PHOENIX (AP) -- The Houston Rockets got Walt Williams back for the first time since Jan. 16. The pain in his left ankle was gone,
and so was any sign of rust from an 18-game stretch on the injured list.
Activated hours before the game, Williams scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets beat the Phoenix Suns 104-97 Saturday night.
"We were running pick-and-rolls, and Kenny (Thomas) was rolling to the basket and taking the defense with him and Moochie Norris was just finding me open," said Williams, who scored Houston's
first 10 points in the fourth.
"A couple of times they were running out to me and gave Kenny some easy layups."
Cuttino Mobley had 24 points and eight rebounds, and Thomas had 22 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets, who won for only the second time in their last five road games. Eddie Griffin added 12 points.
"We got a great boost from our bench, Moochie and Walt coming
back," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "Their small lineup
has been hurting a lot of people here lately. We're pretty good at
Shawn Marion scored 24 points for the Suns. Penny Hardaway,
playing 36 minutes in a reserve role, had 22 points, 10 rebounds
and six assists, and Stephon Marbury had 21 points and 10 assists.
No more than six points separated the teams until Thomas dunked
off an assist from Norris with 7:35 left in the fourth quarter, opening an 87-80 lead.
It was the first of three consecutive baskets by Thomas during
an 11-6 surge capped by Williams' fourth 3-pointer. That gave the
Rockets a 96-86 lead with 4:20 to go.
But the Suns rallied one last time in a game that had 11 lead
changes and 13 ties.
In a 1:52 span, Marbury made a layup, Marion dunked and Milt
Palacio had a three-point play. That cut Houston's lead to 96-93
with 1:30 to play.
After a timeout, Mobley wound up with the ball and was fouled by
Palacio while sinking a layup. Mobley missed the free throw, but
the Suns were called for a lane violation, and he made the next one
to open a six-point lead.
"Sometimes they were more aggressive than us," Suns coach Frank Johnson said. "I had a small lineup in, and that didn't help our board coverage. When we cut it to 96-93, Mobley made a big, big play down the stretch. And then they got it back. Those things hurt."
In the next minute, Marbury blew a layup and Marion blew a
tip-in attempt behind him. Steve Francis got a defensive rebound
for Houston with 33 seconds to go and was fouled. He made one free
throw for a 100-93 lead.
"It's like a karma that you go through in a game," Mobley said. "We'd been playing pretty well and they came back, and usually when a team is playing well the other team is going to make a run."
Phoenix had a 58-53 lead in the third quarter after two free
throws by Joe Johnson.
Mobley scored five points as the Rockets caught up at 58, and he
sent Houston to a 67-65 lead with a 15-footer with 5:05 left in the
Tied at 75 starting the fourth, Phoenix led by two points twice on a basket and two free throws by Marbury, but the Rockets got the lead for good -- 80-79 -- on a 3-pointer by Williams 1:49 into the final quarter.
"All loose balls went to them the whole night, so that's what killed us," Marion said. "They weren't doing anything that really killed us -- it's just that one spurt in the fourth quarter where they had a run."
To make room on the roster for Williams, the Rockets placed
G Oscar Torres on the injured list with a right ankle sprain. ...
The Rockets are 7-20 away from home. ... Marbury is averaging 29
points the last five games. ... Phoenix is 5-14 when an opponent
hits the 100-point mark.