Suns lose 4th straight


Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 17, 2005 at 11:34 p.m.
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Phoenix's Leandro Barbosa fouls Detroit's Richard Hamilton in the third quarter Monday in Auburn Hills, Mich. The Pistons won.

The Associated Press
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The Phoenix Suns have lost as many games in the past week as they had all season.
Tayshaun Prince scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Detroit Pistons past slumping Phoenix 94-80 on Monday, handing the NBA-leading Suns their fourth straight loss.
After opening the season 31-4, Phoenix went 0-4 on its road trip.
''It's time to go home,'' coach Mike D'Antoni said. ''It has been a tough road trip. Obviously, they beat us on the boards; beat us all day; beat us up; beat us in anything you want to talk about.
''When you are a middleweight and they are a heavyweight and you cannot run around the ring, they are going to catch you and pound you and that's what they did to us,'' he said.
Prince deflected praise for his best offensive game in the NBA as if he were swatting a shot with his long, lanky arms.
''I definitely have to credit my teammates, especially the guys inside,'' said Prince, who scored on an assortment of dunks, runners, mid-range jumpers and a 3-pointer. ''When they play that way, it just opens things up.''
Prince has averaged 20.3 points in his last three games, about eight above his average, and made the game-winning shot Saturday against Philadelphia. In five of the last 13 games, the third-year player has scored at least 18 points.
''The last three weeks, he has had a stretch as good as any young player is going to have,'' Pistons coach Larry Brown said.
The Suns found out - again - just how valuable Steve Nash is to their team.
They were held to a season-low point total, clearly missing Nash, who was sidelined for a second consecutive game with a bruised left thigh. The point guard hopes to play Wednesday at home against Memphis.
''Obviously, their team is different without Steve Nash,'' Detroit guard Chauncey Billups said. ''But I just thought we played good.''
The defending-champion Pistons are headed in the opposite direction, with six victories in a row - and 11 of 13 - to move a half-game ahead of idle Cleveland for first place in the Central Division.
''Hopefully, we can stay at this level and continue to get better,'' Billups said.
Joe Johnson led the Suns with 17 points. Amare Stoudemire scored 16 and Quentin Richardson had 13.
The Pistons built a 16-point lead in the first quarter with a 21-6 run and didn't have much trouble maintaining a cushion the rest of the game.
Detroit's Richard Hamilton scored 16 points, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess each had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Ben Wallace added 11 points and 15 rebounds.
When Detroit wasn't scoring easy baskets in transition off turnovers, it was getting second and third chances to score in half-court situations thanks to relentless rebounding. Late in the second quarter, the Pistons had 17 points off 12 offensive rebounds - one more rebound than Phoenix had at both ends of the court combined.
''We can win games without me, but not when we give up that many offensive rebounds,'' Nash said. ''We just have to get back to playing the way we were playing before, and we will. It's a long season and things like this happen.''
The Pistons outrebounded Phoenix 57-41 and had 13 more offensive rebounds.

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