Suns Blind Cavaliers, 109-90 - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Suns Blind Cavaliers, 109-90

PHOENIX (AP) - For a couple of weeks, the Phoenix Suns had been feasting on some of the NBA's weaker teams in winning seven consecutive games.

They took care of an elite team Thursday night.

Steve Nash had a season-high 21 assists, becoming the first player in nine years with two 20-assist games in a season, and the Suns beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 109-90.

"We played really well," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "The first half was about as good as we can play, defensively and offensively. It's fun to coach and fun to watch."

It wasn't much fun for the Cavaliers after the second quarter, when the Suns hit them with a 21-2 blitz in the final 5:19 and led 67-41 at intermission. The lead ballooned to 32 points, 91-59, after three periods, and Cleveland never threatened after that.

"Our main goal is to come out strong, especially in big games like tonight," the Suns' Amare Stoudemire said. "They were on a five-game streak, we were on a seven-game streak, so tonight was important for us to come out and set a tone."

Stoudemire helped set the tone in the first quarter, nearly compiling a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds as the Suns built a 33-26 lead.

Nash, meanwhile, was setting up his teammates with his deft passing and the Suns were taking advantage of the Cavaliers' loose ballhandling. Overall, Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland committed 14 turnovers, leading to 19 Phoenix points. The Suns had only eight turnovers - none in the first quarter - that led to only three points.

Nash was just one off of his career-high total of 22 assists set against New York on Jan. 2, 2006.

"He had more assists than I had points and I had a pretty good scoring night," James Jones, who scored 13, said with a laugh. "He can take the heart out of an opposing team."

Nash's remarkable display certainly took the heart out of the Cavaliers.

"He's a great point guard, he's the two-time MVP for a reason and their guys feed off him well," the Cavaliers' Donyell Marshall said.

The Suns not only fed off Nash, but several of their other players as well. They had 33 assists on 37 baskets.

Nash, who had 20 assists against Sacramento on Dec. 5, joined Avery Johnson, now the Dallas coach, as the last two players to reach that total in the same season. Johnson did it in 1997-98.

LeBron James scored 34 points, including the first 14 of the fourth quarter, for the Cavaliers. But through the first three quarters, James was generally held in check by Shawn Marion.

James was somewhat disappointed with the Cavaliers' performance.

"It's just one game," he said. "It can be a little disappointing, but we don't look at it like that. We have to learn from whatever we did. We did some good things, but we also did some bad things."

Marion led the balanced Phoenix offense with 19 points. Raja Bell had 18, Stoudemire 17 and Leandro Barbosa 16. Stoudemire also had 13 rebounds and Marion 11.

"It feels good for me to see my teammates succeed and score, and that's the bottom line: to get guys involved and have them make shots," Nash said. "When we get rolling offensively, we can put those other teams away.

"We played with a lot of concentration, something we haven't done in the last couple of weeks."

The Suns completed the first half with a flourish, including a 19-0 burst. Marion, who had been scoreless in the first period, triggered the run with 11 points, including two vicious dunks.

Nash, who also was scoreless in the opening period, overcame some poor shooting with his pinpoint passing - by halftime he already had 14 assists.

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