Williams riddles defense for 44 points; Nash doesn’t play
CLEVELAND – The losses don’t sting like they once did. Blowouts are not the gut punches they once felt like.
The Phoenix Suns have turned as mediocre as diner food. They go into the All-Star break with a familiar taste in their mouths, a 109-92 loss Wednesday night to the Cavaliers that put their record at 6-10 since mid-January.
Their chances did not appear good against the Cavaliers, a team stinging from its first consecutive losses this season. The two setbacks included a controversial official’s call that went against them Tuesday night and their first home loss Sunday.
Throw in the absence of Phoenix point guard Steve Nash and factor in that guard Jason Richardson was ill, and the Suns were bound to perform like a lottery team, as their 28-23 mark and ninth-place standing in the Western Conference would project.
“We’re in a funk,” Richardson said. “The bad thing is it’s not just one or two people. It’s the whole team. The crazy thing is I’ve been on teams where guys didn’t like each other. Guys like each other on this team. We go to dinner. We hang out. We talk to each other.
“I just don’t understand how we can’t put it together. It’s mind-boggling. There’s no excuse for a record like that.”
Nash tested his back before the game, but his spondylothesis that causes a vertebra to slip has triggered back spasms and right-shoulder pain.
Suns coach Terry Porter did not fault the effort. His team trailed by two points until Cleveland’s offense turned perfect for a 3-minute, 15-second stretch that yielded 20 points. Mo Williams did half of the damage during the run on his way to a career-high 44 points. He made seven 3-pointers. He is the fourth guard to post a 40-point game against Phoenix this season.
Amaré Stoudemire led the Suns with 27 points, but was only 9 of 21 from the field and had fewer defensive rebounds (four) than his power-forward counterpart, Ben Wallace, had on the offensive glass (five).
Most Suns won’t see action until next week’s back-to-back set with the Los Angeles Clippers, but Stoudemire’s week will intensify in the All-Star spotlight and trade-rumor mill.
“The rumors I can deal with,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s part of the game. But losing is not. I’m definitely not used to it. I haven’t lost this many games since my second year in the league when we traded the whole team, pretty much.”
Nuggets 82, Magic 73: At Orlando, Fla., Carmelo Anthony had 29 points and eight rebounds, and Denver ended a 15-game losing streak in Orlando.
Raptors 91, Spurs 89: At Toronto, Roko Ukic scored a career-high 22 points, Andrea Bargnani had 23 as Toronto cooled off San Antonio.
Hawks 99, Pistons 95: At Auburn Hills, Mich., Joe Johnson scored 27 points and Flip Murray had 23 for Atlanta.
Bobcats 101, Wizards 89: At Charlotte, N.C., Charlotte’s D.J. Augustin scored 24 points and Vladimir Radmanovic added 21 points in another strong game for his new team.
76ers 91, Grizzlies 87: At Philadelphia, ex-Arizona Wildcat Andre Iguodala scored 18 points and made the winning basket with 26 seconds left, lifting Philadelphia to its fourth straight win.
Celtics 89, Hornets 77: At New Orleans, Paul Pierce scored 30 points and the Celtics spoiled Chris Paul’s return from injury.
Rockets 94, Kings 82: At Houston, Yao Ming had 24 points and 18 rebounds, Rafer Alston dished out a season-high 13 assists and the Rockets won again without the injured Tracy McGrady.
Bucks 122, Pacers 110: At Milwaukee, ex-UA Wildcat Richard Jefferson scored 22 of his 32 points in the second half and Ramon Sessions added 15 points and a season-high 17 assists.
Jazz 113, Lakers 109: At Salt Lake City, Deron Williams had 31 points and 11 assists and the Jazz snapped the Lakers’ seven-game winning streak.
Clippers 128, Knicks 124, OT: At Los Angeles, Eric Gordon scored 30 points and the Clippers rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Trail Blazers 106, Thunder 92: At Portland, Ore., Brandon Roy scored 22 points and Travis Outlaw came off the bench with 21 as the Trail Blazers won.
The Associated Press