PHOENIX, March 2 (Ticker) --
In his first game back from the injured list, Walt Williams
proved to be the veteran presence the Houston Rockets needed.
Williams scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Rockets to a 104-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Williams, a nine-year pro and one of the few veterans on the Rockets, was activated before the game after missing 18 with a right ankle strain.
Although, he played just 22 minutes, Williams rallied the Rockets from a 79-76 deficit early in the final period. He scored eight straight points, including a pair of 3-pointers in a 17-3 surge that gave Houston a 93-82 lead with 6:05 remaining.
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Kenny Thomas was large, tallying 22 points and 14 boards.
"Coming to the games and just watching, it's tough," Williams said. "To do that especially down the end when I was feeling
good, was harder. I wanted to come out and get a couple of days of practice and have a good rhythm coming into the game."
The game featured 11 lead changes and 13 ties but none after Williams made a 3-pointer that put the Rockets up 80-79 with
10:11 left in the game.
"Walt was huge," Houston guard Cuttino Mobley said. "He hit three or four threes and it opened it up for us. When the rest of us, Moochie (Norris), Steve (Francis) and myself penetrate like that, it's hard to guard us when we're hitting like that."
Williams shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, helping Houston click at 42 percent (8-of-19) from 3-point range.
Mobley led the Rockets with 24 points and Kenny Thomas collected
22 and 14 rebounds. Francis was held to nine points.
Shawn Marion scored 24 points to lead Phoenix, which was unable
to duplicate Thursday's rally against Indiana.
The Suns used an 11-3 run over 4:15, capped by newcomer Milt Palacio's three-point play, to get within 96-93 with 90 seconds remaining.
But Mobley went through three defenders for a layup and caught a break when Penny Hardaway was whistled for a lane violation. Mobley sank the resulting free throw to put the Rockets up, 99-93, with 1:19 left.
Phoenix still had a chance, but Stephon Marbury, who scored
nine points in the final two minutes Thursday, missed an easy
layup and Francis grabbed a crucial defensive rebound.
"We didn't execute when we were supposed to and at the end of
the game, that's when you're supposed to," Marbury said. "Those
guys came out with a really weird lineup and they made some
really big plays at the end."
For most of the game, the Rockets used a four-guard alignment,
enabling them to run pick-and-roll plays constantly.
"That's the same pick-and-roll they ran on us the first time
they played us here," Hardaway said. "We can't stop it. You
want to give up jump shots instead of layups, but they make
everything. I think they just love coming in here and playing
in this building. They make all kinds of shots."