PHOENIX (AP) -- Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy wasn't about to
blame the Rockets' loss to the Phoenix Suns on the absence of
leading scorer Steve Francis.
"It's just excuse-making to me," Van Gundy said. "You can
just take any excuse you want or make any excuse. I don't think it
was a factor."
Shawn Marion scored 31 points and Joe Johnson had 27 points, 10
assists and eight rebounds as the Suns broke a three-game losing
streak with a 99-79 win over Houston on Monday night.
The loss was the fourth straight for the Rockets, who certainly
missed Francis, their All-Star guard. Francis, who is averaging
16.6 points per game, was suspended for one game without pay for
missing the team's flight to Phoenix on Sunday night.
"It hurt," guard Cuttino Mobley said. "It always hurts when
you don't have one of your best out there. It changes the whole
It was the sixth consecutive game that Johnson has scored at
least 20 points, second only to the 16-game streak of Orlando's
Johnson said he didn't realize he needed only two rebounds to
get his first triple-double. When his teammates alerted him to the
fact, he said, "I knew I would never get it, because when they
tell you, it's harder."
Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni thought Marion's 14 third-quarter
points were the key.
"When he's heated up, there's no stopping him," D'Antoni said.
"We put a lot on his plate and he's responding."
The Suns put the game out of reach with a 17-5 run midway
through the fourth quarter, increasing their advantage to 92-69
with three minutes remaining.
The Suns opened up a 22-point lead, 35-13, less than three
minutes into the second quarter but the Rockets got back within
41-35 at halftime.
Yao, Mobley, Jackson and Weatherspoon combined to score the
team's final 23 points of the second quarter, while the Suns made
just three field goals in the last nine minutes of the half.
The Suns, led by Marion, took command in the third period, and
led 73-58 at the end of the quarter. During the period, the Suns
hit six 3-pointers -- three by Marion, two by Barbosa and one by
This was the beginning of a five-game, nine-day home stand
for the Suns, who also play Portland, Seattle, Golden State and
Toronto before going back on the road Feb. 11. They had been away
from America West Arena for 22 of their previous 32 games. ...
Houston's 11 points in the first quarter were the fewest allowed by
the Suns in the opening period this season and matched their total
for any period. The Rockets' 36 first-half points also were a
season low for a Phoenix opponent and the Suns' 13 in the period
were their low for the second quarter. ... Entering the game, the
Rockets were allowing an average of only 84.0 points, just above
the modern-day league record of 83.4 by the 1998-99 Atlanta Hawks.
Only four times this season have the Rockets yielded more than 100
points, including twice in overtime. ... Suns forward Tom Gugliotta
missed the game because of the flu.