Nash and his teammates dug down and managed to do just enough Saturday night to earn their way into the team record book with a record-tying 14th straight win.
"I didn't feel good tonight at all," Nash said following the Suns' 105-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings. "I could have told you that this afternoon in the hotel. Those are the nights you have to be mentally tough and try to just hang in there and give yourself a chance. We certainly hung in there tonight mentally. It was difficult for us in stretches."
Nash had 16 points and 12 assists to help Phoenix match the franchise record set from Dec. 1-30, 1992, en route to the team's last NBA Finals appearance. The Suns will try to break the mark at home on Tuesday night against Toronto.
"To accomplish that feat is definitely awesome for the group of guys in this locker room," forward Kurt Thomas said. "Now we have to focus on the next game and try to keep winning."
The run-and-gun Suns looked nothing like their usual selves for most of the opening half, being held under 20 points in the opening quarter for just the second time all season and scoring just 31 points in the first 22 minutes.
They found their shooting touch after that, sparked by Nash's 3-pointer with 1:46 left in the half for his first basket of the game. Nash hit another big shot in the final minute after Sacramento had cut the lead to five.
But he had plenty of help on a night when he had very little "juice" in his legs as all seven Suns who scored finished in double digits.
"We were stuck in the mud for the beginning of the game," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Guys are unselfish, move the ball and we just find different guys at different times to step up. That's kind of been our trademark and hopefully we'll continue to do that."
Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 20 points and nine rebounds. Leandro Barbosa added 18 and Raja Bell scored all 15 of his points in the second half. Phoenix scored 74 points in the final 26 minutes, becoming the first opponent in six games to reach 100 points at Arco Arena.
The Suns trailed for nearly the entire first half before going on an 11-0 run early in the third quarter. Nash keyed the spurt with two baskets and two assists, helping Phoenix take a 56-54 lead on a 3-pointer by Bell.
Phoenix expanded on the lead, hitting 14 of 24 shots in the quarter, including four 3-pointers. Bell, who was 0-for-5 shooting in the first half, hit five of six shots in the third, including a steal and layup in the final seconds to make it 80-73 heading into the fourth.
"It was just determination that got us over the hump," Stoudemire said. "We started off a little low energy. We were able to come out the second half and pick it up a notch."
Sacramento's leading scorer Kevin Martin left the game with a sprained right ankle with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter and did not return.
Martin scored 23 points before the injury, when he landed on an opponent's foot while feeding Brad Miller for a basket. With Martin limping, Shawn Marion hit a 3-pointer to make it 73-66 before Sacramento called a timeout. Martin is questionable for Monday night's game against Dallas.
"My ankle is as good as it can be and I'm going straight home tonight," he said. "We'll see how I feel in the morning."
John Salmons scored 20 points, Ron Artest added 16, and Kenny Thomas has 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings, who have lost seven of nine and failed to build on the momentum from a comeback win in Utah on Friday night.
"We came out of a big win last night and felt we could carry it over into tonight," Kings coach Eric Musselman said. "We played hard, but it's going to be hard to beat Phoenix when you're only shooting 39 percent. That's the bottom line."
Sacramento went on a 10-0 run to go up 15-5 and didn't trail again the rest of the half. Martin keyed the fast start with 14 points in the first 8½ minutes, outscoring Phoenix's total of 13 points through that span. The Suns closed strong after Nash hit his first basket and trailed 50-45 at the break.
|Raja Bell and the Suns overcome a slow first half to win their franchise-record 14th consecutive game. (AP)|
|Phoenix (17-6) «||19||26||35||25||105|
|PHO:A. Stoudemire 20 Pts
PHO:A. Stoudemire 9 Reb
PHO:S. Nash 12 Ast
|SAC:K. Martin 23 Pts
SAC:K. Thomas 13 Reb
SAC:M. Bibby 7 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|R. Bell, SG||42||6-13||0-0||4||1||4||15|
|S. Nash, PG||38||7-15||0-0||5||12||2||16|
|A. Stoudemire, C||34||7-10||6-10||9||1||3||20|
|B. Diaw, SF||32||5-8||1-1||3||6||3||12|
|S. Marion, SF||31||5-8||2-2||4||1||3||14|
|K. Thomas, C||28||5-8||0-0||6||1||4||10|
|L. Barbosa, PG||24||7-15||1-1||1||2||2||18|
|J. Jones, SF||11||0-4||0-0||2||0||2||0|
|E. Piatkowski, SG||Did Not Play|
|J. Rose, SG||Did Not Play|
|S. Marks, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. Jones, SF||Did Not Play|
|P. Burke, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Banks, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|M. Bibby, PG||41||6-22||2-2||4||7||1||14|
|R. Artest, SF||33||4-12||6-7||6||1||2||16|
|K. Thomas, PF||30||4-8||3-4||13||1||3||11|
|K. Martin, SG||28||7-13||5-5||5||2||1||23|
|B. Miller, C||13||1-4||0-0||4||3||3||2|
|J. Salmons, SF||44||9-14||1-2||2||2||3||20|
|S. Abdur-Rahim, C||25||4-8||4-6||9||1||3||12|
|F. Garcia, SG||19||0-4||0-0||1||1||1||0|
|R. Price, PG||7||0-3||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|V. Potapenko, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Taylor, PF||Did Not Play|
|C. Williamson, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. Hart, PG||Did Not Play|
|Q. Douby, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|