Thanks largely to one of the game's best post players, the Phoenix Suns roughed up the Boston Celtics. Even Shaquille O'Neal was impressed.
Led by 28 points from Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix bumped and banged its way to an 85-77 victory over the top team in the Eastern conference, sending Boston to its first three-game losing streak of the season.
``Amare Stoudemire is the best big man in the game right now - period, bar none,'' O'Neal said. ``I didn't know he was that good. But talking to him and watching him play, he's the best big man in the game at 25, and I mean that. I'm not just saying that to pump him up.''
Big words from the Big Aristotle. But he wasn't the only one impressed.
``He's doing what great players do,'' teammate Grant Hill said. ``It was happening before, but it's really happening now that Shaq has come. Amare has just been phenomenal at both ends. Defensively, offensively he's just bringing it. I hate to put it out there but he's playing MVP-caliber basketball.''
In Friday night's other NBA games, it was: Cleveland 90, Washington 89; Houston 100, New Orleans 80; Detroit 127, Milwaukee 100; Orlando 115, Philadelphia 99; Dallas 98, Memphis 83; Indiana 113, New Jersey 103; Chicago 135, Denver 121; New York 103, Toronto 99; L.A. Clippers 114, Utah 104; Sacramento 116, Charlotte 115, in overtime; Atlanta 117, Golden State 107; Seattle 99, Portland 87.
Kevin Garnett scored 19 points, Paul Pierce was 2-for-13 shooting for five points and Ray Allen scored 11 points and shot 3-for-12.
``I just think we were bad offensively,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ``We have been very good offensively, tonight we were bad.''
Playing his natural power forward spot, Stoudemire did most of his damage with Garnett guarding him.
``It's helped me a lot,'' he said. ``It's just allowed me to play basketball. I don't have to battle so much with the big guys and get in foul trouble, things like that. Tonight was a great step for us.''
Steve Nash added 18 points, including a pair of late 3-pointers, and Hill had 14 points and 13 rebounds to record consecutive double-doubles for the first time since Dec. 2-4, 2002. O'Neal had just four points but 14 rebounds as the Suns dominated the boards 50-32.
``He gives us a big presence,'' Nash said. ``We're not the short, skinny guys anymore. It's nice to be on that end of the battle sometimes.''
Cavaliers 90, Wizards 89
LeBron James made two free throws with 7.8 seconds left as the short-handed Cavaliers, playing with just eight, had enough to beat visiting Washington.
James scored 33 points with 15 rebounds and eight assists in 45 minutes for the Cavs, who added four players in an 11-player deal on Thursday but couldn't dress Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith or Delonte West.
The Wizards have lost 10 of 11.
Rockets 100, Hornets 80
Yao Ming had 28 points and 14 rebounds to help visiting Houston win its 11th straight.
Tracy McGrady scored 34 points and the Rockets snapped New Orleans' five-game winning streak.
Houston improved to 2-0 since trading Bonzi Wells and Mike James to the Hornets shortly before Thursday afternoon's trading deadline.
David West led New Orleans with 20 points.
Pistons 127, Bucks 100
Chauncey Billups had 21 points and 12 assists to lead host Detroit.
Rasheed Wallace scored 17 points and Richard Hamilton added 16 for the Pistons, who put six players in double figures while reaching a season high for points.
Charlie Villanueva and Michael Redd led Milwaukee with 18 points apiece.
Magic 115, 76ers 99
Hedo Turkoglu scored a season-high 31 points and Dwight Howard had 24 points and 18 rebounds for host Orlando.
Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala each scored 25 for Philadelphia and Willie Green had 21 points.
Mavericks 98, Grizzlies 83
Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and Jason Kidd had 15 assists in his second game for visiting Dallas.
Rudy Gay led Memphis with 18 points, while Hakim Warrick had 15 points and nine rebounds. Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points, Mike Conley added 11 and Javaris Crittenton had 10 points.
Pacers 113, Nets 103
Mike Dunleavy scored 34 points, and host Indiana snapped a three-game losing streak.
Travis Diener tied a career high with 19 points, and Jeff Foster added 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Pacers.
Richard Jefferson scored 34 points for the Nets.
Bulls 135, Nuggets 121
Ben Gordon scored 37 points, and the revamped Bulls delivered one of their best offensive efforts in years, overcoming a late surge by visiting Denver.
The Bulls scored at least 30 points in all four quarters for the first time since Feb. 18, 1997, against Denver, and the 135 points were a season high.
Andres Nocioni scored 21 points, and Tyrus Thomas had 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Joakim Noah had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Allen Iverson scored 29 and Carmelo Anthony added 22 for Denver.
Knicks 103, Raptors 99
Jamal Crawford scored a season-high 43 points, leading host New York.
Zach Randolph added 26 points and 15 rebounds.
Chris Bosh scored 23 points for the Raptors.
Clippers 114, Jazz 104
Rookie Al Thornton scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and host Los Angeles got back-to-back wins for the first time in 3 1/2 months.
Deron Williams had 26 points and 10 assists for the Northwest Division-leading Jazz.
Kings 116, Bobcats 115, OT
Brad Miller had 22 points and 14 rebounds and visiting Sacramento overcame his late turnover to hold off Charlotte in a game marred by a scary head injury to the Bobcats' Gerald Wallace.
Francisco Garcia scored 23 points and Ron Artest scored 20.
Wallace was knocked unconscious after he was hit in the nose by an inadvertent elbow from the Kings' Mikki Moore in the third quarter. Wallace was on the floor for nearly 10 minutes before he was wheeled off on a stretcher and taken to a hospital.
Hawks 117, Warriors 110
Joe Johnson had 27 points and visiting Atlanta snapped a six-game losing streak.
It was the fourth straight win for the Hawks over the Warriors, who got 35 points from Baron Davis and 24 from Monta Ellis.
SuperSonics 99, Trail Blazers 87
Kevin Durant scored 17 points, despite sitting the entire fourth quarter, and host Seattle never trailed.
Chris Wilcox had 14 points and Mickael Gelabale, Luke Ridnour and Damien Wilkins combined for 25 off the bench.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 for Portland.

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