Suns' Nash Is in MVP Form

Two-time MVP Steve Nash led the Suns past Roger Mason, right, and the Wizards with 12 points and a season-high 19 assists.
Two-time MVP Steve Nash led the Suns past Roger Mason, right, and the Wizards with 12 points and a season-high 19 assists. (Kevin Wolf - AP Photo)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Washington Wizards made nearly half of their shots, had 10 assists and only five turnovers and scored 55 points in the first half last night and still went into the locker room trailing by five.

Such is life when you are playing two-time MVP Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns, a rare team that manages to balance entertainment with brutal efficiency. The Wizards found that out the hard way as the Suns opened the third quarter with a 13-6 run and never looked back en route to a 122-107 victory at Verizon Center.

Nash led the way with 12 points and a season-high 19 assists, Amare Stoudemire repeatedly rocked the basket supports with ferocious dunks on his way to scoring 27 points on 12-of-14 shooting. Phoenix shot 54.9 percent as a team.

Andray Blatche paced the Wizards (9-10) with 19 points and 10 rebounds, Antawn Jamison added 16 points and 11 rebounds and the team got a season-high 51 points from its reserves. But with Gilbert Arenas looking on in a suit from the bench, the Wizards lacked the firepower to keep pace with the Suns, who were coming off a 136-123 win at Toronto on Wednesday night.

"They got a lot of dunks in the first half, so in the second half we tried to step in and stop them from getting those and they started hitting three-pointers," said Wizards guard Roger Mason, who came off the bench to match a season high with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting. "It was one of those things where no matter what you do, they hurt you."

It was the fifth straight win for the Suns (16-4) who will close a five-game road trip tonight at Minnesota.

If Nash and his teammates had anything resembling tired legs, it didn't show during the crucial third quarter when they took over by outscoring the Wizards, 40-21.

Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan tried to stop the bleeding with a pair of timeouts, but the breaks seemed to only energize the Suns, who shot 77.3 percent in the period and made five three-pointers, including one by Leandro Barbosa that gave them a 100-76 lead.

The run came despite a defensive adjustment by the Wizards. After the Suns picked them apart with pick-and-rolls in the first half, the Wizards started switching on screens in an attempt to keep Stoudemire from getting easy dunks off passes from Nash.

However, Nash simply stayed patient, kept his dribble when confronted by a switching defender and began finding teammates for open perimeter shots. "We tried to devise a game plan against their pick-and-roll," Jordan said. "It wasn't working, so we had to make some adjustments and they capitalized on our adjustments. We wanted to go one-on-one instead of being caught in rotations. That worked for about three possessions, and then Steve and Amare adjusted to that."

By the time rookie Nick Young (13 points on 6-of-11 shooting) energized the sellout crowd with a spectacular breakaway dunk with 4 minutes 27 seconds remaining, it was too late.

Grant Hill added 18 points and eight assists for Phoenix while guard Raja Bell (22 points) made 6 of 11 three-pointers, including all four of his long-range attempts in third quarter.

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