Nash directs Suns' offense with 21 assists as Phoenix tops Detroit

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Steve Nash rekindled memories of his NBA MVP seasons and showed the Phoenix Suns that standing pat might be the way to go at the trade deadline.

Nash scored 15 and had a season-high 21 assists, directing a balanced offense for Phoenix in a 107-97 win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.

The two-time MVP was snubbed from the All-Star team this season in what is probably more of a reflection of playing for Terry Porter instead of Mike D'Antoni.

"Who's been down on Steve Nash?" Detroit's Allen Iverson asked. "He's definitely an All-Star and he's still playing like an MVP."

Amare Stoudemire is an All-Star for the third straight year, showing he has recovered from major knee surgery, but the 26-year-old forward is still the main subject of trade speculation leading up to the NBA's deadline on Feb. 19.

"It's all about what they want to do financially," said Stoudemire, who signed a five-year, $74 million contract extension in 2005. "I have no control over that.

"We'll see how it plays out."

Stoudemire had 18 points and seven rebounds, Jason Richardson scored 21, Shaquille O'Neal had nine of his 20 points in the pivotal second period, and Grant Hill added 10 points.

Nash fell one assist short of matching his career high and the highest total in the NBA this season.

"I'll find one of these guys to blame for not getting me another one," joked Nash, who passed Lenny Wilkins for 10th on the career assist list.

Nash did set the record for the most assists at The Palace, breaking the mark shared by Isiah Thomas and Chauncey Billups.

Richard Hamilton scored 27 and Iverson had 25 points for the Pistons, who have lost 11 of 17. Rasheed Wallace scored 16, Tayshaun Prince had 11 and Rodney Stuckey was held to just eight points and only one assist for the Pistons.

The Suns outscored Detroit 66-26 in the lane and 31-13 in transition.

"They just got out and just ran us into the ground," Stuckey said.

Porter, who was a Detroit assistant last season, left the court briefly during the first quarter because he was feeling ill.

"This has been a long night," Porter said. "Thank God it is over, but I'll be sick all season if we get effort like that."

Detroit and Phoenix began the game with the same 27-21 record, reflecting the lackluster seasons both have had after being two of the NBA's best teams in recent years

The Suns have not won more than three straight games this season and haven't lost more than four in a row. Detroit has beaten every division leader, other than Boston, but is just 14-12 at home.

Even though the Pistons have gone from an Eastern Conference power to a middle-of-the-pack team since giving up Billups for Iverson, they might end up sticking with their roster to free up $22 million in salary cap space to make moves over the next two summers.

Detroit was effective at times against the Suns, but usually was out of sync, as it often has been with Iverson.

The first quarter ended 29-29, the 12th tie of the game after three lead changes.

O'Neal took over in the second quarter, helping Phoenix outscore the Pistons 33-21 to create a cushion it needed to withstand an occasional run. The Suns led 83-74 after three quarters and didn't have trouble maintaining the lead.

Game notes
Phoenix assistant Alvin Gentry told Bill Cartwright he was the only one on the staff without a connection to Michigan. "I have a connection," Gentry recalled Cartwright saying. "I've hated them since I played for the Bulls." ... Detroit fell to 1-9 on Sunday this season. ... O'Neal and Iverson are the top two scorers among active players in the NBA, ranking seventh and 16th in league history. ... Richardson scored on a tip-dunk off a missed free throw and said he hadn't pulled off that feat since he was at Michigan State. ... The Suns swept the series against Detroit for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, when Porter played for them and Curry was a Pistons player. ... With his 38 points on Saturday, Hamilton moved past Hill and into seventh place in Pistons history. ... Hill ended an 0-5 skid as a visitor at the Palace.