PHOENIX (AP) – New York coach Isiah Thomas had a simple explanation for the Knicks’ 108-86 loss in Phoenix on Friday night.

“They’re just better than we are right now,” he said. “They have a beautiful basketball team, the way they move, the way they pass, the way they cut. They’re good. One day the goal is to try to get to that kind of level of play.”

Steve Nash and Raja Bell scored 20 points apiece to lead six Suns players in double figures in the team’s 20th win, but just their second in the past four games.

Phoenix, a 101-99 loser at Dallas on Thursday night on Dirk Nowitzki’s shot with less than a second to play, blew open a 21-point lead in the first quarter and the Knicks never got it to single digits after that.

Leandro Barbosa scored 16, Shawn Marion 14, Kurt Thomas 12 and Amare Stoudemire 11 for the Suns, who play at Detroit on Sunday.

“I think after last night’s game we definitely could have had an emotional letdown,” Nash said. “We came out with a lot of energy defensively. We made some shots and gave ourselves a lead to manage.”

Jamal Crawford scored 21 for the Knicks. Eddy Curry added 19 points and 10 rebounds. Channing Frye had 12 points.

With his scoring output, Nash became the 39th player in NBA history to top 10,000 points and 5,000 assists in his career. He is the sixth active player to reach the mark.

One of those six, Stephon Marbury, scored 14 points on 5-for-17 shooting for the Knicks, who had won four of five since their Dec. 16 melee against Denver.

“They’ve got great shooters all over the court,” Marbury said. “With Amare picking and going to the basket, you’ve got to help. Steve Nash plays the pick-and-roll so well, and he sees the floor so well.”

Frye’s 17-footer cut the lead to 78-67 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter, but Bell made a 3-pointer seven seconds later and Phoenix led 81-67 entering the fourth. Bell sank three more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to ensure the blowout.

“Again, a game we should have won. We did what we’re supposed to do,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re playing well. We’re just moving right along. It’s too bad about last night, but these guys snapped back and we’ve got a road trip coming up and we’ll see what we can do.”

The Knicks shot 26 percent (5-for-19) and had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, and Phoenix led 34-14 after one.

“We got in their passing lanes, had some great defense, limited them to one shot,” Marion said. “They had a lot of turnovers. We were stopping them. I think that shows a lot about what we’re capable of doing.”

Even though the game was sandwiched between matchup against Dallas and Detroit, there was no Phoenix letdown.

“Our guys don’t do that. Steve Nash doesn’t do that,” D’Antoni said, “and I think we understand the importance of winning games you’re supposed to win.”

The Suns had a 19-4 run in the quarter to go up 32-11 on Thomas’ 17-footer with 1:12 left. Thomas came off the bench when Stoudemire got two quick fouls to 10 points in the first quarter on 4-of-5 shooting.

New York cut it to 45-30 on Crawford’s 8-foot runner, but Barbosa scored five in a 7-0 spurt that put Phoenix up 52-30 with 3:22 left in the half. The Suns led 56-39 at the break.

The Knicks shooting climbed to 34 percent by halftime, compared with 50 percent for Phoenix. New York was 0-for-7 on 3-pointers in the first half, the Suns 6-for-14.

Notes: All four NBA teams with 20 wins are in the Western Conference. … Ex-Sun Quentin Richardson sat out the game with back spasms. He has yet to play against Phoenix in the three games with the Knicks since he was traded to New York for Thomas before last season. … Curry had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting in the first half. The rest of the Knicks were 10-for-38. … New York’s five-game trip is its longest of the season. … The Suns are 34-4 at home against Eastern Conference opponents since Nash joined the team in 2004. Two of those losses were to Washington, the latest just last week.

AP-ES-12-30-06 0015EST

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