The Phoenix Suns spoiled the return of former coach Mike D'Antoni by beating the New York Knicks 111-103 on Monday. Although New York have made one of their best starts in years with D'Antoni at the helm, they were unable to stop the Suns and in particular an in-form Steve Nash, whose 21 points included a decisive three-pointer with 28 seconds to play. The Suns took advantage of the Knicks' poor shooting from three-point range (5-of-37) to improve to 16-10.
Shaquille O'Neal added 23 points and 12 rebounds while Amare Stoudemire contributed 21 points and 14 rebounds for Phoenix. Nate Robinson scored 27 points to lead the Knicks (11-13) while Al Harrington added 24. D'Antoni coached the Suns for five years, leading the team to four consecutive seasons of at least 50 victories, including a 62-win season in 2004-05 and a 61-win season in 2006-07. However, after several post-season disappointments and a series of disputes with the team's bosses, he left Phoenix in May to sign a four-year deal with the Knicks.
He said he was pleased by the way his young team stood up against one of the NBA's most consistent sides. "I love the way we played," said D'Antoni, who was given a standing ovation by the crowd before the game. "We had opportunities to win. We didn't make our threes obviously and we had to shoot a good percentage to beat these guys. "But overall I'm really excited. I thought the way we played and how hard we played, it was a good measuring stick for us."
Nash, whose rise in the game has been credited to D'Antoni, said his former coach should not be remembered for his controversial departure. "People really needed to brush that aside and look at what he really contributed to this city and this franchise and how much fun we had over the last four years," he said. Rajon Rondo scored 12 of his career-high 25 points in the final 5:20, and Kevin Garnett had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Boston Celtics to their 15th consecutive victory, 100-91 over the Utah Jazz.
Paul Millsap scored a career-high 32 points with 10 rebounds for Utah. Vince Carter had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Ryan Anderson scored 21 points, as New Jersey beat Toronto 94-87to snap a three-game losing streak. Devin Harris added 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh and Jason Kapono each scored 17 for Toronto. *With agencies