MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The Shaquille O'Neal project in Phoenix is
progressing, perhaps a bit slower than some might have expected.
Steve Nash had 25 points and 13 assists and O'Neal added 13
points to go along with 11 rebounds, leading the Suns to a 127-113
win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night.
The recently acquired O'Neal had his best game as a Sun. Despite
not playing the fourth quarter, O'Neal got his first double-double
since joining the Phoenix lineup Feb. 20.
"I wasn't going to put Shaq out there to go against 3-point
shooters," said Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni of his decision to
keep O'Neal on the bench in the final quarter. "Against big guys,
Shaq will be able to keep us (away) from double-teaming down, but
at the same time we need to run."
O'Neal said he is beginning to understand his role on the team
and he accepts it.
"I'm still trying to fit in," O'Neal said. "While I'm fitting
in I'm just trying to do little things like getting all the
rebounds, ignite the break when they double hit the open guy."
Nash had his first double-digit assist game since the Suns made
the move for O'Neal. He said he always knew the process of
acclimating O'Neal to Phoenix's unique brand of basketball wouldn't
be a quick one.
"We've still got a lot of things to work out and finding that
cohesion," Nash said. "It's possible that it could take us the
rest of the season."
Amare Stoudamire scored 25 points for the Suns and Grant Hill
The Suns, who have won six straight against the Grizzlies and
three in a row in Memphis, stretched their lead to 14 in the second
quarter on the strength of a 17-5 run.
The Grizzlies shaved the Suns' lead to just one on Darko
Milicic's three-point play just before the end of the third
quarter. Memphis took the lead on Rudy Gay's 3-pointer just two
minutes into final quarter.
Phoenix was unfazed. Its breakneck speed in transition led to a
19-8 fourth-quarter run to seal the win.
"They are a veteran team," said Memphis guard Mike Conley.
"They are trained to hit those big shots that they made. ... We
tried to go to a zone and they kind of just picked it apart. They
really executed in the fourth quarter and played like a veteran
Gay led the Grizzlies with a career-high 36 points. The
Grizzlies have lost 12 of their last 13 games, their worst stretch
of the season.
"I don't think they had an answer for (Gay) tonight," said
Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni. "I think they were just trying to
Hakim Warrick scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. In the
last seven games, Warrick has averaged 20 points and nine rebounds,
filling the spot in the lineup left vacant by Pau Gasol, who was
traded to the Lakers.
Conley had 15 points and a career-high 11 assists, the most by
any Memphis player this season.
Grizzlies guard Mike Miller sat out his fourth game with a sore
back. Without the veteran, Memphis put together a very young
starting five whose most experienced member was fifth-year player
In the games Miller has missed, the Grizzlies had failed to
break 90 points until their loss to the Suns.
The Suns made five of their nine 3-point attempts in the fourth
Notes: Memphis has not beaten a team with a winning record since
Dec. 19 against San Antonio. ... The Suns were coming off their
worst loss of the season, a 30-point debacle at the hands of
Detroit. ... Phoenix has won six straight against the Grizzlies.
... The Suns scored 85 and 86 points in their previous two games,
their lowest two-game total in more than three years. ... The
Grizzlies made all 13 of their free throws. It marks the first time
this season they've been perfect from the line.