Tuesday, December 30, 2008
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Suns overcome Nash's bad back to beat Thunder

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[December 30, 2008]  OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal had 28 points and 12 rebounds, moving into ninth place on the NBA's career scoring list, and the Phoenix Suns overcame the loss of two-time MVP Steve Nash to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-102 on Monday night.

Nash played only 9 minutes before leaving with back spasms and Amare Stoudemire was hounded by foul trouble, but the Suns still had plenty of firepower to overwhelm the NBA-worst Thunder.

Jason Richardson scored 20 points and reserve Matt Barnes had 19 for Phoenix, which snapped a four-game road losing streak

Rookie Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 31 and Jeff Green 22 to lead Oklahoma City, which fizzled after a hot start.

Phoenix held Oklahoma City scoreless for the first 5 minutes of the fourth quarter and forced eight of the Thunder's 15 turnovers in the final period to put away the game.

The Suns dug themselves a double-digit hole, just like they did in their last visit to Oklahoma City, and this time Nash wasn't around to bail them out. Instead it was a pair of players who weren't on the floor for that trip: O'Neal, who was resting, and Richardson, who hadn't yet joined the team through a trade.

O'Neal had an easy time against the Thunder's undermanned front line, which is still hoping to add former New Jersey Nets 7-footer Nenad Krstic. Krstic signed an offer sheet last week with the Thunder, and time was running out for the Nets to match it.


In the meantime, O'Neal went 10-for-12 and passed Dominique Wilkins to move into ninth place on the NBA's career scoring list.

Stoudemire, who played only 7 minutes in the second half, had 14 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Grant Hill added 11 points and Leandro Barbosa, who replaced Nash, had 10 points and a career-high six steals.

Kevin Durant scored 18 points on 5-for-17 shooting, cooling off after making his first two shots in the Thunder's perfect start.

The Thunder made their first six shots of the game to rush out to a quick nine-point lead, and it was 23-13 after Westbrook matched his career high with a third 3-pointer in the first 6 minutes. Westbrook started out by connecting on his first six shots for 15 points.

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Phoenix came right back and took its first lead on Barbosa's layup to start the second quarter, but Oklahoma City continued to play efficiently on offense and was up 53-46 after Green's 3-pointer from the right wing. At that point, with about 4 minutes left before halftime, the Thunder had only one turnover.

Phoenix forced three more during a 14-2 run to close the half and take the lead for good. Richardson capped a 15-6 run with a right-handed, 360-degree tomahawk jam to stretch the lead to 78-66.

Notes: Thunder F Joe Smith missed the game with a right leg injury, and F Nick Collison (broken left thumb) played only 5 minutes, picking up three fouls. ... G Dee Brown, who signed with Phoenix on Christmas Eve, and F Jared Dudley, who was acquired in the Richardson trade, scored their first points with the Suns on back-to-back possessions to start the fourth quarter. ... The Thunder had their sixth sellout of the season, and their second straight. ... Nash also left the Suns' 105-92 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 20 with back spasms.

[Associated Press; By JEFF LATZKE]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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