PHOENIX -- Bring on the world champions. The Phoenix Suns are ready.
The Suns tuned up for their early season showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers with a dominating 124-104 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.
The Suns (8-1) have the best record in the Western Conference and are tied with the Boston Celtics for the best mark in the NBA. The Lakers, who will be home for Thursday night's game, are 6-1.
"When you're playing the world champs, it's always a great measuring stick," Steve Nash said. "Now we go to L.A. and see how good we are."
The Suns definitely were impressive against the Hornets, leading by 29 points at one juncture in the fourth quarter.
"It was a great win for us," coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought we played as well as we could in the first half. Offensively, we did a good job of staying in attack mode."
However, Gentry downplayed the importance of the season's first meeting against the Lakers.
"If we win, it counts as only one," he said, "and if they win, it counts as only one."
He continued to insist that it still is too early to assess the Suns, who were expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the West. "Maybe after 20 or 25 games we can,"
Amare Stoudemire and Nash combined to hit all eight of their first-quarter shots and the Suns used a sizzling opening period to demolish the slumping Hornets (3-6).
The last time the Suns had such an enviable record at the start of the season was 1980-81 when they began 11-1.
Phoenix's 124 points were a season high and the win was their fourth in a row.
The victory also was the Suns' 12th consecutive at home, including nine last season. They have not lost at US Airways Center since March 12 against Cleveland. This was the 29th consecutive game they have scored at least 100 points at home and improved their home record to 17-3 under Gentry, since he replaced Terry Porter in February.
Reaching 100 points in all nine games this season marks the first time they have done it since the 1990-91 season, and makes them the only team to score that many in every game this season.
Stoudemire led eight Phoenix players in double figures with 21 points. Grant Hill scored 18, Goran Dragic 14, Channing Frye and Jason Richardson 13 apiece, Nash had 12 and Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa 11 each. Nash also had 10 assists.
While Gentry would prefer that his players remain low-key about the game against the Lakers, the players are excited.
"It's going to be a good game -- we're leading the West in wins and so it's definitely going to be a challenge for us, coming off a back-to-back," Richardson said.
Stoudemire agreed. "The Lakers are on a three-day rest and at home, waiting for us," he said. "We definitely want to go out there and win. We're not going to back down from anyone."
The Suns were outstanding in the opening period, hitting 16 of their 22 shots. Of their first 16 shots, they made 13, missing only three 3-pointers.
Stoudemire, using his maneuverability to get free under the basket, hit all five of his field-goal attempts, and Nash, working the offense to perfection, was 3 for 3. He also had seven assists. The Suns finished the period with a 40-29 lead.
The Hornets were hurt early when David West, their second-leading scorer, left after only 1:12 with a strained right knee. He limped to the locker room and missed about six minutes, but when he returned he was generally ineffective. West wound up with only 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting.
By halftime, the Suns had stretched their lead to 75-56, helped by a huge 23-9 rebounding advantage.
Phoenix padded its lead to 27 points, 85-58, early in the third quarter, outscoring New Orleans 13-5 in the first 7:13. Frye capped the burst with a 3-pointer. At the end of the quarter, when Phoenix led 101-77, the Suns had 11 3s, giving them 100 for the season, making them the fastest team in NBA history to reach that plateau.
Paul was impressed by the new-look Suns.
"They're a totally different team," he said. "They're like the Phoenix Suns of my rookie year and my second year in the league. I give them a lot of credit. They did a great job of putting those pieces back together."
- The Suns were only 1-3 against the Lakers last season and are only 25-80 against them all-time at Los Angeles.
- Before playing the Hornets, the Suns were shooting 47.1 percent from 3-point range -- higher than 20 NBA teams' overall field-goal percentage.