Suns 132, Knicks 96
Mike D'Antoni got a long, painful look at what's become of the team he left behind.
D'Antoni once prowled the sidelines for Phoenix as his Suns ran away with victory after victory. Now, as coach of the outmatched New York Knicks, he saw the Suns, under the guidance of good friend Alvin Gentry, run away with their sixth straight victory, 132-96 on Friday night.
``These guys are playing as well as anybody in the league,'' D'Antoni said. ``They're ready to go on a road trip and they weren't going to let this one get away. They came out and busted us.''
Leandro Barbosa scored 18 points in his fifth game back from wrist surgery for the Suns, who have won 20 of 25 to climb within a half-game of No. 4 Utah and a game of No. 3 Dallas in the Western Conference. Phoenix remained 1 1/2 games behind Denver, the conference's No. 2 team.
``We had some luck on our side with a Utah loss,'' the Suns' Jason Richardson said, ``but it was a huge win for us, especially with us going on the road tomorrow.''
Phoenix begins a five-game road trip - the first four against sub-.500 teams - with a game at Minnesota on Sunday.
Amare Stoudemire scored 18 and Richardson 17 for Phoenix, then sat out the final quarter. Al Harrington had 24 and David Lee 21 for New York.
It was D'Antoni's second trip as Knicks coach to Phoenix, where he had installed the high-speed style that is still the basis for the Suns offense under his former assistant Gentry. At its core, Phoenix's offense is still the Steve Nash-to-Stoudemire, pick-and-roll, which Harrington calls ``the best in the league.''
The blowout fell two points shy of Phoenix's most one-sided victory of the season.
``I think we've really found a nice approach,'' Nash said. ``We've come out and really started games well the last month or so and we've been pretty consistent with that effort. We have confidence in ourselves with our shots.''
Phoenix led by as many as 17 in the second quarter and 32 in the third against a New York team on the first stop of a five-game trip through the West after a home win over Denver. It was a lesson in how a skilled team can turn up the offensive pressure.
``They just really pushed the ball,'' Harrington said. ``They were able to get in transition off our makes and our misses. We weren't ever able to get any stops. No defense and that's what killed us.''
A 6-0 spurt put Phoenix in control at 26-19, a run that featured a thundering fast-break dunk by Stoudemire on a lob pass from Richardson.
The big lead gave Gentry a chance to stretch the minutes for Barbosa, who returned March 16 after missing 23 games.
``You can see when he's right he can really help our team,'' Gentry said. ``Those weren't mop-up minutes. I mean, he can make those shots against anybody. We just wanted to get him back in rhythm.''
The speedy Brazilian, who made 7-of-12 shots, led a 13-3 run that put the Suns ahead 50-35 on his driving reverse layup with 7:56 left in the half. New York never got it to single digits again.
Grant Hill's 18-footer gave Phoenix its biggest lead of the half at 59-42 1:25 before the break. The Suns were up 64-48 at the break.
Goran Dragic had two assists and a layup in an 8-0 spurt and the Suns led 96-64 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter. Harrington and Bill Walker each made a 3-pointer to cut it to 96-70 entering the fourth.
The Suns backups made the most of their extra playing time. Dragic matched his career high with 10 assists. Channing Frye tied his season best with 11 rebounds.
NOTES: Phoenix's Robin Lopez scored 10 of his 14 points in the first quarter. ... The six straight wins are the longest active streak in the NBA. ... The Suns matched their number of wins (46) all of last season, with 10 still to play. ... The Suns averaged 58 wins in D'Antoni's four full seasons as coach. ... New York hasn't won in Phoenix since Feb. 14, 2003. ... The Knicks' Tracy McGrady went to the locker room with what D'Antoni said was some sort of knee problem but returned to the game. ... Only four players remain from D'Antoni's last Suns team two seasons ago.