Nash scored 15 of his season-high 37 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Suns past the Milwaukee Bucks 114-105 on Tuesday night.
“It’s not really my thing,” said Nash, a guard better known for his passing. “I would much rather get everyone involved, but it was one of those tough nights.”
Nash thought the Bucks seemed intent on stopping Amare Stoudemire, the team’s leading scorer who came in averaging 22.5 points.
The Bucks had limited success stopping Stoudemire, who scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth, shooting 6-of-8 from the floor. He also made all seven of his free throws and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Nash, who had 35 points against Milwaukee in a 122-114 victory Jan. 12, went 13-of-23 from the field. He made five of nine 3-pointers, six of seven free throws and had 10 assists, two under his NBA-leading 12 assists a game.
“That’s not my goal at the start of the night, but it definitely feels great to make shots,” he said. “I’d much rather have a bunch of assists and have everyone be on the score sheet.”
The Suns (30-12), who have the NBA’s second-best record behind Boston (33-6), became the first Western Conference team to notch 30 victories. Phoenix has won four straight since its 97-90 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last Tuesday.
This victory came as Nash took over with the game on the line.
He found Stoudemire, who scored to give the Suns their first lead of the second half at 100-99. Then, Nash hit a 3-pointer and after a steal by Stoudemire, Nash hit another 3.
“Those (Nash and Stoudemire) are some of the top players in each of those positions,” Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Steve Nash came up huge.”
Michael Redd led the Bucks with 28 points, but scored only two in the fourth quarter when he missed all three of his shots for Milwaukee. He played only eight minutes and 14 seconds in the fourth as Krystkowiak waited until the lead was down to 92-90 before Redd got in with 6:36 left to play.
Grant Hill was also back in the Suns’ starting lineup, less than two weeks after undergoing an appendectomy. He had eight points and three assists in 27 minutes after missing seven games recovering from the surgery Jan. 9.
“I was a little rusty, but I thought it was OK,” he said. “My legs weren’t great, but my rhythm will come back by the end of the (four game) roadtrip.”
Charlie Bell’s 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter gave Milwaukee its biggest lead at 86-77, but the Suns refused to fold after trailing most of the second half.
Raja Bell, who scored eight of his 19 points in the final quarter, hit a jumper, converted a three-point play and hit a 3 to spark a 29-13 run that ended on Nash’s 3-pointer—his third during the stretch—which gave the Suns a 106-99 lead with 2:06 to play.
“I thought Raja Bell during about a four-minute stretch was unbelievable,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Steve then kind of closed the deal and everybody else chipped in a little bit.”
Redd made two free throws, but then Stoudemire took a pass from Nash and scored. Shawn Marion made a basket and Phoenix had a 110-101 lead with 57 seconds left to play and the game in hand.
The Bucks could only manage nine free throws in the final four minutes. Nash ended the game by stealing the ball from Redd on a drive to the hoop.
Hill had the surgery Jan. 9 and was expected to be sidelined for up to three weeks. He missed seven games after being injury-free since coming to Phoenix, starting all 34 regular-season games and averaging 15.9 points.
Hill signed a two-year deal with the Suns in July and hoped to overcome seven injury-plagued years in Orlando, where he played in about a third of the Magic’s regular-season games.
Bucks guard Mo Williams did not dress for the game. He sprained his left pinkie during the Bucks’ 106-91 loss to New Orleans on Monday. Simmons started in his place. … The Suns have won 30 of 34 games in the series since March 28, 1991, including 13 of 17 in Milwaukee. … Phoenix is even stronger at home, where the Bucks haven’t won since a 115-107 win on Feb. 21, 1987. … The last time the teams met, Nash sparked a second-half comeback, scoring 26 of his 35 points in the final two quarters of a 122-114 victory on Jan. 12. It was the team’s 20th consecutive home victory over Milwaukee. … The Suns are a Western Conference best 16-2 against the Eastern Conference this season. Milwaukee fell to 5-14 against the West.