LOS ANGELES -- Now that they have run the undermanned Los Angeles Clippers off the floor in their first two games with interim coach Alvin Gentry in charge, the Phoenix Suns can't wait to try out their return to up-tempo basketball against some stiffer competition.
Amare Stoudemire had 42 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 15-for-20 from the field and leading the Suns to a 142-119 rout of the Clippers on Wednesday night.
"I think it plays into Stoudemire's game and everybody else's game," said Shaquille O'Neal, whose 16 points and six rebounds helped complete a four-game sweep of the season series.
"However, it doesn't matter what type of game we play. We've still got to make stops," O'Neal added. "Offense has never been our problem. This team has always been a run-and-gun scoring team, but you don't really win championships like that unless you can make stops. That's been our problem. The last two games we've done OK, but this isn't really a real test. The real test will come next week when we play the Lake Show."
Steve Nash had 21 points and 12 assists for the rejuvenated Suns, who's offense had become uncharacteristically stagnant under Terry Porter.
"I'm happy with the way we're playing," Gentry said. "I've argued with everybody all along that we can run with Shaq in the lineup, and we've proven that. I'm happy with the way Steve's pushing the ball, and I'm ecstatic about what we've done in the paint. The last two games we've had 170 points in the paint -- 90 last night and 80 tonight. But the Clippers are really undersized right now because all of their big guys are out, so we took advantage of that."
Gentry was 89-133 during his two-plus seasons as Clippers coach and was replaced by the late Dennis Johnson for the final 24 games of the 2002-03 campaign before Mike Dunleavy was hired. Since then, the Clippers are 188-277.
"I loved being here," Gentry said. "We averaged over 17,000 fans when I was here, and I thought we tried to play an exciting brand of basketball. But we were just too young. We had a number of guys on that team that still had college eligibility left -- Lamar Odom, Quentin Richardson, Keyon Dooling, Darius Miles and Corey Maggette -- but we were really close to turning the corner and maybe having something special here. It just didn't work out."
Jason Richardson had 17 points and seven rebounds in his return to the Phoenix lineup, following after a one-game suspension without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. He was arrested Monday and charged with reckless driving, excessive speeding and failure to use a child seat, one night after getting pulled over for driving at 90 mph in a 35 mph zone with his 3-year-old son in the back seat.
It was Richardson's second reported moving violation since the Suns acquired him and Jared Dudley from Charlotte on Dec. 12 for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary. Nine days after the trade, Richardson was cited for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The Clippers played the second game of this home-and-home set without center Zach Randolph, who began serving a two-game suspension without pay following a violent exchange with Louis Amundson during Tuesday night's humiliating 140-100 loss. After learning of the suspension, Randolph flew to Indianapolis to be with his seriously ill father.
The incident occurred after Randolph and Amundson got tangled up jockeying for position in the paint on a 3-pointer by Ricky Davis in the waning moments of Phoenix's 41-point first quarter. Randolph shoved the Suns' reserve forward to the floor with his forearm, then hit him in the face with an open hand after Amundson got back to his feet, and received an automatic ejection.
The Clippers, who have lost 23 of 28, were swept in a season series of four or more games by the Suns for the ninth time. Al Thornton led Los Angeles with 33 points, rookie Eric Gordon scored 23 and Fred Jones added 20 off the bench. Marcus Camby missed his third straight game because of infection in his right ear, which occurred on the flight back from Charlotte at the end of a seven-game road trip.
Stoudemire, the subject of trade speculation that intensified during All-Star weekend, was the only starter on the court during the fourth quarter as the Suns increased their 15-point margin to 118-95 with a 13-5 run capped by Leandro Barbosa's layup with 8:17 to play.
"It's all about wanting to win," Stoudemire said. "Our performance tonight wasn't about the rumors wasn't about wanting to stay in Phoenix. It was about winning and getting this thing back on track. I've always stayed positive. My fans in Phoenix have always been supportive of me. It's been great so far."
On the eve of the trade deadline, Stoudemire shot 12-for-15 in the first half to help build a 67-53 lead.
"We got punished by smaller guys having to rotate to him, but that is all we have," said Dunleavy, who used his 20th different starting lineup. "We have only one big guy on the team, DeAndre Jordan [6-foot-11], so there is not much we can do about that.
"We were overwhelmed by their size -- again."
Gentry was uncomfortable discussing the recent lawsuit filed by former Clippers GM Elgin Baylor against the organization and owner Donald Sterling on Feb. 11 in Los Angeles Superior Court, citing alleged age and race discrimination after his 22 years in the job. "I have a ton of respect for Elgin because he was the guy who hired me here, and I also have a ton of respect for Mr. Sterling," Gentry said. "So I just think it's really unfortunate that a relationship that had lasted so long ends up in that situation." ... Camby, who had his ear drained Wednesday, is awaiting work on whether he'll get medical clearance to fly to Portland for the Sunday's game. "We're inventing new ways to get hurt," Dunleavy said. "I mean, in the annals of the league, what's the percentages of one of your players flying on an airplane and his ear drum caves in? I mean, it's like, what other kind of injury can happen?" ... Dunleavy expects Thursday's trade deadline to pass without a deal being made by the Clippers. "We're going to listen to any deal, but we're not looking to get rid of players," Dunleavy said. "We've had a lot of opportunities to dump salaries that we've passed on."
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