Stoudemire and the rest of the already short-handed Phoenix Suns did just fine without him Sunday night.
Stoudemire had 29 points and 11 rebounds and the Suns overcame O’Neal’s second-quarter ejection to beat the Detroit Pistons 104-86.
“It’s good to see our guys come out and jump on a very good basketball team,” Phoenix coach Terry Porter said.
Steve Nash, back from a one-game suspension for his part in a skirmish with several Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, added 17 points and seven assists for the Suns, who were without two players even before O’Neal was tossed for a flagrant foul with 5:19 left in the first half. Boris Diaw had 13 points for Phoenix.
Richard Hamilton scored 19 for the Pistons, who entered the game 3-0 on a four-game western swing that began Tuesday. In their previous stop, they handed the Lakers their first loss of the season Friday night in Los Angeles.
Detroit’s Allen Iverson scored nine points on 4-for-17 shooting.
The Suns made 14 of their first 19 shots and never trailed again.
“They’re playing well,” Stoudemire said of the Pistons, “so it’s going to help us with our confidence.”
O’Neal had 10 of his 12 points in the second quarter before his night came to an early end.
The call was made with 5:19 left in the half when Rodney Stuckey went up for a layup and O’Neal sent the Pistons’ player crashing chest-first to the court. The flagrant foul two, which is an automatic ejection, was upheld after a review by referee Ken Mauer.
O’Neal said the play was simply a result of “the laws of physics.”
“The laws of physics say that a body in motion stays in motion. So if you have two objects meet in the air, the smaller object is going to fall much harder,” O’Neal said. “I’ve never been the type of player to take anybody out, so I obviously went to the ball. The little guy ran into a brick wall.”
O’Neal stayed on the court to argue vehemently as Mauer ignored him before the Suns’ big man finally left as US Airways Center echoed with boos.
Mauer explained the call after the game.
“A flagrant two has to have a windup and a follow through, and be not only unnecessary but we feel it’s excessive,” Mauer said. “We thought it followed all three of those.”
Stuckey made both free throws to cut Phoenix’s lead to 48-35.
But the Suns scored the next six to take their biggest lead of the half, 54-35, on two free throws by Robin Lopez with 3:19 left in the half. A 9-1 Detroit spurt cut the lead to 55-44 but Nash made two 3-pointers in the final 29 seconds to put Phoenix ahead 61-46 at the break behind 70 percent first-half shooting.
The Suns led 81-67 after three, then Detroit scored the first five points on the fourth quarter to cut it to 81-72 when Will Bynum stole the ball from Nash for a layup with 10:26 to play. After a timeout, Nash sank a 20-footer, and Detroit never cut it to single digits again.
“If we’re going to be a great team, we’ve got a ways to go,” Detroit coach Michael Curry said. “Right now I think we’re a pretty good team, but we want to be a great team. We’ve got work to do, which is a positive. There’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Diaw sank a 3-pointer, then made an inside hook, and Stoudemire scored on a drive, then followed with a dunk on a three-point play, putting Phoenix ahead 93-75 with 7:43 remaining.
“Against Amare you’ve almost got to play perfect defense,” Detroit’s Kwame Brown said.
Phoenix was without forward Matt Barnes and guard Leandro Barbosa for the second game in a row. Barnes completed a two-game suspension for his part in the fracas with the Rockets. Barbosa has returned to Brazil following the death of his mother.
: Discounting O’Neal’s three misses, the Suns were 13-for-14 in the first quarter. … O’Neal was fined $35,000 for his role in the brush up with the Rockets on Wednesday. … Detroit won its previous two games in Phoenix by an average of 26 points. … Porter was an assistant for the Pistons the past two seasons.