn and hopefully get an opportunity to show what you can do.”

Pat Burke, also a little-used reserve, had all 10 of his points in the second half to help the Suns make up for the absence of Shawn Marion.

“I thought the key to the game was they had some guys on their bench step up and play well,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said.

Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 23 points apiece.

Stoudemire, who also had 10 rebounds, was 11-for-13 at the foul line. Nash made eight of 10 shots, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range. Raja Bell added 17 points. Leandro Barbosa had 14 points and 10 assists.

Seven Suns scored in double figures.

Piatkowski, played 22 minutes, including time in the first and second quarters. He said D’Antoni had clued him in about playing at the morning shootaround.

“He said `I don’t know if you play golf on game day or what,”’ Piatkowski said, “`but you might want to be ready tonight.”’

D’Antoni said Piatkowski “surprised me but he didn’t surprise me.”

“I should have looked at it earlier,” D’Antoni said. “I should have trusted him earlier, and I didn’t do it. He proved me wrong tonight, and that was great.”

Kurt Thomas, the only Sun who played who didn’t score in double figures, had a season-high 15 rebounds.

Danny Granger had 20 points for the Pacers, who matched their longest losing streak of the season at four games. All four have been by double digits, the last two to Phoenix.

Jermaine O’Neal, hampered by foul trouble, scored 16, but only two in the second half. Marquis Daniels also scored 16 for the Pacers but left with a sore knee in the fourth quarter.

The Pacers, who shot 39 percent from the field to the Suns’ 53 percent, also lost Maceo Baston with a dislocated big toe in the first half.

Phoenix, playing without Marion for the second straight game because of a bruised right hand, rebounded from its loss Wednesday night in Philadelphia to sweep the season series from Indiana for the second year in a row. The Suns also improved to 24-4 against Eastern Conference foes.

“That’s been the story of those guys,” O’Neal said. “No matter who’s in there, they keep going as long as they have Steve Nash.”

Marion was injured Tuesday night in the Suns’ 103-92 victory at Indiana. Phoenix had to rally from 18 down to win that one, but took control for good this time with a 20-9 run to end the first half.

Stoudemire scored 17, Nash 14 and Bell 10 to help the Suns lead 62-49 at the break. Stoudemire was 9-for-10 from the foul line, and Nash 6-for-8 from the field in the first half.

O’Neal scored 14 before going to the bench with his third foul with 2:45 to play in the half.

Indiana cut the lead to eight twice in the third quarter, the last at 78-70 on Daniels’ 17-footer with 3:29 to play. The Suns, though, ended the quarter with a 12-4 run. Burke scored seven in the spurt, including a 3-pointer. Barbosa made a pair of slick passes for assists and made a 13-footer during the run.

The Suns, opening a five-game homestand, led by as many as 28 in the fourth quarter.

Notes

The Suns’ Boris Diaw missed his eighth game with back spasms. … O’Neal drew a technical foul with 6:09 to play in the first half. Nash made the free throw, then added a 3-pointer on the change of possession to put Phoenix up 46-40. … It’s the first time a team has won four in a row in the Pacers-Suns series since 1976-77. … D’Antoni said Marion might play Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Indiana
D. Granger D. Granger
6-13,  20 Pts
5 Rebs, 0 Assists
 Phoenix
A. Stoudemire A. Stoudemire
6-11,  23 Pts
10 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

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Rebounds
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Friday, Mar 2