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Yao pours in 31 as Rockets top Suns

Nov 29, 2007 - 5:54 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- With a little help from "The Franchise," Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets set the Phoenix Suns.

Yao scored 31 points and pulled down 13 rebounds and Steve Francis was sharp in a season-high 27 minutes as the Rockets pulled out a 100-94 win over the Suns on Wednesday.

Tracy McGrady, who averaged 35.5 points in his two previous outings, filled up the box score with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Houston, which has now won three straight after dropping six in a row.

Yao sparked the Rockets' offense with a 12-of-19 shooting spree, easily getting post position on the Suns' smaller interior defenders.

"The way we play against them we end up shooting a high field goal percentage," Yao said. "The last time we played the Suns we didn't have T-Mac out there so a lot of people would double-team me. With Tracy back they cannot do that. T-Mac opens things up and makes it easier inside."

Francis, who had appeared in just three of Houston's first 15 games, made his presence felt in the second quarter, scoring seven of his nine points on 3-of-4 shooting. "The Franchise" added seven assists and chipped in on the defensive end with a key block and steal late in the fourth quarter.

"I definitely was tired," Francis said. "That was the longest I played since last season. We needed to be aggressive, especially late, and go to the basket. I was able to get all ball. That is what I have done throughout my career is help teams finish games and tonight was a great one and we did a great job."

After Steve Nash nailed a jumper to pull the Suns to within 89-87 with 5:54 remaining, Shane Battier nailed a 3-pointer and Yao sunk a 16-foot jumper to push the lead back to 94-87 with 3:46 to play.

Phoenix refused to fold, needing just 41 seconds to pull back to within 94-92 on Nash's jumper.

After Yao and Nash traded baskets, Francis made a driving layup to give Houston a 98-94 lead with 29 seconds remaining and then stole the ball from Amare Stoudemire on the Suns' ensuing possession to seal the win.

"Having (Francis) out there, he is the guy that knows how to create and play the game, he knows how to get in the interior of the defense," McGrady said. "That was a pivotal bucket, then he made a great play defensively. One thing we did tonight that we usually don't in this building was keep our poise down the stretch and got some stops."

In a tightly contested first period where there were 10 lead changes and eight ties, Stoudemire's three-point play with 2.5 seconds left gave Phoenix a 28-27 lead after one.

Stoudemire and Nash combined for 19 points while McGrady and Yao had 22 of the Rockets' 27 points in that period.

Houston, which entered the contest allowing just 91.9 points per game - the best in the Western Conference - opened the second quarter with a 19-7 run to take a 46-35 lead.

The Rockets connected on 8-of-11 shots while forcing the Suns to shoot just 3-of-10 from the field.

Phoenix battled back and cut the gap to 56-52 at the half.

In the third, the Suns regained the lead at 66-63 at the 6:16 mark on two free throws by Stoudemire, but Houston came right back and scored the next eight points to take the lead for good, 71-66, with four minutes left in the quarter.

"We wanted to control the tempo," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "I think in the last game they had 31 fast-break points, tonight they had only 10. We are playing better offensively, but in the second half we were terrific defensively."

Houston held the Suns, who have the league's top offense, to a season-low 41 percent (34-of-82) shooting.

"We just weren't real sharp offensively and missed some shots," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They got 23 points in the fourth quarter and 21 in the third. If we can't score that many then there are going to be a lot of nights when we are not going to win."

Nash finished with 29 points and Stoudemire added 25 for Phoenix, which has lost two straight after an eight-game winning streak.

"We didn't get into our pace at all," Nash said. "We made some shots, probably didn't get enough shots and didn't push the ball up. We never got to our speed or our tempo and didn't have our regular spark."

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