Nash carries Suns on his bad back to playoff berth
CHICAGO — Steve Nash was at his darting best in the final two minutes, paving the way for the Phoenix Suns' eight straight victory on a night they clinched a playoff spot.
In a 111-105 victory over Chicago last night, Nash had the Bulls guessing: will he shoot, drive, dump it inside or kick it back out? And with Chicago's Kirk Hinrich sidelined in the second half with a sprained ankle, Nash had room to work.
In a frantic final stretch, Nash drove to the lane and turned around for a jumper. Seconds later, he maneuvered his way back to the basket and used his familiar scoop shot to score and start a three-point play.
He found Channing Frye for a clutch tiebreaking 3-pointer with 41.6 seconds left, passed to Grant Hill for a dunk and then hit two free throws to finish off his 22-point, 10-assist night.
All from a guy who had been nursing a sore back and the sniffles.
"If I'm honest, I was taking so many meds for my back and cold that I actually felt a little loopy for most of the game," Nash said. "It helped my back but I was a little dizzy out there. At the end of the game I just tried to hang in there. We had a chance to win and I was fortunate to make some plays when it counted."
Jason Richardson led the Suns with 27 points and Amare Stoudemire had 21 points — 13 in the first quarter — and 11 rebounds. The Suns are currently in fourth in the West.
"If you look at all the teams in the West, we've had a great run and we haven't moved anywhere basically," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.
The 6-foot-11 Frye connected on three 3-pointers.
"We were able to space the floor and get some opportunities in the paint and make some plays," Nash said.
Thunder 111, 76ers 93: Kevin Durant had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Jeff Green added 16 points as host Oklahoma City swept the two-game season series with Philadelphia. James Harden contributed 12 points for Oklahoma City, which is nearing its first playoff appearance since 2004-05 as the Seattle SuperSonics.
Pacers 102, Kings 95: Danny Granger scored 25 of his 33 points in the second half, helping host Indiana hold off Sacramento for its eighth straight home win. Rookie of the Year candidate Tyreke Evans, who missed the previous five games due to a concussion, had 17 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and four steals for Sacramento.
Bucks 107, Clippers 89: Rookie Brandon Jennings scored 17 points and Andrew Bogut added 14 points and nine rebounds as host Milwaukee beat Los Angeles. The Bucks (41-32) will complete the season .500 or better for the first time in six years. Rockets 98, Wizards 94: Rookie Chase Budinger hit a go-ahead jump shot with 28 seconds remaining and made two free throws with 11 seconds left as host Houston hung on to hand Washington its team-record 16th straight loss. Budinger finished with 24 points as Houston ended a four-game skid.