PHOENIX (AP)—Mike D’Antoni came back to Phoenix to a warm reception, then watched a familiar player nail down the Suns’ 111-103 victory over his New York Knicks.
Steve Nash, whose career flourished in D’Antoni’s four seasons as Phoenix coach, scored 21 points, including a game-clinching 3-pointer with 28 seconds to play.
“He put the dagger in us at the end,” D’Antoni said, “but I’ve seen that a thousand times. I knew it was going to happen. It didn’t surprise me.”
D’Antoni’s run-and-shoot squad was just 5-of-37 on 3-pointers. The attempts tied a franchise record set earlier this season, a mark destined to be broken again in D’Antoni’s freewheeling system.
The crowd gave D’Antoni a long, loud standing ovation when he was introduced as Knicks coach before the game. The cheering didn’t stop until the lights were turned out in preparation for introduction of the Suns.
“Phoenix, you’re great,” D’Antoni said afterward. “I’ll definitely be back here in retirement sometime and get out to the pasture, but yeah, it was real nice.”
It was the fans’ first chance to say goodbye to D’Antoni, who left abruptly in a philosophical dispute with Suns general manager Steve Kerr. Nash loved the crowd’s reaction.
“I thought it was a classy response from our fans after a little bit of controversy in his exit,” Nash said. “People really needed to brush that aside and look at what he really contributed to this city and this franchise and how much fun we had over the last four years.”
New York was on the fourth stop of a five-game road trip that concludes Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Other than the missed 3s, D’Antoni liked what he saw.
“I love the way we played,” he said. “We had opportunities to win. We didn’t make our 3s obviously and we had to shoot a good percentage to beat these guys. But overall I’m really excited. I thought the way we played and how hard we played, it was a good measuring stick for us.”
O’Neal returned after missing two games following a family death and joined newcomer Jason Richardson, in the starting lineup in his second game since coming to Phoenix in a trade with Charlotte. Richardson had 16 points.
“We got some big efforts tonight from Steve, Amare and Shaq,” Phoenix coach Terry Porter said. “Both of our big guys did a good job of taking advantage of the mismatches they had in the post and in the paint, really doing a good job on the boards.”
Nash had the only two field goals for Phoenix in the last 10:05. He said it was not just another game, not with D’Antoni standing in front of the visitor’s bench.
“To lose somebody that you worked so closely with and so positively with, who had a great relationship with the city and the fans,” Nash said, “it was an emotionally charged game by regular-season standards.”
The 5-foot-9 Robinson brought the Knicks back. He sank a high-arching 10-footer over the 7-1 O’Neal, made a 3-pointer and sank an 18-footer in a 9-2 spurt that cut it to 98-95 with 5:38 to play. The Knicks had a chance to make it closer on a three-on-one break but Wilson Chandler drew an offensive foul, his sixth.
Count Robinson as a happy convert to D’Antoni’s style.
“We just have to knock down shots,” Robinson said. “I just want to win. He’s a winning coach and he brings a positive attitude to the game. It’s something that the players love. They love a coach that has confidence in them.”
Phoenix used a 22-4 run to take a 32-15 lead on Stoudemire’s driving layup with 2:29 left in the first quarter, and never trailed again. Richardson made a 3-pointer with 51.9 seconds left and Phoenix led 62-51 at the break.
The Knicks were 2-for-19 on 3s in the first half.
New York twice cut the lead to five in the third quarter, but the Suns regained control with a 10-0 run that boosted the lead to 81-66. The Knicks rallied, but Richardson’s 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds to play put Phoenix ahead 91-81 entering the fourth.
New York has lost five straight in Phoenix. … New York’s Jared Jeffries left with a sore left leg in the second quarter. … D’Antoni had a 253-136 record in four-plus seasons with Phoenix.