Suns beat Wizards to match best franchise start
The Phoenix Suns came out in the daytime for the first time this season, on a Sunday afternoon on the East Coast.
And they proceeded to commit 16 first-half turnovers.
The Suns settled down, giving the ball away only five times in the second half, and beat the Washington Wizards 102-90 to improve to 6-1, matching the best seven-game start in franchise history.
"We just weren't really fresh today," point guard Steve Nash said. "Maybe it was the first day game of the season. We really didn't have a great bounce to us, we didn't really push the ball, we weren't really aggressive to start. That was the difference.
"We had some chances to be up 15 or 20. We just didn't really have energy to us today, but mentally we were tough and stuck with it at times and got it done."
Except for the 21 turnovers, the final score sheet looked fine. Four of the five starters had double-doubles. The only one who didn't, Jason Richardson, led the scoring with 22 points.
Channing Frye had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Amare Stoudemire added 17 and 12, and Hill had 13 and 13. Nash finished with 11 points and 17 assists, and the Suns had twice as many assists (30-15) as the Wizards.
"We try to make very simple plays, and then we'll take what the defense gives us," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought we started trying to be a little bit too creative, and that's not really who we are."
The Suns never trailed in the second half as they beat the Wizards for the sixth straight time, including five in a row at the Verizon Center. Phoenix wraps up a five-game trip Monday at Philadelphia.
"The minute we start to say we're a certain caliber team, there's a danger," Nash said. "We just got to keep being humble, keep treating this as a project. It's going to take the whole season."
Turnovers, assists and the early start time were also on the minds of the Wizards. They've lost four straight, with turnovers either equaling or outnumbering assists in all four games.
Andray Blatche and Gilbert Arenas scored 20 points apiece, but Blatche ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, while Arenas was only 7 for 22 from the field and had four of the team's 17 turnovers. Caron Butler had 19 points, and Randy Foye 16.
"We're used to keeping pace with a team like that," Arenas said. "It was a one o'clock game. It was different."
The Wizards, playing without injured starters Antawn Jamison and Mike Miller, shot only 39 percent from the field.
"It's been a never-ending thing here lately," coach Flip Saunders said. "We're struggling offensively, and that's putting a lot of undue pressure on the defense.
"We're just not there. We don't make that one extra pass. We're taking too many contested shots. If we were a hockey team, we'd have no hockey assists - you know, the pass that leads to the pass."
It didn't help that Blatche, the team's co-leading scorer, was on the bench for the final 4:34 of the game.
"He was dead tired," Saunders said. "He can't even run up and down the court. He had four straight mental mistakes. Andray can't play the major minutes."
Frye's 3-pointer gave the Suns an 89-75 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Wizards responded with an 8-0 run that included a pair of layups by Blatche. Brendan Haywood had a chance to cut the lead to four with about 6 minutes to play, but he missed two free throws, swinging the momentum back to Phoenix.
The Suns scored the next seven points, highlighted by Nash's pass that bounced between Blatche's legs and found Stoudemire for a driving dunk. The Wizards didn't get back within double digits until the final minute.
Phoenix G Leandro Barbosa returned after missing three games with a sore right wrist. ... Wizards G DeShawn Stevenson scored his 5,000th point in the first quarter. ... Hill had his fourth double-double of the season; he had five all last season. ... Washington last defeated Phoenix on Dec. 22. 2006. ... Arenas has kept his gestures to a minimum this season, so it was intriguing to see him turn his palms up and shuffle them sideways after making a jumper in the first quarter. Any significance to that? "No," he said. "I was just trying to find a rhythm to the game." ... Suns coach Alvin Gentry needed 20 tickets for family members who live in the area. "We got more cousins than the Hatfields," he said.