Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 11/14

Game 1: Friday, November 14th
Game 2: Saturday, December 20th
Game 3: Monday, February 2nd
Game 4: Monday, March 15th

Rockets 79


Suns 99

(18-32, 12-11 home)

    7:00 PM ET, February 2, 2004

    US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

    1 2 3 4 T
    HOU 11 25 22 2179
    PHX 28 13 32 2699

    Top Performers

    Hou: J. Jackson 15 Pts, 6 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

    PHX: S. Marion 31 Pts, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Marion, Johnson deliver 1-2 punch

    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 thing."

    Francis' replacement, Mark Jackson, scored only two points.

    It was the sixth consecutive game that Johnson has scored at least 20 points, second only to the 16-game streak of Orlando's Tracy McGrady.

    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."

    Rookie Leandro Barbosa added 13 points for Phoenix.

    Yao Ming and Mobley led the Rockets with 16 points each. Jimmy Jackson had 15 and Clarence Weatherspoon scored 12.

    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 Johnson.

    Game notes

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 79 99
    FGM-FGA 29-81 (.358) 37-79 (.468)
    3PM-3PA 6-23 (.261) 10-26 (.385)
    FTM-FTA 15-26 (.577) 15-20 (.750)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 13-41 10-48
    Assists 19 24
    Turnovers 18 14
    Steals 5 10
    Blocks 6 6
    Fast Break Points 1 4
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 23 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    Jim Jackson Jackson
    Points: 15
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 2
    Shawn Marion Marion
    Points: 31
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1