MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Leandro Barbosa scored 28 points,
Shaquille O'Neal added 24 to move into eighth place on the NBA
scoring list and the Phoenix Suns beat the Memphis Grizzlies 101-89
Tuesday night without ailing star Steve Nash.
The two-time MVP sat out with back spasms, but Barbosa filled in
admirably. He connected on 10 of 18 shots and scored 22 points in
the second half.
Phoenix also overcame the loss of big man Amare Stoudemire,
ejected in the second quarter after his second technical.
O'Neal had 13 rebounds and three blocks, and his fourth-quarter
dunk moved him past Oscar Robertson on the career scoring list with
26,711 points. O'Neal was 8-of-13 from the field and missed only
two of his 10 free throws.
Grant Hill had 15 points for the Suns, and Louis Amundson scored
10 off the bench.
Hakim Warrick led Memphis with 25 points, while Marc Gasol
finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Rudy Gay had 14 points and
O.J. Mayo scored 12, but he missed 16 of 20 shots - including his
Memphis fell apart down the stretch, hitting only three of 18
shots in the fourth quarter, including misfiring on its final seven
from the field.
The Grizzlies held an eight-point lead in the fourth, but that
was erased by nine unanswered Phoenix points, eight of them by
Barbosa on a pair of 3-pointers and a layup for the Suns' first
lead since the early stages. From there, Memphis' inaccuracy from
the field allowed the Suns to extend the lead to double digits.
O'Neal was perfect on his first four shots from the field and
his first four free throws. That kept the Suns within striking
distance as Memphis led by nine in the first half.
The Suns had the bulk to overpower Memphis inside with O'Neal
and Stoudemire. Memphis was limited because Darko Milicic was out
with a broken right hand, and in the first quarter rookie Darrell
Arthur took an elbow to the face, sending him to the bench for the
night with a concussion. Memphis even used Hamed Haddadi, the
7-foot-2 rookie from Iran who saw his first action of the season.
The Suns' inside dominance was evident with a 36-16 advantage in
the paint in the first half, including 16 points from O'Neal.
Phoenix ended the night with a 58-18 edge in the paint.
But the Suns' size advantage was offset somewhat in the second
when Stoudemire was ejected with two technicals.
Stoudemire disagreed with the call that gave him his third foul.
He expressed his displeasure to official Bill Kennedy, drawing his
first technical. Stoudemire then added more colorful language,
drawing another technical from Kennedy and sending Stoudemire to
the locker room for the night.
He left with only eight points, the first time this season
Stoudemire has not reached double figures.
Memphis held a 49-46 lead at halftime. Mayo led the way with all
12 of his points. The Suns were hindered by shooting 43 percent and
committing 11 turnovers.
Phoenix pulled even at 65 just past the midway point of the
third on Hill's three-point play. Memphis countered with nine
unanswered points, capped by a 3-pointer by Quinton Ross, to match
its biggest lead.
That allowed Memphis to close the quarter with a 13-5 surge and
carry a 78-70 lead into the fourth. Warrick had 10 in the quarter,
while Barbosa scored 11 for the Suns.
Notes: The Grizzlies expected G Steve Francis, obtained in a
Christmas Eve trade with Houston, to be ready for Monday night's
game, but flight problems to Memphis delayed his arrival until
later in the week. ... Nash missed only his fourth game of the
season, and the first with back problems. Barbosa's start was his
second of the season. The Grizzlies had lost their two previous
games in overtime, 106-103 in double OT at San Antonio and 108-98
in Minnesota on Monday night. The Grizzlies have lost 10 straight
in the series, with their last win over the Suns coming Dec. 17,
2005. Next on the career scoring list for O'Neal is Hakeem
Olajuwon, who has 26,946 points. O'Neal's 24 points Tuesday night
gave him 26,715.
The Grizzlies take New Years' Eve off..
They get back in action against the Southwest Division leading San Antonio Spurs Friday Night at FedExForum.