PHOENIX (AP) — Thanks largely to a big game from their two old guys, the Phoenix Suns have won two in a row for the first time in more than a month.
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Steve Nash, who turns 37 on Feb. 7, had 23 points, including a 3-pointer that put Phoenix ahead for good with 1:11 to play, and handed out 13 assists, directing the Suns to a 115-111 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Grant Hill, back after missing two games with a sprained knee, scored 21 for the Suns, who hadn’t won consecutive games since Dec. 5. The 38-year-old Hill became the 14th active player to reach 16,000 points.
“It’s certainly special,” Hill said of the milestone, “to be able to continue to play after a lot of injuries and still be out there. Sometimes I get depressed because I could have more, but I will take the 16,000 and won’t be greedy.”
Hill had appeared in 70 consecutive regular-season games before he was sidelined with the minor knee ailment.
Andre Miller scored all 19 of his points in the second half for the Trail Blazers in the last of four games between the teams this season. Portland won the first three.
“We struggled with this team as much as anyone because they do a good job of dictating tempo,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. “We had not scored 100 on them this season and even in the playoffs it was really hard to and to get a rhythm and play. Tonight we kept forcing the issue and got the tempo up where it needed to be.”
Six players, including all five starters, reached double figures for Phoenix.
Wesley Matthews scored 26 and LaMarcus Aldridge 25 for the Blazers. Nicolas Batum added 18.
Vince Carter scored 17 for Phoenix and Jared Dudley 13 off the bench for the Suns, who shot 54 percent for the game, including 10 of 19 on 3-pointers.
“You need to get stops,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “They came down and Nash made some big shots, some big plays down the stretch with their pick and roll, had a couple of buckets and a couple of assists. One-hundred eleven points is enough, should be enough, to win a ballgame, but defensively they shoot over 50 percent from the floor as well as from the 3-point line.”
The two straight Phoenix victories have followed an embarrassing 132-98 loss at Denver that led Suns president Lon Babby to apologize to fans.
Portland led by as many as 13 in the second quarter but Phoenix came back to cut it to 59-56 at the break and it was tight throughout the second half.
Channing Frye — who had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks — blocked Patrick Mills’ layup attempt, then sank a 3-pointer that put the Suns ahead 96-94 with 8:05 to play. Goran Dragic’s driving layup down the lane made it 98-94. Phoenix stayed ahead, but never by more than four, before Portland tied it at 108 with Batum’s two free throws 1:21 from the finish.
Nash took the inbounds pass, dribbled across center court, and as he has done so many times before, let it fly from the top of the key for the game’s most crucial basket.
“We tried to take away their easy drives,” Matthews said. “We switched up, and he comes and hits a big 3 on us.”
Nash slipped out of the locker room without talking to reporters.
After uncharacteristically missing two free throws in the game, Nash made two from the line to finally seal it with 4.4 seconds to go.
By going 5 for 7 from the line, Nash fell slightly behind Mark Price as the most accurate free throw shooter in NBA history. Price is at 90.3895 percent, Nash at 90.3526. Nash can move back on top by making 12 straight free throws.
Notes: Nash’s string of 48 consecutive free throws ended when he missed one on a defensive 3-second technical foul against Portland with 6:37 left in the second quarter. … The Blazers shot 63 percent in the first quarter but just 37 percent in the second and finished the game at 48 percent. … The Trail Blazers last swept a season series from Phoenix by going 3-0 in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. … Hill made two 3s in a game for the first time since April 7. … Phoenix’s third straight home win tied a season high. … The Blazers, who will be without star Brandon Roy indefinitely because of arthroscopic surgery next week on both knees, fell to 20-20. … Dudley had a four-point play in the second quarter.