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Suns' Nash held scoreless for first time this season

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey's dominance of Phoenix was so stunning that Nets coach Lawrence Frank had trouble keeping track.

Nenad Krstic had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and the Nets won their ninth straight game, holding the Suns to their lowest point total of the season in a 110-72 rout on Monday night.

"Midway through the third quarter, I was working on my math skills," Frank said. "I said to one of the assistants, 'We're up what?' I couldn't figure out what it was. No one could have expected this. I had to look up at the scoreboard a couple of times to make sure the math was right."

Vince Carter added 20 points for the Nets (41-28), who trimmed their magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division to five and the number to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth to two.

The 38-point margin of victory was the biggest of the season for the Nets, whose previous best was a 28-point victory over Golden State on Dec. 18. That came during the Nets' season-high 10-game winning streak from Dec. 16 through Jan. 8.

The Suns shot a franchise-worst 26.8 percent (26-of-97). The previous worst shooting night occurred 35 years ago, when the Suns shot 29.7 percent against Atlanta on March 10, 1971.

"It was just one of those nights," the Nets' Richard Jefferson said. "It was a combination of us playing good defense and getting good looks and good shots. We were fortunate to get them on a night where they didnt hit their shots."

It was the second impressive victory in two nights for the Nets, who won at Detroit 79-74 on Sunday night.

"It was a rare opportunity in this league to take on two elite teams on back-to-back nights, playing teams with two different styles and come away with two wins," Frank said. "For them to display so much energy on two straight nights shows their mental toughness. It's definitely a credit to our team. The guys gave a great effort."

The margin of defeat was the largest of the season for the Suns (47-22), whose previous worst was a 119-90 loss to Sacramento on Jan. 17. The Suns, who entered averaging an NBA-high 108.4 points, hadn't been held below 85 this season.

Steve Nash, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, was held scoreless for the first time all season. He played 26 minutes. Amare Stoudemire, in just his third game since returning after missing the first 66 after left knee surgery, appeared sluggish and labored in his 15 minutes. He failed to score and grabbed just two rebounds.

"I've always been a reluctant scorer," Nash said. "It's not the strangest thing in the world for me, but obviously, when you're getting 20 a game, it hurts your team. I take full responsibility for hurting us tonight. I give a lot of credit to Jason [Kidd] for his defense.

"I don't think you can blame this on one thing. We are a perimeter shooting team and you are going to have some cold nights. Give them credit. They were pretty stingy and outstanding defensively."

The Nets also got 16 points from Jefferson and 11 from Clifford Robinson.

Shawn Marion paced the Suns with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Eddie House added 15 points.

"It was stunning," Marion said. "I came out in the third quarter and I looked up and saw we were down by that much. Man, the game was over. There was nothing you could do about it."

The Nets had lost four straight against the Suns, with the last win coming Dec. 6, 2003.

The Nets took control of the game in the second quarter, going on a 16-4 run over the final 4:10 to close. Carter tossed in a 29-footer to start the run and Krstic had five in the run, giving the Nets a commanding 50-31 lead at the half.

It was the lowest scoring half of the season for the Suns, whose previous worst half was the 34 points they scored against Toronto on Nov. 22 and San Antonio on Jan. 7. The Suns were 12-of-48 for the first half, connecting on just 25 percent.

The Nets then put away the game in the early stages of the third quarter, scoring on four consecutive breakaway dunks, two of the high-flying variety by Jefferson, pushing the lead to 61-37 with 8:04 left in the period.

During the winning streak, the Nets have held their opponents to under 85 points seven times and held the opposition to under 20 points in seven of the last 12 quarters.

Game notes
Before Monday night, the Suns were 14-1 in the first half of back-to-back games this season. The Suns play in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The game pitted the two top playmakers in the NBA over the last five seasons. Since the 2001-02 season, Nash leads all NBA players in assists with 3,494 and Kidd has 3,259. Monday night, Kidd had seven assists and Nash had only three. ... Tim Thomas, who was signed as a free agent with the Suns three weeks ago, spurning an offer from his hometown team in the process, was greeted with a chorus of boos when he entered the game. Thomas, a native of Paterson, N.J., finished the game with no points in 25 minutes.