SuperSonics 114, Suns 90
SEATTLE (AP)—Nick Collison doesn’t necessarily agree, but a year ago Seattle coach Bob Hill didn’t feel comfortable with Collison on the court against Phoenix.
Collison wasn’t quick, aggressive or athletic enough to keep up with the Suns. That’s why Collison’s performances against Phoenix are such a shock to Hill.
“I don’t know what to say to you about him,” Hill said. “I’m flabbergasted by him.”
Collison had 22 points and 15 rebounds, to go along with Ray Allen’s 31 points in Seattle’s 114-90 win over the injury-depleted Suns on Wednesday night. It was Phoenix’s worst loss of the season, and a season-low in points scored.
It was Collison’s second big game of the season against the Suns, as he had career highs of 29 points and 21 rebounds against Phoenix a month ago. That started a string of career-best play from the forward, highlighted by eight double-doubles in the last 16 games including Wednesday night.
That first performance against Phoenix was the catalyst in boosting Collison’s confidence.
“It got me going and this was just another good game for me tonight,” Collison said. “I definitely played better after that and was a lot more comfortable after that.”
Allen, headed for his seventh All-Star game this weekend, scored 17 points in the third as Seattle withstood a brief charge from the Suns, then blew the game open in the fourth quarter.
Amare Stoudemire had 19 points and 13 rebounds, but Phoenix was again without the reigning two-time MVP Steve Nash and starter Boris Diaw. Nash missed his fourth straight game with and injured right shoulder, and Diaw was sidelined for a second consecutive game with back spasms.
The Suns’ previous biggest defeat this season came last Sunday in a 13-point loss to the Chicago Bulls.
“With Ray Allen shooting like that, even with us full strength, I don’t know if we could have beat them or not,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s a little discouraging that we lost, but again, give them credit. We played hard and not it’s a good time for a break, that’s for sure.”
Allen got plenty of help in the first half from Collison. Determined to match Stoudemire’s output, Collison scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the first half, five on the offensive end. Collison scored eight of Seattle’s final 10 points in the first half to help keep the lead at double figures.
Collison’s play frustrated Stoudemire, who barely stopped short of slamming the ball into the court after fouling Collison while the two battled for a loose ball.
“We happened to be a little undermanned tonight and sometimes it got a little frustrating,” Stoudemire said.
Then Allen took over. Phoenix made one run in third, cutting Seattle’s lead to 73-66 on Stoudemire’s tip-in with 6:55 left in the quarter. Allen then scored 11 of the Sonics’ next 19 points to push their lead back to 15. He nearly made it 18, watching a 60-footer at the end of the third bounce off the rim.
“The game picked up and we had to push the ball,” Allen said. “They went on a run and we had to make sure to go right back at them. I just took what the defense gave me, but I tried to take a little bit more, I guess.”
Phoenix got a season-high 21 off the bench from Banks, but the Suns couldn’t overcome a slow shooting start. Phoenix missed 13 of its first 16 attempts, then scored just 13 points in the fourth quarter as Seattle turned the game into a laugher.
Barbosa scored 16 and Shawn Marion had 10.
“I’m proud of what they’ve done up until the All-Star break,” D’Antoni said. “Now it’s time to clear our head Dan get people well.”
Allen was ready to spend the All-Star break with his family in Mexico, but that all changed Tuesday afternoon when driving home from practice Allen was informed he was going to Las Vegas. Allen and Utah’s Mehmet Okur were injury replacements for Nash and Allen Iverson. Allen said even if he was already in Mexico and informed he could play, he would have left his vacation to play in the game. … D’Antoni expects Kurt Thomas to make his return next Tuesday. Thomas has been out since Jan. 15 with an elbow injury.