Speights' career-high 24 helps Sixers smoke Suns

PHILADELPHIA -- Marreese Speights planned to play in blowouts. Win in a rout or get crushed, and Philadelphia's first-round pick would take the court.

Boy, has Speights blown away the 76ers' preseason expectations. Now when they trounce a team, Speights is the one leading the way.

Speights had a career-high 24 points and Thaddeus Young scored 25 points to lift the Philadelphia 76ers to their third straight win, 108-91 over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.

Speights dunked, alley-ooped and slammed some more when he scored 10 straight points in a second-quarter charge that turned this one from a tight game into a fast 14-point lead for the Sixers.

"We did not expect that he would contribute the way he has so quickly," coach Tony DiLeo said.

Speights fell only a point shy in the first half of matching his career of 17. He scored 16 of 18 points in one stretch to help the Sixers take a 55-44 lead at the break.

"Marreese Speights was able to show what he can do," guard Andre Iguodala said.

He piled up the points mostly on dunks, the highlight a one-hander down the baseline off a toss from Andre Miller. Speights has been the biggest benefactor of Elton Brand's absence -- his scoring average in games without Brand is 10.2 points per game compared to 7.8 overall. Speights scored 15 in Philadelphia's last game against Miami and has given the Sixers every reason to believe they can gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings even without Brand.

"Anytime somebody throws the ball at the rim, I'm going to try and get it," Speights said. "You can throw it anywhere and I'm going to get it."

Team president Ed Stefanski said last week that Speights, their first-round pick out of Florida, wasn't even in the preseason mix of players expected to make a meaningful contribution. He surely will be expected to make an impact if Philadelphia makes the postseason. Speights was 11-of-16 from the floor and grabbed seven rebounds.

His simple layup early in the fourth gave him a career-best 18 points and stretched Philadelphia's lead to 82-69. Then he showed off his mid-range game with a 16-footer that brought a roar from the crowd.

"He can post up and score with both hands around the basket," DiLeo said. "I think he'll be a good inside player. I think he'll be a good outside player."

Iguodala scored 22 points and Samuel Dalembert grabbed 11 rebounds to help the Sixers (26-24) move two games above .500 for the first time this season. They've won 13 of 17 and are seven games over .500 since DiLeo took over in December.

Amare Stoudemire shrugged off persistent trade rumors and scored 19 points for the Suns. Jason Richardson had 16 and Shaquille O'Neal grabbed 10 rebounds.

Stoudemire was impressed, though not surprised, with Speights' dunks. He said he saw them up close when the Sixers rookie attended Stoudemire's summer camps.

"That's where he learned those dunks," he said.

Young got the Sixers rolling early when he scored 14 points in the first quarter. They only let the lead dip below double digits on one possession in the second half and when Lou Williams hit a late 3-pointer, the lead ballooned to 93-75.

The Suns rested their starters not long after, with reserves playing the final 5 1/2 minutes. They won at Detroit on Sunday and blamed the back-to-back games as reason for their missing energy.

"Back-to-backs are tough, especially against a team that has a lot of athletic energy and likes to run," Suns coach Terry Porter said.

Game notes
Brand had season-ending surgery on his right shoulder Monday. He had the torn labrum repaired in the one-hour procedure and Brand was expected to be ready for the 2009-10 season. ... Porter and F Matt Barnes were whistled for technicals in the fourth. ... Stoudemire said he tried not to think about rumors Phoenix is looking to trade him. "I've been hearing everything that's out there. I tried to put it aside," he said. "I'd love to stay and be a Phoenix Sun, but it's really not my decision." ... The Sixers had three players score 20-plus points for the third time this season.

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