PHOENIX - What a difference some fresh legs — and a nine-man rotation — made for the Phoenix Suns Tuesday. After losing four of their last five games and limping back from a painful road trip with only seven healthy players, the Suns took two days off, gathered some reinforcements, shot 52 percent from the field and dismantled Seattle 111-83 at America West Arena.
Shawn Marion's 29 points — and great defense that held Seattle's red-hot Rashard Lewis to 16 — led the way. Even with a subpar night from Steve Nash (five points, eight assists), the Suns had five players in double figures and 50 points off their suddenly crowded bench that included James Jones (16 points in 28 minutes) and center Pat Burke (six points in 17 minutes) for the first time in a week.
Add in that super sub Eddie House remains on fire — making 9 of 13 shots for 20 points in 23 minutes — and the Sonics (11-13) just couldn't keep pace in their second game in as many nights.
"When you're going hunting and you have a full quiver of arrows, I think that works," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "James and Pat bring some energy and Eddie was all over the place. We have a lot of guys that can score and do a lot of things."
So after all the ups and downs, the bumps and bruises, here sit the Suns at 15-9 and tied for the Pacific Division lead with the Los Angeles Clippers, who lost Tuesday in New Jersey.
"When I saw that . . . that was unbelievable," said guard Raja Bell, who scored all 12 of his points in the third quarter on a night where his focus was pestering Ray Allen (26 points to lead Seattle). "When you think that we could have won a lot of other close games we've had . . . where might we be?
"In the end, we've held the fort down well and stayed in good position. And that's the goal until we get guys like (Amaré Stoudemire, Brian Grant and Leandro Barbosa) back, too."
Seattle got a career game from forward Reggie Evans (21 points, 18 rebounds) and a nice night from Allen, but showed the same fatigue that did in the Suns on last week's road trip.
"They got a lot of good production from their bench and we didn't have an answer for them," said Allen, who made 8 of 19 shots.
Boris Diaw played his best game in two weeks and again flirted with a triple-double (13 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) on a night when Kurt Thomas was again hampered by foul trouble and Nash missed 7 of 9 shots in 26 minutes.
"It's not fun to have a poor game and lose, but getting a win when others are playing well is great for me," Nash said. "Eddie's been on a real roll and it was great to have more options on the bench tonight."
MR. JONES RETURNS
Before the game, Jones was speaking very conservatively about his return to the lineup after missing four games with a sprained ankle. "I'm pretty sure if the team plays well and we don't need anything, I'll probably be sitting as much as possible,'' he said. "I'm looking forward to playing, even if it's only for three minutes."
So much for easing into things. Jones played 28 minutes and had 14 of his 16 points in his first 10 minutes, reporting no problems. So what about the conservative estimate?
"Hey, this is the Suns. We have guys playing 45 minutes," Jones said. "If you look at it that way, I was taking it easy."
OH, WHAT A RELIEF
After more than a month of eye-popping pain from a nerve problem in his right shoulder, Burke finally found relief from training specialist Micheal Clark Tuesday afternoon — who discovered the pressure point below his armpit.
"I was in the layup line before the game and it wasn't hurting," Burke said. "It was an incredible feeling after what I've been dealing with.”
Burke said he's only about 70 percent, but it was good enough to play 17 minutes, score six points and add two assists — including one where he slipped by Seattle guard Luke Ridnour on the break with a crossover dribble before feeding House for a bucket.
"It was a little "Tragic" Johnson there," D'Antoni joked.