Sluggish at times offensively, the high-octane Phoenix Suns unveiled a new wrinkle.

Zone defense, of all things, kept the Suns unbeaten.

Steve Nash scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half, added eight assists and the visiting Suns used a dominant fourth quarter to beat the Miami Heat, 104-96, in a matchup of NBA unbeatens last night.

"We've been working on it a little bit, but we haven't really used it much or had much success," Nash said of the zone, which Phoenix displayed in the second half for the first time this season. "I was just glad, more than surprised. It really came up well for us tonight."

Sure did: Miami shot 35 percent in the second half, 23 percent in the fourth quarter. Phoenix missed fewer shots (15) in the entire second half than the Heat did (18) in the final 11 1/2 minutes.

Amare Stoudemire finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix, which overcame its largest deficit of the season. Jason Richardson scored 10 of his 14 points in the final period for the Suns, who are 4-0 for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

Miami got 23 points from Dwyane Wade and 18 from Quentin Richardson. The Heat (3-1) was bidding for its first 4-0 start in 5 years.

"The zone changed our rhythm," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We didn't have a lot of answers for that."

After the game, the Suns' zone drew a bit of ire in the Heat locker room.

"I thought the zone was for college, personally," Quentin Richardson said. "I thought that was the difference between the NBA and college."

In other games:

* At Indianapolis, Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points and Chauncey Billups added 24 to help Denver beat the Indiana Pacers, 111-93, lifting the 4-0 Nuggets to their best start in 24 years. Anthony, who was averaging 38 points, shot just 6-for-17 from the field but made 11 of 14 free throws. Nene added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets. Former Denver guard Dahntay Jones had 20 points for the Pacers (0-3), who have lost all their games by double-digit points.

* At Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored a club-record 29 of his 40 points during a frantic fourth-quarter comeback and the Mavericks beat the Utah Jazz, 96-85. Nowitzki broke the franchise record of 24 points in any quarter set by Mark Aguirre against Denver on March 24, 1984. Deron Williams scored 22 points and Mehmet Okur added 14 points and 14 rebounds for Utah.

* At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 27 points, Shaquille O'Neal added a season-high 21 while wearing out Washington's big men, and the Cavaliers won their third straight, beating the Wizards, 102-90. The Cavs trailed by 18 in the second quarter before turning up their defense and relying on their superstar combo to win their sixth straight at home over the Wizards. Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas scored 22 apiece to lead Washington.

* At Oklahoma City, Kobe Bryant scored 31 points and hit the go-ahead jumper in overtime as the Los Angeles Lakers got tested in their first road game of the season, beating the Thunder, 101-98. Bryant connected on a turnaround jumper from the left side with 2:29 to play to give the defending NBA champions a 99-97 lead and then hit two free throws with 18 seconds remaining to push the lead to three.

* At Auburn Hills, Mich., Ben Gordon scored 23 points and Rodney Stuckey added 20 as the short-handed Detroit Pistons beat Orlando, 85-80, the Magic's first loss of the season. Dwight Howard had just eight points and five rebounds in 17 minutes before fouling out. Orlando led by 41-38 at the half, despite Howard being limited to 9 minutes because of foul trouble, and lost him again less than 90 seconds into the third quarter with a shoulder injury. Detroit's Tayshaun Prince saw his streak of 496 straight games end as he was sidelined with a back injury.

* At Chicago, Luol Deng scored 24 points and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds for the Bulls, who rallied from 18 down to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 83-81.

* At Portland, Jamal Crawford had 27 points off the bench to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 97-91 win over the Trail Blazers, who got 20 points and 14 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge.


* The Nets say an MRI performed on forward Yi Jianlian confirmed that he has sprained a ligament in his right knee, suffered during Monday's loss at Charlotte. Yi will begin rehabilitation immediately, but there is no timetable for his return.

* Los Angeles Clippers owner and real estate mogul Donald Sterling has agreed to pay a record $2.725 million to settle allegations by the government that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics, blacks and to families with children.