Nash, Suns take advantage of Rockets without McGradyJan 18, 2007 - 6:02 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Without Tracy McGrady, the Houston Rockets could not stop Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns.
Nash collected 21 points and 14 assists and Raja Bell scored nine points in a decisive fourth-quarter run as the red-hot Suns posted a 100-91 victory over the Rockets.
Amare Stoudemire had 22 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix, which shot 17-of-34 from the arc to extend their winning streak to 11 games. After going on a franchise-record 15-game run last month, the Suns now have won a remarkable 27 out of 29.
"This was a big win for us and the run we are on right now just continues to build confidence in the players," Stoudemire said. "We know what we're capable of, but we have to finish, and we were able to do that. We just have to stay focused and try to continue this streak that we're on."
McGrady, who scored 45 points in Tuesday's loss at Dallas, was sidelined with back spasms. The superstar swingman missed seven games earlier this season with the same balky back. With star center Yao Ming already out, the shorthanded Rockets now are 1-9 with both stars not playing in the same game.
"You still have to go out there and play," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That is the reason I don't want to take anything away from what they did. We got down by 15 points in the first half before we got things going."
Winner of the last two MVP awards, Nash entered Wednesday's contest averaging 19.5 points and 11.3 assists, his best season to date. He continued his stellar play, shooting 8-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers, while orchestrating Phoenix's remarkable high-powered attack.
"It was tough. They played us really hard and we were sluggish, especially early on," Nash said. "I think everyone was down a little bit mentally knowing that Yao and McGrady were out and we knew they had to play at Dallas (Tuesday). But we still just wanted to get the win, even though they made it really hard for us."
After Houston guard Bonzi Wells' layup made it 79-77 just 20 seconds into the fourth quarter, Bell took over. The 6-5 guard, known for his defense, went on a personal run to make it 88-82 with 7:13 left. Houston did not get any closer.
"The flow of the game was weird, but I made enough shots to make it count," Bell said. "(The Rockets) played (Tuesday), and we knew that coming in, but they played us really hard all night long."
Bell shot 5-of-13 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from the arc. But despite the sluggish start, Nash pointed to timely offense as a catalyst for success.
"We made some really big threes in the game, especially early in the fourth when Raja got hot," Nash said. "We got hot at the right time and tonight we really needed it.
Rafer Alston tied a career high with 29 points for the Rockets, who shot just 39 percent (35-of-89).
"I tried to set a tone. I tried to give us that spark, that boost early," Alston said. "I knew that I was going to be able to get into the lane and get free shots. If I can hit a few to get us rolling, then that would help our team."
HOUSTON 91 FINAL
Jan 17 10:46 PM
HOUSTON 75 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 17 10:17 PM
HOUSTON 51 HALFTIME
Jan 17 9:36 PM
END 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
PHOENIX 19 19
HOUSTON 28 28 END 1ST QTR
HIGH SCORERS AFTER 1ST QUARTER
PHO - STEVE NASH 6, RAJA BELL 6, AMARE
HOU - RAFER ALSTON 11, LUTHER HEAD 8, SHANE
Jan 17 9:06 PM
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