Stoudemire, O'Neal lead Suns to road victory over Blazers


Shaquille O'Neal never worried that he wouldn't fit in Phoenix. With the Suns rolling as they are, he certainly knows he belongs now.

Amare Stoudemire scored 25 points, O'Neal had a hard-fought 16 points and 14 rebounds, and the Suns cruised to their fifth straight win, 111-98 over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Steve Nash added 22 points and eight assists for the Suns, who remained a game behind the division-leading Los Angeles Lakers in the Pacific Division.

"We're coming together, playing unselfishly and I'm getting more comfortable," said the 36-year-old O'Neal, who arrived in a trade with Miami on Feb. 6. "I'm feeling better and getting more used to the guys."

LaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points and eight rebounds for the Blazers, the sixth game in a row he has topped 20 points. Travis Outlaw had 13 points and Channing Frye and Jarrett Jack each scored 12.

Brandon Roy shot just 3-of-14 and finished with six points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Phoenix last won five in a row from Nov. 30-Dec. 7. The Suns have shot 55 percent from the field during the current streak.

Foul shooting kept Portland in the game for most of three quarters &

the Blazers finished 20-of-25. But the Suns pulled away with a 21-7 run beginning late in the third.

Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa scored 12 points apiece for the Suns. Grant Hill had 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

"They look like they're jelling," Portland center Joel Przybilla said of the Suns. "And they are playing like the team they were talking about they were going to be."

The game was extremely physical, with O'Neal and Przybilla tangling several times. O'Neal shoved Przybilla to the floor in the first quarter and was called for a foul. A fourth-quarter altercation led to a double technical.

O'Neal continued to get attention from the Blazers throughout the game. After getting wrapped up under the Phoenix basket by Frye and James Jones, he swung his arms wildly as if he was going to retaliate &

but suddenly stopped and instead walked over to Blazers owner Paul Allen's seat and shook the Microsoft cofounder's hand.

"That's my guy," O'Neal said. "I was just trying to get some stock."

It was the biggest home loss for the Blazers this season, and Phoenix led by as many as 18.

The Suns, coming off a 60.8 percent shooting performance against Sacramento on Saturday, were hot from the field right from the start, but were their own worst enemies at times in the first half.

Gordan Giricek inexplicably fouled Jones on a halfcourt heave before the first quarter buzzer, allowing Jones to knock down three free throws.

No one helped out when Aldridge took the ball to the glass against Stoudemire and picked up a three-point play to cut the Suns' lead to 49-45 in the second. But Phoenix went on a quick 8-0 run and Barbosa knocked down a — to make it 57-45.

Portland was as close as 77-73 in the third, but Giricek and Nash hit 3-pointers. Nash found Diaw down low for a layup and then hit a runner to send the Suns in the fourth with a double-digit lead they never relinquished.

The Blazers knew they were beaten by a smarter, more polished team playing its best.

"That's a good team," coach Nate McMillan said. "I told our guys that I liked our attitude and approach to the game, but that's a good team."


Portland has asked the NBA to appoint an independent doctor to determine if Darius Miles can play again. ... The Blazers sent F Josh McRoberts to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League. McRoberts has played 22 minutes in five games this season. ... The Suns have won eight straight and 12 of 13 against Portland.

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