Suns inch closer to playoff spot with rout of Kings
That Sunday showdown in Dallas suddenly looks a lot more interesting for the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns moved within three games of the Mavericks for the final playoff spot in the West, with six to play, after their 139-111 rout of Sacramento on Friday night and Dallas' 107-102 loss at Memphis.
Next up are the Mavericks on Sunday afternoon.
"We're Italy going to France playing on their home court for the World Cup," the Suns' Grant Hill said, "so, no excuses."
Steve Nash had 29 points and nine assists, then sat out the fourth quarter with the rest of the starters, resting up for Dallas, where a Phoenix victory could reduce the Mavericks' lead to two with five games to play.
"If we can cut it to two and really put some pressure on them and see what happens down the stretch, it could fun," Nash said. "We wanted this game to mean something. We've blown some opportunities, but it still means enough."
Francisco Garcia scored a season-best 29 for the Kings, who beat Phoenix last Sunday in Sacramento. The Kings were without leading scorer Kevin Martin, who sat out with a sprained left ankle two nights after scoring a career-high 50 in Sacramento's 143-141 loss to Golden State.
Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes had career highs with 23 and 22 points, respectively. Jason Richardson scored 19 points for Phoenix.
The Suns had eight players in double figures.
Leandro Barbosa, back after missing seven games with a bruised left knee, scored 15, 10 in the fourth quarter.
Jared Dudley also had 15 for Phoenix, including a career-best four 3-pointers.
Nash has turned up the offensive pressure through this stretch run. He has 85 points and 40 assists the last three games. In those games, he's shot 60 percent overall and 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from 3-point range.
"It doesn't matter who it is, I like for him to be assertive because he's our best shooter," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said, "and when he's going good, it opens up the floor for everyone else."
The Suns led by as many as 15 in the first half but were up only by four at the break. Then the Kings scored the first four points of the third quarter to tie it at 69.
Phoenix - 5-of-6 on 3s in the third quarter - responded with a 14-0 run. Shaquille O'Neal scored the first five, including a three-point play, then the Suns made three straight 3-pointers - two by Richardson and one by Matt Barnes - and Phoenix led 83-69 with 7:27 left in the quarter.
"They're tough to guard when they get like that, when they're hitting every shot," Garcia said. "They got into that run in the second half. We knew they were going to come out aggressive because they needed this win so badly."
Louis Amundson's inside basket put the Suns ahead 106-91 with 8.9 seconds to go in the third. Bobby Jackson sank a 22-footer at the third-quarter buzzer for the Kings but was called for a technical foul as he walked off the court.
Barbosa made the subsequent free throw to start the fourth quarter and the Suns led 107-93.
A 14-4 run, capped by Dudley's 3, put Phoenix ahead 120-97 with 9:22 left. Barbosa scored six in the spurt, including a three-point play after his steal.
"Anytime you come out of halftime down by four and lose by 30, something has got to give," Hawes said. "They kept pushing it at us and kept making plays and we didn't respond."
Nash had 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting and four assists as Phoenix took a 39-25 lead after one quarter.
The Suns went cold in the second quarter, and a 9-1 run by the Kings cut the lead to 60-58 on Jackson's 3-pointer with 2:11 left in the half. Nash sank a pair of jumpers, one a 3-pointer, and Robin Lopez scored four to help the Suns hold on for a 69-65 halftime lead.
Hawes' previous career best was 20 against Phoenix last Sunday. ... The Suns are 8-1 against sub-.500 teams since Gentry became coach. The one loss was at Sacramento. ... Sacramento has scored 100 points in six of its last seven games. ... The Suns have beaten the Kings seven times in a row in Phoenix. ... The Suns tied a season high with 14 3s, in 26 attempts.