Behind Marion, Suns Rout Rockets Again
Phoenix 111, Houston 94
HOUSTON, Feb. 27 (Ticker) -- Shawn Marion and the Phoenix Suns present problems for NBA teams in general and the Houston Rockets in particular.
Marion collected 30 points and 18 rebounds as the Suns won their seventh straight game, a 111-94 triumph over the Rockets.
"Against that team, we're at a quickness disadvantage, so it makes it look like an effort disadvantage, when it truly is a quickness thing," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
All-Star Yao Ming, who was held to six points in the blowout loss to Phoenix earlier this month, was determined to end Houston's woes against the Pacific Division leaders as he scored 11 of his 27 points in the opening quarter. Houston used a 13-2 burst to grab a 25-13 advantage, its first lead against Phoenix this season.
"It's very difficult for (the Rockets) to adjust to our style of play," Suns guard Steve Nash said. "We try not to let them get the ball inside to Yao (Ming). Yao is a huge disadvantage for us, but we also tend to wear him down with our style of play. It's a big adjustment for (the Rockets)."
The Suns responded in the second period as Nash, who handed out 10 assists, scored six of his 23 points during a 17-5 charge that closed the half and gave Phoenix a 52-49 advantage.
Juwan Howard, who scored 19 points, gave Houston a 64-60 lead with a jumper with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter.
Also an All-Star, Marion scored 23 points in the second half, including 10 during a decisive 22-8 run to close the third quarter. He scored the final eight Suns' points of the period and opened the fourth quarter with their first four.
"We just opened up the gates, kicked our turbos in and we went on full charge," Marion said. "After we closed the first half, we got a feel for the game and attacked them and played our game in the second half. We stayed active and made them shoot jumpers and they were missing their shots."
"When we were missing shots, they were pushing the ball in transition," Yao said. "They weren't like our other opponents who would slow the ball down. Our energy went down, and we lost our concentration on their transition game. We didn't keep our bodies on their bodies to prevent them from getting open shots."
In his last three games, Marion is averaging 35.0 points. His teammates are nearing a loss of words for describing the athletic forward.
"(Marion) is playing unbelievably well," Nash said. "He scores, he rebounds, he blocks shots and also does a great job defensively for us. He's amazing. He fills all the gaps for us."
Marion credited his team's unselfishness as the key to his recent surge.
"The team is looking for me," he said. "We've been able to get it going earlier. We're making the extra pass, and a lot of the times the last pass goes to me."
"(Marion) has turned it up to a level that very few guys in this league have played at," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Van Gundy admitted that Marion created matchup problems on both ends of the floor.
"(Marion) is quicker than us," he said. "He rebounds the ball exceedingly well. He's a higher energy and effort player than anyone at his position in the league. He's also disruptive defensively."
Tracy McGrady continued his struggles as he was limited to just 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting for the Rockets, who never threatened in the final period as their three-game winning streak came to an end.
McGrady, who finished with just one rebound and no free throws, left the arena without speaking to reporters for the second time this month.
"When you play McGrady, he's got a tendency where once he gets going, you can't stop him," Marion said. "When you've got a player like that, you want to play him hard and contest his shots. I was denying him. Raja (Bell) was denying him. We made it tough for him. You don't just give him a steady diet of what he likes."