Suns 120, Hornets 106
Phoenix Suns fans booed when the team drafted Steve Nash in 1996. They had no idea how wrong they were.
Nash played in his 1,000th NBA game on Sunday night, ever the crafty playmaker with 13 points and 12 assists in the Suns' 120-106 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
``To play 1,000 games is amazing,'' the 36-year-old point guard said. ``Part of me feels like it just means I'm old, but if someone had told me when I was 15, 16, 17 years old that I'd play a thousand games as a professional basketball player, I'd probably have been pretty happy.''
Nash became the 10th active player in the league to reach the 1,000-game milestone.
Coach Alvin Gentry called it ``an unbelievable accomplishment,'' especially considering the Suns' style of play since Nash returned to Phoenix from Dallas.
``Those 480 or 500 games that he's played here or whatever it is, is probably more like 650 with the pace that he's played the last six years,'' Gentry said, ``and the things that he's done with this team and all the plays that we've asked him to make. That's a lot of miles right there.''
Nash's favorite receiver, Amare Stoudemire, had a dominating 36-point, 12-rebound performance.
Playing just 32 minutes, Stoudemire topped 30 points for the fourth time in five games. The exception was a 29-point effort against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. He said there is no doubt he is fully recovered from the serious eye injury that left him literally face down and motionless for hours at a time during the long healing process.
``It's the longest I've ever been away from basketball,'' he said. ``Now I'm back in great shape and feel phenomenal. My explosiveness is back, my quickness is back, my IQ of the game, everything is back at 100 percent, so I feel great.''
The Suns, 2-2 on a season-high, seven-game homestand, blew the game open after New Orleans had rallied to take a brief two-point lead early in the third quarter.
The Hornets, with only eight players in uniform for the second game in a row, have lost nine of 11. Marcus Thornton scored 28 points and David West scored 24 for New Orleans.
``I give the Suns a lot of credit for being successful tonight, but I'm very proud of the way our team competed and played very short-handed, and that's the way it is,'' coach Jeff Bower said. ``But we continue to work and try and be in position to be successful and win games.''
West said it's a matter of staying professional.
``We just have to be realistic about our situation,'' he said. ``We've just got to be professionals at a time like this, just keep playing and try to keep who we have left healthy and just go out and compete.''
Jason Richardson scored 20 for Phoenix, including a breakaway, 360-degree spinning dunk in the fourth quarter. Jared Dudley added 13 points as the Suns shot 57 percent.
Phoenix has won nine of its last 12 to move ahead of idle San Antonio into sixth place in the Western Conference, a game behind No. 5 Oklahoma City and 1 1/2 games behind No. 4 Utah.
The Suns bolted to a 27-11 lead and were up 34-22 after shooting 68 percent in the first quarter.
But the Phoenix offense went listless in the second quarter.
Thornton's driving layup capped a 12-4 run that cut the lead to 48-44 with 1:53 left in the half. Stoudemire scored seven straight points, the last five from the free throw line, but Thornton's 3-pointer just before the buzzer cut the lead to 55-49 at the break.
The run reached 11-0 when New Orleans scored the first eight of the second half to go up 57-55 on West's layup. Nash tied it with a 20-footer to start a 14-2 surge that put the Suns in control for good. They led 69-59 on Richardson's layup with 7:09 left in the third. Stoudemire scored six in the spurt.
Nash's 3-pointer made it 81-67 with 2:59 to play in the third.
Stoudemire's thunderous dunk down the lane on a three-point play put Phoenix ahead 92-74, then he added a two-handed stuff after a New Orleans turnover to make it 94-74.
NOTES: The Suns' Grant Hill left the game to be evaluated for a possible concussion after slamming the back of his head to the court when his shot was blocked by Thornton with 5:14 left in the third quarter. ... Phoenix G Leandro Barbosa probably will be back for Tuesday night's game against Minnesota. He has missed 23 games and had a cyst removed from his right wrist on Jan. 26. ... The Hornets' James Posey missed a second game with flulike symptoms.