Suns 106, 76ers 95
Even when Steve Nash isn't 100 percent healthy, he still plays at a high level.
Nash was at his shooting and creative best Wednesday night, scoring 20 points and handing out 13 assists as the Phoenix Suns beat the Philadelphia 76ers 106-95 for their fourth straight victory.
``I wasn't sure how my back was going to be,'' Nash said of the injury that kept him out of Tuesday night's game at Oklahoma City. ``The rest did me some good, but I still have work to do on my back.
``In the first quarter, I felt good going into the game. I had fresh legs. Hopefully, my health will get better.''
Nash also has been bothered by a strained abdomen.
``With the abdomen, I lacked confidence at times,'' he said, ``but to come through unfazed was good for me. I didn't feel great. But I did have some juice in my step.''
Jason Richardson led the Suns with 24 points, Amare Stoudemire scored 22, Channing Frye had 14 and Robin Lopez had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Suns (36-23) have won 10 of 12 and are 13 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007-08 season. They are 5-1 since the All-Star break.
They also are 18-2 when Richardson scores at least 20 points, which he has done three consecutive games.
Andre Iguodala led the 76ers with 20 points, Lou Williams had 19, Thaddeus Young 16 and Marreese Speights 12.
After resting at home Tuesday, Nash sure looked rejuvenated Wednesday, hitting his first eight field goal attempts and running the Suns' offense with the utmost confidence.
He was sensational in the first half. Nash hit all five of his shots in the first period, scored 14 points, had five assists and two rebounds as the Suns built a 33-25 lead. He connected on his only shot in the second quarter, an over-the-head layup, and added three assists.
``He's a great player,'' Philadelphia coach Eddie Jordan said. ``He knows how to manipulate the defense, he's seen all the coverages against him, he knows how to deliver the play ... and he can make shots in the paint and he can make 3s.''
Nash was out for the first seven minutes of the second and it was obvious that the Suns' offense faltered. During that stretch, Phoenix had only three field goals and its lead - at one time 11 points - shrunk to three.
Once he returned, the offense began clicking again, and by halftime, the Suns had regained their 11-point advantage behind 16 points and eight assists from Nash. Feeding off their All-Star, the Suns scored 19 points in the final 4:40 of the second period to lead 58-47.
``Steve got us of to a good start,'' Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. ``He was very aggressive from the start and made some shots.''
Richardson has been one of the major beneficiaries of Nash's unselfish play.
``He keeps finding me,'' Richardson said. ``We needed him tonight. With that emotional win yesterday, guys didn't have the energy to come out tonight and he gave us a big boost. We definitely needed that from him.
``You know what Steve's going to do, what Amare's going to do, throw me in there and we're pretty deadly.''
The 76ers' Elton Brand was duly impressed with Nash.
``It's kind of like you pick your poison with him because he can knock down 3-pointers, he can knock down mid-range shots and he can finish in the lane, and you see how he creates for the other guys,'' Brand said.
Surprisingly, Nash, the league leader in free throw percentage, missed his first shot when he failed to convert on a technical foul in the third period. He then missed a field goal attempt for the first time later in the quarter.
Richardson, working off the momentum created from Tuesday night, when he made the game-winning shot in a 104-102 victory that ended Oklahoma City's nine-game winning streak, had 13 points at the half.
With Stoudemire accounting for 12 points, the Suns pushed their lead to 85-63 in the third quarter. After that, Philadelphia never came closer than 11 points.
The 76ers were without All-Star Allen Iverson, out for the seventh straight game because of personal reasons; Willie Green (left shoulder); Francisco Elson (hernia surgery) and Jason Smith (right ankle sprain).
NOTES: The Suns have overcome double-digit leads in 10 winning games this season. ... Phoenix overcame a 16-point deficit in beating the 76ers 119-115 on Nov. 9.