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Suns Continue Roughing Up The East

The Phoenix Suns are two wins away from an unprecedented sweep of their regular-season tour of the Eastern Conference. Amare Stoudemire is playing as if he's planning on more road success against the East in the postseason.

Stoudemire scored a season-high 43 points and the Phoenix Suns improved to 13-0 in road games against the Eastern Conference, beating the Atlanta Hawks 115-106 on Sunday night.

The Suns have visits left at Indiana on Tuesday and Philadelphia on Wednesday as they try to become the first NBA team to sweep its interconference road schedule.

Overall, the Suns have won 22 of their past 25 road games after an 0-4 start away from Phoenix.

Stoudemire added 16 rebounds, three blocks and six assists. He made 15 of 17 free throws.

"He's a beast," said Atlanta's Josh Smith, who traded powerful jams with Stoudemire in the third period but couldn't keep pace with the Suns' high-scoring center.

"He attacks the rim hard," Smith said. "He doesn't stop. No matter how you defend him, he comes back for more."

Stoudemire scored 18 points in the first quarter and was the major reason six Atlanta players finished with four fouls.

"They were sending guys, two or three guys double-teaming me the whole night," Stoudemire said.

"I just took what the defense gives me. There are some stretches when I don't score, other players do. And I have no problem with that. We're just trying to play team basketball. Take it down the stretch."

Shawn Marion had 21 points and Leandro Barbosa added 19 for the Suns. Steve Nash had 14 points and 13 assists as he kept looking for Stoudemire, who made 14 of 25 shots from the field.

"When he's playing like that, you just have to keep feeding him and get him the ball as much as possible," Nash said.

The Hawks allowed 38 points in the opening quarter, but recovered with a strong second period and briefly took the lead in the fourth quarter.

Joe Johnson, who helped lead Atlanta to a 120-111 win at Phoenix on Feb. 9, led the Hawks with 28 points. Marvin Williams had 23 points and 10 rebounds.

Anthony Johnson, acquired Thursday, made his debut for the Hawks with 17 points and five assists. Smith added 14 points and four blocked shots.

The first half had long runs by each team. An early 14-2 run gave the Suns a 22-16 lead, and a 9-0 burst stretched the lead to 38-24 at the end of the period.

After giving up 18 points in the quarter to Stoudemire, the Hawks outscored the Suns 20-5 to open the second period and take a 44-43 lead. The run ended on a steal and pass by Nash, setting up two free throws by Marion that shifted momentum back to Phoenix.

The Suns scored 13 straight points late in the half for a 60-53 lead at the break.

Stoudemire and Smith traded dunks in the third quarter. After setting a pick, Stoudemire whirled, took a pass from Nash and slammed home a right-handed jam that knocked Smith to the floor with 3:45 left in the period.

About a minute later, Stoudemire could only watch as Smith answered with a left-handed slam to cap a fast break.

It became obvious that it was Stoudemire's night, when with his back to the basket, he scored with 50 seconds left in the third period when he blindly flipped the ball over his head.

Johnson scored on another Hawks' fast break with 9:07 left in the game to give Atlanta a 93-92 lead, its first advantage since midway through the opening period.

The Suns reclaimed the lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Barbosa and James Jones.

The Suns may have been surprised the Hawks were still close in the fourth quarter.

"They are really improved from last year," said Suns coach Mike D'Antoni of the Hawks. "They have a lot of nice young players. ... We had a hard time getting big guys in the game today because they are so quick and athletic."

The Hawks were only outscored 16-14 on fast-break points, but thecouldn't stop Stoudemire.

"We ran out of gas," Johnson said.

Added Smith: "Every time we came back, they answered.

"They're a pretty good team on the East Coast. They can make you play their game."

Notes:@ The Suns' 38 first-quarter points set a high for Atlanta opponents this season but fell three points shy of the season high for Phoenix. ... Phoenix is 4-0 since Nash returned from a shoulder injury. ... Stoudemire set a season scoring high for a Hawks opponent. ... Stoudemire's career high is 50 points against Portland on Jan. 2, 2005.