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Back-to-back Shaq gets 29; Suns top Wizards 103-87

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 10:58 AM

WASHINGTON – Shaquille O'Neal had no problem with back-to-back games at the end of a road trip, scoring 29 points Monday night as the Phoenix Suns wrapped up a six-game East Coast swing with a 103-87 win over the Washington Wizards.

Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal, right, kisses the head of Washington Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal, right, kisses the head of Washington Wizards forward Caron Butler

O'Neal went 10-for-14 from the field, 9-for-10 from the free throw line and had eight rebounds in 36 minutes for the Suns, who salvaged their trip by winning the last two games to finish 3-3. O'Neal had 19 points and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes in Sunday night's 104-99 victory over Atlanta.

Of course, as coach Terry Porter put it before the game, it helped O'Neal didn't have to do "all the banging he'd have to do if it was Yao Ming." With natural power forward Andray Blatche and rookie JaVale McGee manning the paint for the woeful Wizards, there was no need to give O'Neal the night off that he's been getting at times during back-to-backs this season.

Amare Stoudemire added 22 points and 15 rebounds, Leandro Barbosa scored 23 points, and Steve Nash had 14 points and 15 assists for the Suns, whose 53-38 rebounding advantage helped overcome their 17 turnovers.

Caron Butler scored 28 points, and Antawn Jamison had 27 for the Wizards, but they didn't get much help as Washington lost for the 10th time in 12 games. The rest of the team scored 32 points on 17-for-41 shooting.

Neither team had a double-digit lead until the fourth quarter, when O'Neal's layups against double teams accounted for the first and last baskets in a 12-4 run that gave the Suns an 89-79 lead with 5 minutes to play.

O'Neal literally threw his weight around in the game's final minutes. He pushed Blatche to the court along the baseline with 4:11 to play and was called for a foul, while Blatche lay on the floor with a left knee injury and had to leave the game. With 1:53 left, O'Neal threw down a defiant one-handed dunk that gave the Suns a 12-point lead.

Blatche said his knee "buckled and came back in place" and that X-rays were negative.

"It's real sore," Blatche said. "I thought it was something serious. It should be fine. All I know is he hit me, and I went flying."

Porter said before the game that his team would have to "fight the mentality of being on the plane already trying to get home," while Wizards coach Ed Tapscott was worried about the "first game home syndrome" after Washington's just-concluded West Coast trip.

As a result, neither team had the get-up-and-go to pull away in a first half that ended tied at 51. Jamison and Butler combined for 39 of Washington's points before the break, while Nash had an uncharacteristic four turnovers in the first two periods.

O'Neal's adventures included a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a first-half dunk, and a kiss on the head for Butler after tying up the Wizards forward on a drive to the basket. Butler smiled good-naturedly — then got the final laugh as he won the subsequent jump ball.

Notes:@ DeShawn Stevenson, sidelined since Dec. 30 with a back injury, will return "maybe by this weekend," according to interim coach Ed Tapscott. ... O'Neal needs five more points to move past Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

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