Suns Beat Nets, Tie for Lead in Pacific

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Amare Stoudemire had 33 points and 15 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns moved into a first-place tie with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Pacific Division with a 110-104 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.

Leandro Barbosa added 21 points, Shaquille O'Neal had 17 points and seven rebounds and Steve Nash chipped in with 10 points and 11 assists as the Suns won their second game in two nights and their ninth in 11 games.

The Suns and idle Lakers each have nine games left in the regular season. Los Angeles has the tiebreaker should they finish tied.

Vince Carter had 30 points to lead the Nets, who lost for the second straight night to fall two games behind Atlanta in the race for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey has eight games left, two less than the Hawks.

Richard Jefferson added 20 points for New Jersey in the game that featured seven technical fouls, including ones called against Carter, O'Neal, Stoudemire and Nash.

While Stoudemire, Barbosa, Boris Diaw (12 points) and Nash came up with big plays down the stretch for Phoenix, the Nets had only themselves to blame. They missed five free throws in the final 3:56, gave up two crucial offensive rebounds and failed to convert chances on offense.

Down by 11 early in the fourth quarter, New Jersey pulled to 93-90 on a 3-point play by Carter with 4:58 to go.

After O'Neal scored inside and Barbosa tallied on the drive for a 97-90 lead, Carter and Josh Boone combined to miss 5 of 7 free throws in a 42-second span.

A basket by Diaw and one by Carter had New Jersey within 99-94 with 2:37 to play, but Nash hit a 3-pointer, his second and final basket of the night, to give the Suns a 102-94 lead with 1:28 to go.

New Jersey got within 103-98 on a basket by Jefferson, but O'Neal hit two free throws with 48.1 seconds to go - he was 7 of 10 for the game - and Phoenix held on.

After trailing most of the first half, the Suns took the lead with four points in the final second.

Stoudemire, who was 12 of 15 from the field, scored inside and a was fouled with less than a second to play. He converted the three-point play and Phoenix picked up an extra point when Marcus Williams was hit with a technical foul. The Suns scored the first nine points of the third quarter, a period Stoudemire had 16.

Notes:@ Nash now has 804 assists this season. ... O'Neal shredded a net on a basket while being fouled on a shot attempt, causing a nine-minute delay in the second quarter. ... The sellout of 19,990 was the Nets' third of the season.


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