Pistons sputter, fall to Suns, 104-86

The Baltimore Sun

Shaquille O'Neal made an early exit from Amare Stoudemire's 26th birthday party.

Stoudemire and the rest of the short-handed Phoenix Suns did just fine without him last night.

Stoudemire had 29 points and 11 rebounds and the Suns overcame O'Neal's second-quarter ejection to beat the visiting Detroit Pistons, 104-86.

"It's good to see our guys come out and jump on a very good basketball team," Phoenix coach Terry Porter said.

Steve Nash, back from a one-game suspension for his part in a skirmish with several Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, added 17 points and seven assists for the Suns. Richard Hamilton scored 19 for the Pistons, who entered the game 3-0 on a four-game Western swing that began Tuesday. In their previous stop, they handed the Lakers their first loss of the season Friday night in Los Angeles.

Detroit's Allen Iverson scored nine points on 4-for-17 shooting.

The Suns made 14 of their first 19 shots and never trailed again.

"They're playing well," Stoudemire said of the Pistons, "so it's going to help us with our confidence."

O'Neal had 10 of his 12 points in the second quarter before his night came to an early end.

The call was made with 5:19 left in the half when Rodney Stuckey went up for a layup and O'Neal sent the Pistons' player crashing chest-first to the court. The flagrant foul two, which is an automatic ejection, was upheld after a review by referee Ken Mauer.

O'Neal said the play was simply a result of "the laws of physics."

"The laws of physics say that a body in motion stays in motion. So if you have two objects meet in the air, the smaller object is going to fall much harder," O'Neal said. "I've never been the type of player to take anybody out, so I obviously went to the ball. The little guy ran into a brick wall."

O'Neal stayed on the court to argue vehemently as Mauer ignored him before the Suns' big man finally left as US Airways Center echoed with boos.

Mauer explained the call after the game.

"A flagrant two has to have a windup and a follow-through, and be not only unnecessary but we feel it's excessive," Mauer said. "We thought it followed all three of those."

Mavericks 124, Knicks 114 OT: : Dirk Nowitzki scored seven of his season-high 39 points in overtime and grabbed 15 rebounds, and Dallas ended a five-game skid. Zach Randolph had 27 points and 18 rebounds for host New York, which was 0-for-9 in overtime and lost for the first time this season when scoring 100 points.

Spurs 90, Kings 88:: Michael Finley scored 21 points and Tim Duncan had 20, including two key baskets in the final minute, for San Antonio. Duncan's short jumper tied it with 49 seconds left, and his bank shot off a drive put San Antonio ahead for good at 90-88 with 15.5 seconds remaining. John Salmons had a season-high 31 points for host Sacramento.

Nuggets 90, Timberwolves 84:: Chauncey Billups scored 26 points, J.R. Smith had 14 points and host Denver overcame poor shooting to hand Minnesota its eighth straight loss. Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic) added 14 points and 12 rebounds. Al Jefferson had 20 points for Minnesota.

Magic 90, Bobcats 85:: Hedo Turkoglu scored 20 points for visiting Orlando. Gerald Wallace scored 17 points, and Raymond Felton and Adam Morrison had 14 each for Charlotte.

Raptors 107, Heat 96: : Chris Bosh scored 27 points, and Jermaine O'Neal had 11 points and 18 rebounds to help host Toronto end a two-game skid. Dwyane Wade scored 29 points for Miami.

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