NBA

Gortat's big night lead Suns over Trail Blazers

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Associated Press
4/17/2012 12:59:34 AM
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PHOENIX -- Down to the final games of the season, the Phoenix Suns are playing with a greater sense of urgency.

In securing their fourth victory in their last six games, Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Steve Nash had 13 assists to pace the Suns to a 125-107 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

The Suns had six players score in double figures, built a 20-point lead by the end of the third quarter and cruised to the win.

"The sense of urgency has been here since the All-Star game," said Nash, who is 14 assists from passing Oscar Robertson for fifth on the all-time list. "I think we're playing that way every game, and have felt that through the last few weeks."

Channing Frye added 19 points for Phoenix and Jared Dudley had 18.

With their win and a victory by Denver over Houston, the Suns and Rockets have identical records. At this point, the Suns would get the tiebreaker and move into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Phoenix gets the edge over Houston by virtue of a season-series tie and a better conference record. Phoenix has a 22-21 record against Western Conference teams and the Rockets have a 21-23 mark.

"Offensively, we're playing a high level," Dudley said. "When we play unselfish and move the ball like we did and shoot the ball from 3, it's hard to beat us."

J. J. Hickson and Jamal Crawford both had 22 points for Portland, which dropped its third straight and fifth of six.

"We could never get over the hump," Crawford said. "That's a team playing for playoff position and they've been one of the best teams since the All-Star break. I think they'll continue to treat every game like a playoff game and they did that again (Monday night)."

After straining his right hip last week against Memphis, Nash played less than 6 minutes in the Suns' loss to San Antonio last Saturday.

After a day off, Nash started against the Blazers and he had eight assists in the first quarter as the Suns took a nine-point lead.

Gortat scored 10 points in the first quarter, had 15 at halftime and finished with his 29th double-double of the season..

When Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry rested Nash late in the opening half, the Suns were ahead by nine points. When he returned the Suns were up by five with 5:39 left in the half and they went on a 19-8 run. The Suns led 66-53 at halftime.

"There's no question we're stronger when Steve is healthy," Gentry said. "He felt good (Monday night) and easily created the flow we needed."

Paced by two 3-pointers from Shannon Brown, and four points each from Frye and Markieff Morris, Phoenix broke the game open late in the third quarter.

When Michael Redd made two free throws and Morris followed with a dunk, the Suns led 101-80 less than a minute into the final quarter.

With the loss, Portland dropped to 8-22 on the road and only Sacramento, with five road wins, has fewer.

"I can't remember if we ever had three or four consecutive stops," Portland coach Kaleb Canales said. "They shot a season-high 60 per cent from the field, and we can't allow that. Our defence needs and will continue to get better."

NOTES: The Suns have four of their remaining five games at home. ... Phoenix improved to 7-3 in April, tied for the most wins of any Western Conference team this month. ... The Blazers surrendered a season-high 125 points, beating the 124 they allowed to Washington on Feb. 14. ... The 51 field goals were also a season-high allowed by the Blazers, beating the 48 allowed twice before.

Marcin Gortat (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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