Marion scores career-high 44 as Suns beat Celts

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns rarely run a play for Shawn
Marion. On Wednesday night, they ran two for him and he didn't
score on either.

Marion didn't miss many other shots and scored a career-high 44
points and grabbed 15 rebounds, carrying the Phoenix Suns to a
103-94 victory over the Boston Celtics for their fifth consecutive
win -- the longest current streak in the NBA.

"I got all my points on passes from my teammates or on great
opportunities," Marion said. "My teammates looked for me early.
Everybody was making the extra pass. I was the beneficiary of
getting open shots in the corner."

By winning for the eighth time in nine games, the Suns increased
their Pacific Division lead to a season-high six games over the Los
Angeles Clippers, who lost their fifth straight, 106-102, to the
Houston Rockets.

"I just did what I could do," Marion said. "I had it going."

In surpassing his previous high of 39 points against the New
York Knicks last month in a triple-overtime game, Marion hit 14 of
21 field goals, including four 3-pointers in seven attempts, and
all 10 of his free throws.

"Basically, he had us on our back," teammate Eddie House said.
"He carried us ... he brought us home."

Boris Diaw added 21 points and nine rebounds for the Suns, who
scored at least 100 points for the 16th consecutive game. Raja Bell
had 15 points and Kurt Thomas pulled down 13 rebounds.

"Boris had a great game, but was a little overshadowed by
Shawn's performance," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Delonte West led the Celtics with a career-high 30 points, Paul
Pierce scored 20 and rookie Gerald Green had 13 points and nine

Raef LaFrentz grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds, and Ryan Gomes
a season-best 10 boards.

Not only did Marion play well offensively, he also forced Pierce
-- who had scored 50 points in his previous game -- into an 8-for-28
shooting night.

"His defense on Pierce ... was incredible -- that was big-time
right there," D'Antoni said.

Marion had a brilliant first half, scoring 23 points -- the most
by any Phoenix player in a half this season. He grabbed six
rebounds, made two steals and blocked a shot in 19 minutes as the
Suns surged to a 53-44 lead.

Eighteen of Marion's points -- another season high for one period
for any Phoenix player this season -- came in the first quarter,
when he shot 6-of-7 from the field, including two 3-pointers, and
made all four free throws. He punctuated his performance with a
vicious slam dunk for the final basket of the period.

While Marion was shooting well, the rest of the team was not,
going 5-of-17 in the quarter. By the end of the game, House, Steve
Nash and Leandro Barbosa -- three of the Suns' guards -- shot a
combined 5-for-27. But the sizzling performance by the three-time
All-Star helped the Suns build a 31-24 lead after one period.

Diaw added 10 points and Thomas had nine rebounds by halftime.

Marion continued his torrid play in the third quarter, scoring
11 points for a total of 34, and corralled four more rebounds,
giving him 10 -- for his league-leading 41st double-double of the
season. He has scored in double figures in all 53 Suns games this
season. By the end of the quarter, Phoenix led 79-65.

But Boston, sparked by West, drew to 93-89 with about 4 minutes
remaining before the Suns held on.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers thought the turning point came with
8:09 remaining when Boston trailed 84-78. Then, Marion picked up a
loose ball, dunked it, was fouled, made the free throw -- and
Phoenix had a nine-point lead.

"Marion hurt us with a lot of effort buckets," Rivers said.
"He out-quicked us to the ball ... they just ssem to go his way."

"We were about a shot and a half away," West said. "We're
definitely not walking out of here with our heads down."

Game notes
The Suns wore their throwback uniforms to celebrate the
30th anniversary of their 1976 NBA championship series against the
Celtics. ... G Wally Szczerbiak (bruised left knee), C Kendrick
Perkins (dislocated left shoulder) and F Al Jefferson (sprained
right ankle) did not play for the Celtics. James Jones (sprained
right wrist) sat out for the Suns. ... Pierce is the only NBA
player to lead his team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals
per game. ... Phoenix is the only NBA team with seven players
averaging in double figures.