PHILADELPHIA – The Phoenix Suns take a couple of steps forward and then a couple of steps back.
After a victory Friday against Golden State and an impressive Sunday win at Detroit, the Suns continued a seasonlong problem of stringing success together in a 108-91 loss Monday night to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Suns did not have the energy they showed Sunday night at both ends of the floor.
Suns coach Terry Porter called it a night early for all of his mid-30s starters, pulling Shaquille O’Neal and Grant Hill for good with 7:12 to go in the third quarter and ending Steve Nash’s 1-for-8 shooting game with 18 minutes remaining and the Suns trailing 68-54.
“Back-to-backs are tough, especially against a team that has a lot of athletic energy and likes to run,” Porter said.
Amaré Stoudemire shrugged off persistent trade rumors and scored 19 points for the Suns. Jason Richardson had 16 points and O’Neal grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Suns trailed 55-44 at halftime with the offense getting nothing if it was not an easy shot. Until the Suns reserves were left in charge midway through the third quarter, the Suns had made one shot outside of the paint – a Leandro Barbosa jump shot.
The Suns were strong on the offensive boards again to keep themselves from getting completely blown out but were never really a threat, spending the entire second half in a double-digit hole.
Philadelphia only put two of its starters in double figures as well but it did not matter with O’Neal, Hill and Nash combining for 15 points for Phoenix.
Philadelphia got a big night from rookie power forward Marreese Speights, a player the Suns had considered for their No. 15 spot in the draft.
The 76ers took him at No. 16 and got 15 points from him Saturday against Miami and 24 in 24 minutes against Phoenix.
“Anytime somebody throws the ball at the rim, I’m going to try and get it,” Speights said. “You can throw it anywhere and I’m going to get it.”
Thaddeus Young added 25 points to lift Philadelphia to its third straight win.
When the Suns lose, they lose big lately. Their past five losses have all come by double digits, giving them 14 double-digit losses in all this season.
The Suns shot 42.4 percent and committed 18 turnovers, negating Philadelphia’s 43 percent shooting.
The 76ers took eight more shots and eight more free throws through turnovers and second chances, where Philadelphia scored 22.
Bobcats 94, Clippers 73: At Charlotte, N.C., Emeka Okafor had 19 points and 16 rebounds, Vladimir Radmanovic hit three fourth-quarter 3-pointers in his Charlotte debut, and the Bobcats pulled away from the road-weary Clippers to snap a five-game losing streak.
Boris Diaw and Raymond Felton added 15 points apiece for the injury-riddled Bobcats, who depended on Radmanovic two days after he was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Another guy who can hit shots,” point guard Raymond Felton said of Radmanovic. “That’s going to help our offense, no question.”
Zach Randolph had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Eric Gordon scored 17 for the Clippers, who fizzled in the fourth quarter in the finale of a seven-game road trip.
Grizzlies 85, Hornets 80: At Memphis, Tenn., O.J. Mayo had 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for his first double-double, and Mike Conley scored 18 and handed out eight assists to help lead the Grizzlies over the short-handed Hornets.
Hakim Warrick had 15 points and a season-high 14 rebounds, while Marc Gasol added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis, which has won two straight and four of its last five.
Peja Stojakovic scored 23 points to lead the Hornets, who were without their top three players: Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and David West.
Bucks 124, Rockets 112: At Milwaukee, Charlie Villanueva scored 25 points, grabbed eight rebounds and sparked a big second-half run as the Bucks snapped an eight-game losing streak against Houston.
Ramon Sessions scored 26 points and had seven assists, ex-Arizona Wildcat Richard Jefferson added 25 points and reserve Charlie Bell had 21 for the Bucks, who are missing three starters to injury.
The Associated Press