PHOENIX (AP) - The crowded NBA season may have claimed a victim Friday night.
The Portland Trail Blazers rolled into the desert with wins at Oklahoma City on Tuesday and at home against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. They held the best record in the West at 5-1.
Only to fall flat in Phoenix, routed by the Steve Nash-led Suns 102-77.
Fatigue obviously figured into the performance, something that Suns coach Alvin Gentry expects to be commonplace around the league this season in a 66-game, compacted schedule.
``Do I think that we are 25 points better than they are?' Gentry said. ``No. But I think that given the opportunity to take advantage of something like this you better do it, and especially at home.'
Nash made all seven shots, two of them 3-pointers, and handed out nine assists, then sat out the fourth quarter. Jared Dudley scored 18 and Nash 17 for the Suns. Marcin Gortat added 12.
``They did get in late but we can't go out there and feel sorry for them,' Nash said. ``We have to go out there and try to execute our game plan and be aggressive in both ends.'
The 37-year-old Nash said he is feeling better than he did in the first few games of the season as he gets in better basketball shape. He's also obviously finding his shot, and so are his teammates.
``We made some shots but we also had better rhythm,' Nash said. ``The tempo of the game suited us more. We had a little more of a flow to it. That allowed us to find comfort and we made more shots probably as a result but also because we were due to make shots.'
LaMarcus Aldridge had 14 points for the Trail Blazers, who finished shooting 33 percent after making 28 percent in the first half. Portland's Nicolas Batum scored 12. Jamal Crawford added 10 points but shot just 3 of 14.
``It seemed like we were running in quicksand all night,' Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said.
Phoenix had three reserves in double figures: Shannon Brown 14, Markieff Morris 13 and Hakim Warrick 12.
The Blazers entered the game third in the NBA with 102.8 points per game. On Friday, they were sluggish and sloppy from the start, and Phoenix took advantage.
``I think the Suns did what good teams are supposed to do when you see somebody plays a back to back,' Crawford said. ``You jump on them early and they did that.'
The Suns, shooting just 42 percent in their first seven games, made 11 of their first 13. Warrick's fast-break dunk on a lob from Nash capped a 10-2 spurt that put Phoenix ahead 26-14 with four minutes left in the first quarter.
The Blazers never got closer than 11 in the second quarter and the Suns built their biggest lead of the half at 49-32 when Nash made a free throw following a technical foul against Crawford with 21 seconds left. Phoenix led 49-34 at the break, easily the lowest-scoring half for Portland and the lowest for a Suns opponent in the young season.
A pair of free throws by Raymond Felton cut the lead to 51-39 early in the third quarter, but the Suns scored the next 12 to blow open a 63-39 advantage when Nash found Gortat for a layup with 5:18 left in the period. Nash also had a 3-pointer and 17-footer in the run.
Crawford was just 1 of 9 shooting in the first half as Portland shot 12 of 43. After their blistering beginning, the Suns went 8 of 31 the rest of the half to finish at 31 percent.
Nash was 5 for 5 shooting in the first half, including a 3-pointer, with six assists and no turnovers. He finished with three turnovers.
Gerald Wallace was 0 for 6 from the field for Portland with four turnovers.
NOTES: The game featured the two oldest players in the league, Portland's Kurt Thomas and Phoenix's Grant Hill. Both are 39. Thomas is one day older. ... Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had a courtside seat next to Arizona Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes. ... Portland has scored at least 100 in its five wins and well under 100 in its two losses, at the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix. ... Nash needs four 3-pointers to pass Paul Pierce for ninth on the career list for 3s. ... The Blazers' loss left Chicago and Miami as the league's only one-loss teams.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved