In the end, the Suns accomplished what they came here to do - steal back the win they let slip away to the Wizards in Phoenix last week and keep this long road trip rolling merrily along.
But on a night when Washington scoring machine Gilbert Arenas couldn't find the basket, Phoenix kept the Wizards at bay on the offensive glass (each team had nine) and All-Stars Shawn Marion and Steve Nash were racking up big numbers, why did the Suns still require a furious rally in the last seven minutes to rescue a 104-99 win at the MCI Center?
That was the question Marion, who had a game-high 28 points and hit 12 of his 16 shots, wondered aloud when Arenas, who was averaging 33 points a game for the last two weeks, suffered through the kind of night (7-for-23, 16 points) that normally casts a spell of doom upon the 12-15 Wizards.
"The game is easy, but we're making it too hard," said Marion, who had nine points in the final five minutes to lead the strong finish. "We have to stop letting teams get leads on us or stick with us. We say we want to run and force the tempo; we can say it all we want to. But until we do it, we're not going to be the kind of team we can be.
"It's OK to blow teams out. We have to realize that."
But the 17-10 Suns, who now lead the Pacific Division by a full game, will take a 2-0 start to this road trip that continues Friday against the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Wizards, who can score with the Suns and showed it in their 112-111 win in Phoenix, used 22 points from Caron Butler, 19 from Antawn Jamison and 11 fourth-quarter points from Chucky Atkins to keep the Suns scrambling.
But between the missed shots and the turnovers (11 of them in the final 18 minutes) the Wizards couldn't close the deal. "We pretty much gave them the game," Atkins said. "But they score so fast, an (eight-)point lead isn't a real lead against those guys."
Down 88-80, Nash, who had 19 points, produced three of his 16 assists out of the pick-and-roll set with Pat Burke. Then Marion returned from an extended rest to finish off Washington with a pair of alley-oop dunks when the Suns used the tempo to their advantage.
The Suns finally took the lead on a driving layup by Nash with the shot clock winding down with 1:11 left. Then the Suns made the defensive stand of the night, with Diaw blocking Arenas' shot in the lane, Raja Bell diving to the ground to retain possession and Nash feeding Marion for a hammer-slam with 25 seconds left. Arenas and Butler both came up short on 3-point tries before Nash sealed the game with two free throws.
In other NBA action: Toronto 108, Atlanta 102; Orlando 105, NY Knicks 95; Charlotte 93, Chicago 80; N.O./ Oklahoma City 92, Houston 90; Minnesota 108, Seattle 95; Portland 95, Philadelphia 91; Golden State 111, Boston 109; Memphis 100 LA Lakers 99 (OT).