Sun’s scorch opponents, beat Cavs along the way

CLEVELAND – Now more than halfway to a once-thought-untouchable record, the Phoenix Suns aren’t focused on their winning streak.

Steve Nash simply won’t allow it.

Nash scored 23 points and kept Phoenix’s high-energy offense purring with 15 assists as the Suns extended their winning streak to 17 games-the NBA’s longest in seven years-by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-100 yesterday.

Phoenix’s 17-game streak is tied for the fifth longest in NBA history, and with three more victories the Suns would match the second-best streak, a 20-gamer by the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks.

And, if they keep it up, the Suns could soon challenge the Los Angeles Lakers’ record of 33 straight wins in 1971-72.

“The way they’re playing right now, they’re unbeatable,” LeBron James said.

Nash isn’t convinced.

“People don’t talk about the 33-game streak, they talk about who won the championship that year,” Nash said, noting the Lakers won the league title in ’71-’72. “I don’t feel unbeatable. We’ve got a lot of improving to do.”

Shawn Marion added 23 points, Amare Stoudemire 22 and Leandro Barbosa had 19 for the Suns, who improved to 34-4 since opening the season 1-5. Phoenix, which had a 15-game win streak earlier this season, also matched a franchise record with its ninth straight road win and is 20-1 vs. Eastern Conference teams.

The Suns haven’t lost since Dec. 28 at Dallas, and with the way they’re running and sharing the ball right now, it’s going to take a special effort to beat coach Mike D’Antoni’s speedy squad.

“No matter what you do defensively, he’s going to find a way to counter it,” James said. “No matter how you try to stop him, he’s got the weapons. That’s a heck of a team.”

James scored 30 points and Drew Gooden 19 to lead the Cavaliers, who were within four points going into the fourth. However, they couldn’t match the Suns’ blazing up-and-down pace and managed just 13 points in the final 12 minutes on 5-of-22 shooting.

With Nash on the bench getting some rest, the Suns led 91-87 after three periods before opening the fourth with a layup from Marion and consecutive 3-pointers from James Jones and Barbosa to make it 99-87 with 8:09 remaining.

The Suns’ quick burst all but finished the Cavs. They went 5:40 of the fourth before scoring their first field goal on a steal and dunk by James, who missed Cleveland’s previous game with a sore right big toe that’s still bothering him.

Nash’s made a twisting reverse layup, and moments later, fed Marion for a 3-pointer – Phoenix’s 13th – to make it 107-94 with 3:44 remaining. Nash, the league’s assists leader and the center of the Suns’ universe, didn’t have a turnover in 35 minutes.

“He runs the ship,” James said. “He makes shots and gets other guys great open looks. He’s dangerous.”

The Suns were playing their fourth game in a five-game road trip, but they didn’t look tired or bored by their success. Instead, they were focused throughout and will look for their 18th consecutive win on Monday in Minnesota.

“We just have the swagger,” Marion said. “I don’t think it’s the streak. This is more about us and the thought that we can’t lose. We’ve got 17. Now we have to focus on getting the next one.”

Cleveland got just four points from center Zyrdunas Ilgauskas, who was rendered useless by Phoenix’s speed. Larry Hughes had seven points on 3-of-13 shooting and never got into any rhythm.

James injured his toe on Cleveland’s recent West Coast trip, and it was sore enough that he missed his first game of the season on Friday in Philadelphia. James said he may need to sit out a few more.