LOS ANGELES - Here are a few facts and figures about how things are going for the Suns these days:
Got a road game to play? Mark down a win.
With the Suns' 122-111 win at Staples Center on Sunday afternoon over the Clippers, Phoenix (8-2) now is 6-1 on the road. That matches the best start on the road in franchise history; in 1980-81, they won six of their first seven and eight of their first 10 away from home (they won 57 games that season).
- They are the league's most dominant team, based on the fact they are outscoring teams by nearly 12 points a game.
- They are the highest-scoring team at 107.7 points per game.
- They rank No. 3 in shooting-percentage defense (a key stat for a team to be considered a title contender) though this took a hit Sunday when the Clippers shot 52 percent. Want more?
Amare Stoudemire is enjoying his stature as the rare Sun in NBA history to lead the league in scoring. After pumping home 33 points in just 34 minutes (his fourth straight 30-plus game in scoring), he's averaging 28.7. Stoudemire picked up two early fouls (the Suns protested that the first was a bad call), and he had to exit, a development that put the game up for grabs. . . at least until he re-entered the game in the second quarter.
Within a few moments, the Suns dashed off on an 18-0 run, one they stretched to 25-2, for a 49-35 lead en route to a 63-50 margin at halftime.
"They missed a few shots, and we were able to run," coach Mike D'Antoni said.
"And when we run, we probably have the best guy in the league at finding open shots."
The reference, of course, is to Steve Nash, who had another brilliant game with 22 points and 18 assists.
"In my opinion, he is what makes their team go," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "If you can't score from a play that he creates for you, then you probably can't score."
Stoudemire certainly can score, as the rising superstar acknowledged.
"If I get the ball near the basket, it's pretty much a guaranteed bucket," he said.
He also credited Nash, saying, "He runs the screen and roll almost down to perfection."
With Stoudemire in foul trouble and the Clippers choosing to play a few big men, D'Antoni saw an opportunity to expand his rotation to 10 players (including Bo Outlaw and Jake Voskuhl).
That worked well in the first half, but with reserves playing in the fourth quarter, the Clippers chopped a 20-point lead down to 101-95 with 6:00 left. Then all the starters came back, Nash and Quentin Richardson hit jumpers, Stoudemire scored on a slam off a feed from Nash, and the Suns won the race to the finish line.
The Suns were buzzing when they got word — just before they left their locker room to head back to Arizona — about the suspensions handed out for the player-fan riot Friday night in the Indiana-Detroit game.
Nobody directly criticized commissioner David Stern, though one player could be heard suggesting that the season-long suspension for Ron Artest related to his controversial past.
For the record, what do they think of the penalties?
- "I'm just sorry it happened," Richardson said. Of Artest, he said, "He's a great player and a pretty cool guy."
- Nash pointed out this wasn't a matter for him to decide:
"I'm just saddened that it happened. I wish the players didn't have to go through it. I wish the league didn't have to go through it."
- Along the same lines, Stoudemire said, "It's not my decision.
"Whatever Commissioner Stern comes up with will be fair for the players and fans. But I do think fans should be more under control."
- "I don't know," Joe Johnson said, "I'm just glad it wasn't me."
Also, just before the penalties were announced, a couple of advance scouts at courtside could be heard saying they were hoping for season-long suspensions for those who entered the crowd and started fighting.
PRAISE FOR NASH
The Clippers were lavish in their praise for Nash's playmaking abilities and court sense.
Said youngster Shaun Livingston, who joined the Clippers out of high school this season, "The way he runs the team makes you want to just sit and watch him. I want to take lessons from him."
D'Antoni pointed to Nash's ability to make the Suns answer quickly when the opponent tries to claw back into a game.
"They come down and score, and we answer back with only four seconds running off the shot clock. . . . That type of thing is what breaks the spirits of other teams.”
Kerry Kittles made his season debut for the Clippers in coming back from a sore right knee. The Clippers acquired him from New Jersey to replace the departed Richardson.
But Kittles wasn't in top form; in 24 minutes, he had just two points, two turnovers and zero assists.
Sports Illustrated is working on a story about Nash.. . .
The second annual Platinum Club speakers' series begins before tonight's game. Harvey Mackay, a nationally syndicated columnist and author, will speak to club members at 6 p.m. Mackay is the author of "We Got Fired!" and has been named one of the top five speakers in the world by Toastmasters International.