WASHINGTON -- There it was for everyone to see, out on the court during the flow of the game and later in black and white on the stat sheet, yet hardly anyone could believe it: 42 assists on 50 field goals for the Phoenix Suns.
"Pretty crazy, right?" said Raja Bell.
"Impressive," said Amare Stoudemire.
"Just incredible," sighed Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan.
Steve Nash delivered a season-high 19 assists, Stoudemire scored 27 points, and Bell had 14 of his 22 points during a game-deciding third quarter, helping Phoenix beat Washington 122-107 Friday night for its fifth consecutive victory.
"When the ball moves like that," Nash said, "we're difficult to guard."
The Suns led only 60-55 at halftime, before breaking the game open. They outscored Washington 40-21 in the third period, when Bell made all five of his field goal attempts, including 4-for-4 on 3-pointers.
The two-time league MVP had seven assists in the quarter, when Phoenix shot a remarkable 17-for-22 -- 77.3 percent.
"It all starts," forward Shawn Marion said, "with Steve Nash."
Nash has four games in a row with at least 15 assists. He had 18 Wednesday, when Phoenix scored 136 points in a victory at Toronto, prompting this assessment from Suns coach Mike D'Antoni: "Offensively, we were just awesome."
It was more of the same Friday, right from the get-go. With clockwork ball movement -- not just by Nash, but everyone -- each starter had one of the team's first five baskets. The 42 total assists were the most by an NBA team this season.
"If I think too much, I'll mess it up," D'Antoni said Friday. "I just stay out of the way right now."
The Suns scoring was well-divided, with six players in double-figures. Nash finished with 12 points, Leandro Barbosa had 20 points and seven assists, Grant Hill had 18 points and eight assists, and Marion had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"No matter who's in the game, they're going 100 miles an hour at both ends of the floor," said Washington's Antawn Jamison, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Stoudemire scored 21 points in the first half, mainly on dunks and layups, so the Wizards decided they were going to commit to limiting his touches close to the basket.
If Phoenix won by making outside shots, so be it, the thinking went.
"That worked for about three possessions," Jordan said.
The Suns scored the game's first seven points and never trailed, but that doesn't mean it wasn't competitive. Not at all. Well, for a half, anyway. Washington repeatedly got within one point, although Phoenix responded each time.
The Wizards were without their own All-Star point guard, Gilbert Arenas, who scored 54 points in a game at Phoenix last season but right now is sidelined after having a second operation on his left knee.
Arenas was in Washington's locker room before Friday's game, riding on a stationary bicycle for the first time since having surgery last month.
|Suns guard Steve Nash, who records 12 points and 19 assists, drives toward the basket. (Getty Images)|
|Phoenix (16-4) «||30||30||40||22||122|
|PHO:A. Stoudemire 27 Pts
PHO:S. Marion 10 Reb
PHO:S. Nash 19 Ast
|WAS:A. Blatche 19 Pts
WAS:A. Jamison 11 Reb
WAS:A. Daniels 7 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|G. Hill, SG||37||7-12||2-3||5||8||1||18|
|S. Nash, PG||34||4-9||3-3||5||19||1||12|
|R. Bell, SG||34||8-16||0-0||3||5||2||22|
|S. Marion, PF||33||6-14||0-0||10||1||1||12|
|A. Stoudemire, C||33||12-14||3-6||8||1||2||27|
|L. Barbosa, PG||30||8-14||3-3||4||7||1||20|
|B. Diaw, SF||21||3-7||0-0||4||1||0||7|
|B. Skinner, PF||12||2-4||0-0||2||0||2||4|
|E. Piatkowski, SG||3||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|S. Marks, C||2||0-0||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|D. Strawberry, SG||2||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|M. Banks, PG||Did Not Play|
|A. Tucker, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|C. Butler, SF||40||6-15||0-0||6||5||1||12|
|A. Jamison, PF||38||7-21||2-2||11||0||2||16|
|A. Daniels, PG||30||4-6||4-4||4||7||1||12|
|B. Haywood, C||20||6-8||2-2||2||0||2||14|
|D. Stevenson, SG||18||1-5||0-2||1||2||0||2|
|R. Mason, SG||30||6-12||0-0||3||1||2||15|
|A. Blatche, SF||26||8-15||3-4||10||2||2||19|
|N. Young, SG||18||6-11||1-1||3||2||1||13|
|D. Songaila, PF||13||2-4||0-0||0||0||2||4|
|D. McGuire, PF||7||0-0||0-0||3||1||0||0|
|E. Thomas, C||Did Not Play|
|G. Arenas, PG||Did Not Play|
|O. Pecherov, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|