Marbury scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, including a soaring layup high off the glass with 6.3 seconds left that gave the Phoenix Suns an 88-87 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
"We knew it was coming,'' Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We talked about it. Our help came over, but he made a great, great shot.''
Or a lucky shot, Francis said.
"We had good defense,'' Francis said. "He threw the ball up, and it went in.''
Shawn Marion scored 27 and Hardaway was two rebounds shy of a triple-double as the Suns won their fourth in a row. Marbury's game-winner was the only basket for either team in the final 2:02.
"In those situations, you have to go to the basket,'' said Marbury, who threw up an airball moments earlier. "They were in the penalty, so they were a little bit passive as far as going to the basket, and it went down.''
Yao Ming hit double-digits in scoring for the first time in his brief NBA career with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting in 14 minutes. He did not play in the fourth quarter.
"I don't have enough NBA experience,'' he said of sitting out the final quarter. "Coming off the bench is definitely a different role for me, but when I was in there, I got a lot of touches in the offense.''
Francis scored 15 points -- less than half his season average of 30.3 -- on 5-for-18 shooting to lead six Rockets in double figures. Cuttino Mobley scored 13, none in the second half. Kenny Thomas scored 14.
"Cuttino didn't get enough shots to win. He only shot the ball
nine times. He's got to get more shots than that,'' Francis said.
Hardaway had 14 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Marbury, who was just 6-for-15 shooting, had 11 assists.
"Cuttino and Steve are two of the best guards in the league. We did a really good job on those tonight,'' Hardaway said. "We're winning ugly, and we just want to continue to win ugly until we can just catch fire and start winning some games confidently. We're definitely doing it with defense. Our offense isn't really clicking yet.''
The Rockets didn't score in the final 2:56 after Francis'
18-footer put Houston up 87-84. Marion's rebound basket with 2:02
to go cut it to 87-86.
Francis' three-point play after an offensive rebound put Houston
up 79-73 with 8:33 remaining, and Maurice Taylor's breakaway stuff
made it 81-74 with 7:32 to go. The Suns outscored Houston 14-6
After Marion's rebound cut it to one, the Rockets had numerous scoring chances.
Houston missed twice, but got the offensive rebound both times. Mobley missed two free throws, but Thomas got the offensive rebound. Houston missed again and Marion finally grabbed the rebound.
Marbury threw up an airball from 16 feet, but the Rockets failed
to get a shot off before the 24-second shot expired and the Suns
had one last chance with 12.8 seconds to go.
After Marbury's basket, Houston's Eddie Griffin missed a
3-pointer at the buzzer.
"Can you believe it? That is the first game where we scored 20 points in all four quarters,'' Suns coach Frank Johnson said. "Our defense certainly rescued us again tonight.''
Phoenix was 0-for-11 on 3-pointers, compared to the Rockets'
Houston sank four consecutive 3-pointers, the first three by
Mobley, in 12-1 first-quarter run to go up 27-17, but Hardaway
scored the next six in an 8-0 Suns' spurt that cut it to 27-25
after one. The game was tight from then on.
In the second quarter, Yao scored six points -- on two stuffs and a layup -- on his first three shots and blocked fellow rookie Amare Stoudemire's driving layup.
Houston led 49-45 at the half behind 6-of-9 3-point shooting.
Hardaway had 12 points, nine assists and five rebounds in the
The Rockets were without Kelvin Cato because of a family emergency. ... Hardaway had eight points, five assists and four rebounds in the first quarter. ... Stoudemire played his last game as a teen-ager. He turns 20 on Saturday. ... Yao's previous best was eight points. ... Hardaway and Marbury outscored Mobley and Francis 34-29 and had a 21-9 advantage in assists.