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


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


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