PHOENIX, Feb. 19 (Ticker) --
Luckily for the Houston Rockets, Steve
appeared to be the only player tired from their
double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
scored a season high-tying 23 points, including a
season-best seven 3-pointers, to lead a balanced scoring effort
as the Rockets easily defeated the Phoenix Suns, 107-89, for
just their second victory in seven games.
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"I'm never surprised when I shoot it like that," Rice said.
"They were running away from me and leaving me open. I couldn't
understand what was going on, but (if) somebody is going to do
that, I'll take them."
added 22 points for the Rockets, who received
just five points from Francis, their All-Star point guard,
before he exited in the third quarter with a lower back strain.
The Rockets trailed by eight points in the opening minutes but
rallied to take a 50-40 edge into the break behind 11 points
from Rice and 10 from Moochie Norris
Houston extended its advantage to 77-61 entering the fourth
quarter and blew open the game behind four 3-pointers by Rice in
the final period.
"It looked as though we were the ones that got in at 3 in the
morning from a game last night," Suns coach Frank Johnson said.
"It looked like they had been here, had two days of practice,
rested and were ready for us."
Rookie Yao Ming
contributed 12 points and 12 rebounds and Eddie
12 and 10 for Houston, which dominated the glass, 57-32.
The Rockets' bench outscored the Suns' reserves, 47-16.
"They couldn't defend our whole team," said Yao, one of six
Rockets to reach double figures. "This is great encouragement
as we have a lot of hard games ahead of us."
With the win, the Rockets kept pace with the Lakers for the
eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot and moved
within 1 1/2 games of seventh-place Phoenix.
"What a character win after the devastation of that game
yesterday," said Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, whose team lost
at Los Angeles, 106-99, after Kobe Bryant scored 52 points,
including 17 in the two overtime periods. "We got a big lift
from the bench, got the ball moving, got back to our defense,
did a great job on the boards -- a great job on the boards."
"Defensive rebounding for us had been an Achilles' heel, along
with getting beat off the dribble, but tonight was probably the
worst we have been beaten on the boards," Johnson said.
scored 24 points -- 23 in the second half -- and
22 for Phoenix, which finished its season-high
six-game homestand at 3-3.
"We got outrebounded dramatically," Marbury said. "We gave them
too many extra chances. You can't play against a team like
that when they've got guys that can make shots, know how to make
plays, know how to create for each other. You give them second
opportunities, you make it a lot tougher for yourself."
"They came off a tough loss against LA," said Suns guard Joe
, who scored 14 points. "I think we came in a little
lackadaisical, knowing they were on a back-to-back, and we felt
like we had an advantage. I think we just came out a little
With the win, the Rockets took a 2-1 lead in the season series.
The teams face each other for the last time March 16 at
"It's a game we needed, too, so now they're one game up on us in
the series," Marion said. "We've got to go out there and get
one from them next month. That's all it boils down to."