- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The competition for game of the season is over.

The winner: Phoenix Suns 161, New Jersey Nets 157 in double overtime.

In fact, Thursday’s game was one of the best of all time. It included 318 points — the fourth-highest total ever — 34 lead changes, 21 ties and just 29 turnovers.

“I think we can go home and turn on Classic NBA,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It will be on there already. That’s the best game I have ever seen.”

The game also included two other elements that made it a classic — a duel between two great players and a debatable coaching decision.

The point guard battle between Steve Nash of the Suns and Jason Kidd of the Nets on Larry Bird’s 50th birthday was reminiscent of Bird’s games against Magic Johnson.

Nash scored a career-high 42 points, including a 3-pointer to send the game into the first overtime and nine in the second overtime, and had 13 assists and six rebounds.

Kidd countered with 38 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds for his 78th career triple-double, trying Wilt Chamberlain for third on the all-time list. (Bird ranks fifth, and Magic is second. Oscar Robertson is first with 181.)

“For the NBA, it was one of those games they would like to see more often,” Kidd said. “You know, guys were playing hard. It was a clean game, a lot of points, but it came down the last couple of minutes of each quarter, and it probably will be a classic.”

Nets coach Lawrence Frank admitted he made a classic mistake with 5.5 seconds left in regulation and his team up three points. He asked his team to foul when the Suns inbounded the ball, taking away their chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer.

Vince Carter did just that, fouling Boris Diaw with 4.8 seconds left. Diaw hit both free throws. The Suns then fouled Kidd, who hit both of his free throws, setting up Nash’s game winner.

The strategy proved a poor one for a couple of reasons.

First, the Nets fouled with too much time remaining. There were four more possessions in the game, including Kidd’s last-second heave from halfcourt.

The other reason: Carter (31 points) fouled out on the play, leaving the Nets without one of their go-to players.

“That was a coaching loss,” Frank said of his decision to leave Carter on the floor.

But someone had to lose one of the best games of all time.

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