HOUSTON (AP) -- Yao Ming scored 20 points as the Houston Rockets
beat the Phoenix Suns 85-75 Sunday night, taking the season series
3-1 and earning the tiebreaker between the two teams jockeying for
eighth place in the West.
Houston (35-30) took a one-game lead in the standings, but the
tiebreaker means the Rockets would advance even if they finish tied
with the Suns (34-31).
The Rockets improved their longest winning streak since the
1999-2000 season to five games. The Suns have lost three of four.
Houston rode a near-perfect second quarter to a 55-27 halftime
lead, then held off a rally. Led by their guard tandem of Stephon
Marbury and Anfernee Hardaway, the Suns closed the third quarter
with an 18-3 run to whittle Houston's lead to nine.
Hardaway cut the Rockets' lead to 70-64 before Yao took control,
scoring three of Houston's next four baskets -- including an
emphatic breakaway dunk and a 17-foot baseline jump shot..
Marbury, who led Phoenix with 19, helped the Suns keep pace, but
the clock killed any comeback aspirations.
The mood was dampened somewhat with word that Rockets coach Rudy
Tomjanovich would miss the team's game at Seattle on Tuesday as he
undergoes testing for a bladder condition. He said he expected to
rejoin the Rockets as they continue a five-game West Coach swing.
Cuttino Mobley and Glen Rice each had 13 points for Houston, and
Mobley had seven assists. Hardaway scored 17 for Phoenix.
When Mobley tied the game at 19 with a jump shot near the end of
the first period, it began a 38-12 Rockets run through the rest of
Every Houston option was working. Yao worked the inside for 11
first-half points and four fouls on opposing center Jake
Tsakalidis, while Glen Rice hit for 13 points, including three
Houston racked up assists on 18 of its 23 first-half buckets,
spread across the lineup, with just three turnovers. The Suns had
just five assists and lost the ball seven times.
Late in the first quarter, Marbury appeared to hurt his right
hand on a foul by Steve Francis. Shaking the hand at the free throw
line, he didn't come close to the rim on the first try, then banked
the second attempt off the top half of the backboard.
Marbury came out of the game briefly, then returned without
showing any more ill effects.
Yao accepted the NBA Rookie of the Month trophy for
February, his second such award this season. ... Rice's three
3-pointers give him 1,526 for his career, leaving him three behind
Tim Hardaway for third-place in NBA history. ... Yao had four
blocks. The Rockets improved to 19-4 in games in which the rookie
blocks at least three.