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Phoenix's James Jones (left) and Amare Stoudemire (right) collapse on Washington's Etan Thomas in the second quarter last night.
Washingtons' Antawn Jamison (4) can only watch as Amare Stoudemire slams a basket.
WASHINGTON--In recent weeks at the Verizon Center, the "MVP" chants directed at Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas have increased in volume and in frequency.
And those assertions had plenty of substance behind them, as Arenas had, indeed, been one of the most dominant players in the NBA.
But last night, the actual MVP strutted onto the court. And by the time Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash was finished with Washington, the sellout crowd quietly shuffled toward the exits knowing it had seen a new standard.
Nash, who has won the last two MVP awards, finished with 27 points on 11 of 13 shooting and dished out 14 assists, leading the Suns to a 127-105 thumping of the Wizards.
Out of superstition, Nash had let his facial hair grow since the Suns' winning 14-game winning streak began. But he was clean-shaven for last-night's game.
"He didn't want to be labeled as breaking a superstition," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said, "so we told him he has to keep this up for the whole road trip. He does pretty much what he wants to."
The Suns (33-8) are one win away from tying their franchise's record winning streak, which was actually set earlier this season. That run ended with a 144-139 overtime loss to the Wizards on Dec. 22, when Arenas scored 54 points.
Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said he was certain the Suns used that loss as motivation last night.
"We knew they heard Gilbert yelling 'Hibachi' and scoring 50 and Caron [Butler] yelling after the game," Jamison said. "We knew that It's just a disgrace to come in and play like this on our home floor."
The loss snapped the Wizards' 10-game home winning streak, and showed they have plenty to learn if they wish to become an elite, championship-caliber team.
Arenas said the Wizards pride themselves on playing a kind of fast-paced, West Coast-style of basketball that the Suns seem to have perfected. But for much of last night's game, the Wizards seemed stunned as Phoenix scored constantly and without much resistance.
Washington, in turn, was unable to score as easily as it has become accustomed to.
"It was like, 'Man, they hit a 3, we need to figure something out [defensively]," Arenas said. "We were trying to figure it out while we were on offense, like, 'Here, I'll pass you the ball.' We were sitting there thinking like, 'Well, we need to trap.' We weren't just going out there and playing a free-for-all like we usually do."
The Suns erupted for 76 points in the first half, when they made 29 of 43 field-goal attempts. Previously, the Wizards had not allowed more than 65 points in an opening half this season.
Seven Suns reached double-figures, and five of them reached that mark by halftime. Backup point guard Leandro Barbosa finished with 10 points and 11 assists, giving Phoenix the rare accomplishment of having two players with double-digit assists.
Arenas scored 31 points to lead Washington, but struggled at the start, making just one of his first seven shots. Caron Butler had a similar curve, as he scored just six first-half points but finished with 24.
The Wizards have made a habit of overcoming large deficits; it is even a role they sometimes relish. But the high-scoring Suns make large leads all but insurmountable.
"They want to score 150," Arenas said. "When they're shooting lights-out, it's hard."
Phoenix made 16 of 23 shots in the first quarter, and Barbosa's 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1.6 seconds left gave the visitors a 41-20 lead.
With the Wizards trailing 48-29, Phoenix rolled off a 12-2 run that ended when Nash converted a 3-pointer from the left arc. A 3-pointer by Raja Bell sent Phoenix to halftime ahead 76-51. The Suns made 13 3-pointers in the game.
Butler led a mini-surge for Washington in the third quarter, scoring 14 points. A 3-pointer by Antonio Daniels pulled the Wizards within 111-98 with 6:44 left in the third, but that was as close as they would get.
Afterward, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan offered his impressions of the Suns' dynamic point guard.
"Nash is the MVP," he said, "for reasons we saw tonight."
SUNS 127, WIZARDS 105
Diaw 7-12 0-2 14, Marion 9-11 3-3 21, Stoudemire 5-6 5-6 15, Bell 8-16 2-2 21, Nash 11-13 2-2 27, Barbosa 3-10 2-2 10, Ja.Jones 4-10 4-4 16, Ju.Jones 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 48-79 18-21 127.
Butler 10-22 4-5 24, Jamison 2-8 4-4 9, Haywood 4-8 0-2 8, Stevenson 3-6 0-0 6, Arenas 11-25 6-8 31, Hayes 1-5 0-0 2, Daniels 8-9 2-2 20, Mason 0-2 0-0 0, E.Thomas 1-2 1-2 3, Taylor 1-2 0-0 2, Blatche 0-0 0-0 0, Booth 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 41-89 17-23 105.
3-Point Goals--Phoenix 13-33 (Ja.Jones 4-10, Nash 3-4, Bell 3-10, Barbosa 2-7, Ju.Jones 1-1, Marion 0-1), Washington 6-19 (Arenas 3-9, Daniels 2-2, Jamison 1-2, Butler 0-1, Hayes 0-1, Taylor 0-1, Stevenson 0-1, Mason 0-2). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Phoenix 45 (Bell 8), Washington 43 (Haywood 12). Assists--Phoenix 35 (Nash 14), Washington 14 (Arenas 5). Total Fouls--Phoenix 19, Washington 18. Technicals--Phoenix coach M.D'Antoni, Stoudemire, Butler. A--20,173. (20,173).
To reach ADAM HIMMELSBACH:
Suns 127, Wizards 105