Marbury sparks Suns' rally over Trail Blazers

PHOENIX (AP) -- Stephon Marbury's teammates knew he would have an
outstanding game after sitting on the bench and pouting in the
fourth quarter of his previous game.

Marbury followed a listless first half with a sparkling second
half Friday night, finishing with 21 points and nine assists to
rally the Phoenix Suns to an 86-75 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Marbury, who sulked while sitting out at the end of Wednesday
night's 93-88 victory over Atlanta, led an up-tempo Phoenix offense
to a 37-point third quarter, its highest-scoring quarter this

"He said in the locker room (after the game) it was something
like knocking something off his shoulder,'' coach Frank Johnson
said, flicking his right hand. "Whew! I'm back.''

During the third-period surge, Marbury scored 11 points,
including an alley-oop on a perfect pass from Shawn Marion, and
handed out three assists as the Suns overcame a seven-point
halftime deficit and built a 70-58 lead. Marbury had missed his
first seven shots, but finished 7-for-16.

"Stephon's play was awesome (in the second half),'' Johnson
added. "It was really something that he was able to come back.''

Before the game, backcourt teammate Penny Hardaway predicted
Marbury would have a big game against Portland.

"He'll come out ... with smoke coming out of his ears,''
Hardaway said.

Marbury said he was too anxious to redeem himself.

"I knew eventually my shot would come around,'' Marbury said.
"I've been trying to pick and choose my shots. When we can play
free, it's easier for me.''

Afterward, Hardaway had high praise for Marbury.

"He was down the last game,'' Hardway said. "He's a
competitor. I knew he would come back. After the game, I gave him a
high-five, hugged him and said, 'That's the way to come back.'''

Joe Johnson, benched in favor of Hardaway against the Hawks,
helped the Suns maintain control early in the fourth quarter by
hitting three consecutive shots before Marbury knocked in a pair of

Marion scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds for the Suns, and
Tom Gugliotta added 14 points.

Reserve Bonzi Wells led the Trail Blazers with 20 points, and
Rasheed Wallace had 19.

Wells, playing despite blisters on his feet, came off the bench
in the second quarter and scored 11 points in the first 5 minutes.
Dale Davis and Wallace each contributed eight points for the Trail
Blazers in the first half and Portland took a 40-33 halftime lead.

Coach Maurice Cheeks blamed Portland's second-half downfall on
its attitude.

"It's the way we approached the third quarter,'' he said. "We
approached it as if we had the game won. Our first group wasn't
ready to play the third quarter.''

Phoenix was a dreadful 13-for-45 (28.9 percent) in the first
half, and no player had more than six points.

Game notes
The Trail Blazers did not have two of their key players:
starting guard Derek Anderson, out with a concussion, and center
Arvydas Sabonis, sidelined with a strained right hamstring. ... The
Suns will be off until Wednesday, their longest period between
games this season. ... This was the last of a three-game homestand
for the Suns and the start of a four-game road trip for Portland.
Before the Suns play their next game, at Denver on Wednesday, the
Trail Blazers will play three more games -- at San Antonio on
Saturday, at Dallas on Monday and at Houston on Tuesday. ...
Several members of the 2002 NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks
attended the game, including manager Bob Brenly, Luis Gonzalez,
Tony Womack and Rod Barajas.


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