INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Steve Nash thought the game changed when the Phoenix Suns started controlling rebounds and loose balls.
The Indiana Pacers thought the problem was not controlling Nash.
Marcin Gortat had 23 points and eight rebounds, Nash added 12 points and tied his season high with 17 assists, and the Suns beat the Pacers 113-111 on Friday night.
``We let Steve Nash control the tempo of the game,' Pacers center Roy Hibbert said. ``We did not do a very good job of controlling them.'
Nash leads the league with more than 11 assists per game. He's had 17 assists in three other games this season.
Grant Hill scored 22 points for the Suns, who never gave up the lead in the fourth quarter.
For Nash, it was just a matter of playing better in the second half and doing the little things necessary to pull off the win.
``I think we came up with a lot of loose balls, some hustle plays,' Nash said. ``Got stops, rebounds, gave us a chance to get out and get some baskets. I thought we were just tougher in the third quarter than in the first half.'
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry gave credit to his defense for being able to stay ahead of the Pacers.
``We did a good job defensively in the second half,' Gentry said. ``We didn't come up with a lot of the 50-50 balls in the first half. We came up with defensive stops, but we still end up fumbling the ball or they come up with it. Thought we did a real good job with that in the second half.'
Danny Granger had 28 points and Roy Hibbert finished with 19 points and seven rebounds for the Pacers, who played their second game in a series of three games in three days.
They beat the Washington Wizards, 85-83, on Thursday and go on the road to face Milwaukee on Saturday.
The Suns are in the middle of a four-game road trip and avoided heading into the last game of the trip in Cleveland on Sunday with three losses.
``It would have been real tough to go 0-for-4 on this trip or go into the Cleveland game 0-and-3 and put all that pressure on ourselves,' Nash said. ``We got some good feelings back. Got some confidence back. So we've got a big game in Cleveland we've got to win.'
Pacers coach Frank Vogel was ejected from the game with less than two minutes left after picking up his second technical.
Hill hit a jumper and Nash's free throw after Vogel was called for his first technical with 5:11 left in the game gave the Suns a 99-93 lead.
The Pacers came back to get within 101-99 when Granger hit a 3-pointer with 2:31 left. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter.
But that's when Hill went to the line and hit two free throws to make it 103-99 and Vogel was called for his second technical after the Pacers turned the ball over.
Nash hit the free throw and the Suns led 104-99.
Paul George followed with a jumper before Hibbert made two free throws to get the Pacers within a point. But Gortat answered with a layup and Frye hit his 3-pointer with less than 30 seconds to play.
The Pacers nearly tied it in the final seconds. George was fouled with 1.7 seconds left and made the first free throw. He missed the second and grabbed the rebound, but missed the layup as time expired.
``Could have been a little better with our defensive execution down the stretch and our guys other than Steve shooting free throws,' Hill said. ``Got in a really good rhythm there in that third quarter and it carried over to the fourth and did what we had to do down the stretch.'
The Pacers were never able to take more than a five-point lead in the first quarter and neither team took more than a seven-point lead throughout the entire game.
``A tough loss, but I'm proud of the way we competed,' Vogel said. ``I thought we outplayed the Suns for three quarters.'
Indiana made multiple roster changes.
Pacers center Jeff Foster announced his retirement on Wednesday because of chronic back problems and the Pacers announced Friday that they signed center Kyrylo Fesenko from the Utah Jazz.
Fesenko sat behind the bench in street clothes.
Both moves came after the Pacers acquired Leandro Barbosa from Toronto on March 15.
NOTES: The Suns are 10-4 since the All-Star break, second-best record since that point behind the Chicago Bulls, who are 12-2. . The Pacers are 10-4 against teams from the West this season. . The Suns have won four straight against the Pacers. This game was the first and only meeting between the two teams this season. The Suns' game against the Pacers means the Suns have played every single team in the league now this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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