PHOENIX - Steve Nash tied his season high with 31 points and added 11 assists in his return to the lineup, and the Phoenix Suns beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 110-102 Saturday night. Kevin Garnett had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who lost their fourth straight game.
Nash showed a U.S. Airways Center sellout crowd of 18,422 why he is a candidate to win back-to-back NBA MVP awards.
Nash was out of the lineup with a sprained right ankle when the Suns' 11-game win streak ended Thursday night in a 117-83 loss to San Antonio, Phoenix's worst home loss of the year. Backup point guard Leandro Barbosa, who had a groin injury, also missed the game. Both players returned Saturday night.
Phoenix is 2-6 without Nash over the last two seasons, and 114-44 with him.
As if to underscore his importance to the Suns, Nash scored Phoenix's first six points. He scored, drew a foul on Marcus Banks and made the free throw. Then he hit from the beyond the arc.
Nash had a hand in 17 of the Suns' 28 first-quarter points. Phoenix trailed 54-48 at halftime, but Nash scored seven points in the first 3:29 of the third quarter to help the Suns pull even at 61.
Nash had a hand in 25 of the Suns' 30 points in the third quarter, when they outscored the Timberwolves 30-22 to take a 78-76 lead into the final period.
Nash also scored 31 points against Minnesota here Feb. 6.
The Suns haven't lost back-to-back home games since starting the season 0-3 in U.S. Airways Center.
Notes:@ Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire, who has yet to play after undergoing offseason knee surgery, could return to the lineup soon, coach Mike D'Antoni said. Stoudemire has been participating in 5-on-5 drills but has not set a date for his return. "We're just kind of waiting on him now, to where he feels psychologically ready to play," D'Antoni said before the game. "I think it's pretty close."... Forward Brian Grant, who also had knee surgery, is also close to returning, D'Antoni said. ...The Suns signed guard Andre Barrett to a second 10-day contract Saturday. He averaged 4.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists in his first two appearances. ...The Suns announced that president and chief operating officer Rick Welts will remain in his position through the 2008-09 season.