Suns 99, Nets 77
PHOENIX (AP) _ The streak is history, and the Phoenix Suns hope it stays in the books for a long time.
``It’s been hard the last couple of days to look at the boxscores,″ Kevin Johnson said Wednesday night after the Suns beat New Jersey 99-77 to snap a franchise-record, 13-game losing streak. ``You look at the boxscores and see a team 0-10, 0-12 and then 0-13. It’s tough to get to that point. It got downright embarrassing.″
Wesley Person scored a season-high 22 points, Michael Finley added 18 and Johnson had 17 points and eight assists.
Kendall Gill had 18 points for the Nets, who came in as the NBA’s worst-shooting team (40 percent) and didn’t reach that level by shooting 28-of-88 (32 percent).
The Suns, lightweights on the glass this season, also helped themselves by outrebounding New Jersey 47-44.
Jayson Williams, the league’s second-leading rebounder, had 13 rebounds and 12 points for the Nets.
``I think they shocked themselves tonight,″ Williams said. ``They were destined to win a game, and they have got their team back, and they’re pretty good. I don’t know why they are 0-13. Well, they aren’t 0-13, they’re 1-13.″
The victory was the first for coach Danny Ainge, who took over when Cotton Fitzsimmons stepped aside after the team’s eighth loss.
``You would like to get 10 wins in one game, but you can’t do that,″ Ainge said. ``To put this in perspective, this is a team we’re supposed to beat on our home court. I told the players that. We have a long way to go.″
Phoenix was desperate to avoid matching the NBA record for a season-opening losing streak, 17 straight by the Miami Heat in 1988.
Help arrived in the form of Johnson, who was playing his third game after returning from the injured list, and center John Williams, who missed the first 12 games because of injuries.
``I can relate to what they were going through,″ said Gill, whose team started the year 0-5. ``But they got a real boost to get an All-Star coming back and a solid player like John.″
To help out, Person regained his shooting touch, hitting 7-of-15, including 2-of-5 3-pointers.
``The last couple of weeks, I’ve really looked at myself in the mirror, and I think one thing I have to do to help this team win is put points on the board,″ Person said.
Finley, Johnson and Person each scored eight points in the third quarter when the Suns, who hadn’t led by double figures this season, outscored New Jersey 30-18 to take an 80-62 lead into the final period.
They went ahead by 21 at 89-68 with 6:37 left on a jumper by Rex Chapman, and Joe Kleine, who had seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, squelched the Nets’ final attempt to rally with a pair of jumpers from above the free-throw line. The last gave the Suns a 93-73 lead with 3:52 left.
The Suns led from the time two free throws by Finley made it 8-6 just 2:19 into the game. It was tied three more times in the first quarter, but the Nets never got beyond that.
The Suns led 28-24 after one quarter and 50-44 at the half.
Notes: Shawn Bradley, who leads the NBA in blocks, had 18 in two games against Phoenix last year, including 10 in last meeting March 12, 1996. But he played 23 minutes this time and had just two. ... The Nets dropped to 0-4 on the road. ... Wesley Person needed 10 points to reach 2,000 in his career and got them in the first 5:51 of the game. ... The Suns lost their first six at home this season, equalling a franchise record set last season. ... The win was Phoenix’s seventh in a row over the Nets, who last beat the Suns on March 13, 1993, near the end of Charles Barkley’s first season in Phoenix.