Originally created 01/17/04

Suns beat Warriors

PHOENIX -- Joe Johnson no longer worries about being yanked from the court in favor of Penny Hardaway - and the result has been a surge in self-confidence.

Johnson scored a season-high 26 points on 12-for-16 shooting - most of them from the outside - and the Phoenix Suns beat the Golden State Warriors 104-91 on Friday night.

The young guard acknowledged he feels more at ease since Hardaway was traded to New York. They had shared time at shooting guard.

"It was hard," Johnson said. "When you get out there in the game and you take a shot, you kind of feel like you've got to make it so you don't have to worry about looking over your shoulder seeing if a guy is checking in for you."

Johnson has scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games.

"I'm not going out there worried about the last shot I took," he said. "I'm just out there just going through the flow of the game, and when the shot's there, take it. If it's not, make an easy pass to another guy for an easy shot."

Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire added 21 points apiece for the Suns, who set a season high for shooting percentage for the second night in a row. Phoenix, which shot 56 percent, has won two straight after snapping a six-game losing streak in Portland on Thursday night.

"We're playing better," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We're trying to do the right things."

Marion shot 7-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-3 on 3-pointers. He also grabbed nine rebounds, had four steals and blocked three shots.

Johnson, who fell one point shy of his career high, lifted Phoenix out of trouble with outside jumpers three times in the final 6:14. He sank an 18-footer and was fouled for a three-point play to make it 98-87 with 4:26 to go, then made a floating runner with 2:53 left to put the Suns up 100-91.

The injury-plagued Warriors lost their 10th road game in a row.

"We've got to come out with more of a sense of urgency," Speedy Claxton said. "I'm very surprised, coming off a great win last night, I expected more."

Mike Dunleavy and Erick Dampier each scored 19 points for the Warriors, playing their fourth game in five nights. Claxton added 18 points, including 10-of-10 shooting on free throws.

Cliff Robinson, who tied a franchise record with seven 3-pointers against Cleveland on Thursday night, went 3-of-13, including 1-of-4 on 3s.

"Obviously, with all the injuries we had and such, back-to-back affected us a little bit," Golden State coach Eric Musselman said. "We're certainly not using that as an excuse, but I do think we had some tired legs tonight."

Phoenix went 9-of-12 on 3-pointers, with six players sinking at least one 3.

The Suns led by 11 in the first quarter, 20 in the second and 24 in the third.

But Phoenix committed eight turnovers and Golden State outscored the Suns 13-4 over the last 5:06 of the third quarter to cut the lead to 84-72 entering the fourth. The run reached 15-4 when Calbert Cheaney's 16-footer made it 84-74 with 9:32 to play.

Cheaney sliced it to 98-91 with 3:13 to play, but Johnson sank a 5-foot runner, then Marion scored on a drive and the Suns pulled away from there.

Phoenix shot 68 percent (25-for-37) and outrebounded Golden State 21-11 in the first half to take a 62-44 lead at the break.

Johnson and Zarko Cabarkapa sank 3-pointers in a 21-6 run that put Phoenix up 56-36 on Marion's 20-footer from the baseline with 2:59 left in the half.

The Warriors scored the first five points of the second half to cut it to 62-49. The Suns responded with a 15-4 surge - with two 3-pointers by Marion and one by Leandro Barbosa - to take their biggest lead, 77-53, after Johnson's 17-footer with 6:39 left in the third quarter.

Notes: Stoudemire has 71 points in his last three games. ... The Warriors' Brian Cardinal didn't play because of the flu. ... The Suns have won two in a row for just the fourth time this season. ... Johnson had seven assists for the second night in a row.


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