HOUSTON, Jan. 15 (Ticker) -- Amare Stoudemire
won the battle, but the Houston Rockets won the war.
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Stoudemire outplayed rookie counterpart Yao Ming
, but Cuttino Mobley
scored 30 points and the Rockets held the Phoenix Suns to just eight points in the second quarter en route to a 102-96 victory.
Stoudemire finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and a couple of resounding dunks over the 7-5 Yao, who had 11 points, seven
boards and four blocks.
"Stoudemire is really something," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "He's got the heart that Dream (Hakeem Olajuwon) had,
(he's like) Shawn Kemp had early in his career. I told him, 'You're going to be a great player, you're a very good player
As for Yao, Tomjanovich's advice was to shrug it off.
"It's the NBA. It's tough, you're going to have your ups and downs. Yao's got to expect these games. Sometimes you're going to be a zero," Tomjanovich said.
It gets no easier for Yao, who goes head-to-head with Shaquille O'Neal when the Los Angeles Lakers visit Friday.
"I've played against both Shaq and Yao Ming," Stoudemire said. "Shaq is a monster and Yao is developing. Look for Shaq to have a big game."
Trailing 36-28 midway through the second quarter, Houston went on a 14-2 run to end the half. Yao's dunk ignited the spurt
with 5:39 left and Moochie Norris capped it with two foul shots with six seconds to go.
Phoenix never regained the lead but closed within 65-63 on Dan Langhi's three-pointer with 56 seconds left in the third period. Steve Francis answered with a three-pointer and jumper to touch off a 10-0 burst that gave the Rockets some breathing room en route to their fifth win in six games.
Stephon Marbury scored 32 points and Shawn Marion added 25 for the Suns, who closed within three in the final minute but were unable to avoid their second straight loss.
The Suns were just 3-of-24 from the field in the second period, scoring their quarter season-low. They finished at 37 percent (36-of-97) from the floor.
"We were pushing the ball really well in the first quarter, then we seemed to run out of gas," Marion said.
Phoenix was down by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter but pulled within 92-87 on Marion's two free throws with 87
seconds to go. James Posey and Stoudemire exchanged buckets before Francis and Phoenix's Randy Brown were ejected for exchanging words even after picking up technical fouls.
The Suns got as close as 99-96 with 13 seconds left on Stoudemire's follow of his own missed free throw, but Posey hit
a free throw and Stoudemire turned the ball over.
"Houston made some really big shots," Marbury said. "Mobley and Posey were really big for them."
Stoudemire, the ninth pick in the June draft, went 8-of-21 from the field. Yao, who is second in the NBA in shooting at 54
percent, was 4-of-13.
"He's very fast, with great jumping ability. I've never seen a 20-year-old play that well," Yao said.
Francis scored 19 points and Posey added 14 and 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who shot 42 percent (34-of-81) and blocked 11
shots. Norris had 11 points and Eddie Griffin rounded out the strong team effort with 10 points and nine boards.
"I just have to be ready any time my number is called," said Posey, who made his second start for the Rockets. "I want to
limit them to one possession and out of there."
The win was the Rockets' third in a row and fourth straight at home.
Meanwhile, Phoenix has lost back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 8-9.
With the score tied, 22-22, in the first quarter, Marion sank a basket, Marbury scored four straight points and Jake Voskuhl dunked to give the Suns a 30-22 lead after one quarter.