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Nash Gets Hot, Suns Cool Rockets 102-91
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A blown 22-point lead wasn't enough to prevent the Phoenix Suns from winning their fifth in a row.

Steve Nash broke out of a bad shooting night with eight points in a 19-5 fourth-quarter run and the Suns regrouped to beat the Houston Rockets 102-91 on Wednesday night.

Amare Stoudemire had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Suns, who dominated the boards 55-36. Raja Bell scored 20, Nash 17 and Leandro Barbosa 14 as Phoenix snapped the Rockets' four-game winning streak. Shawn Marion had 13 points and 12 boards.

Tracy McGrady, guarded mostly by Marion, scored 23 points on 9-for-26 shooting for the Rockets. Yao Ming added 18 and Rafer Alston 16 points for Houston.

"We weren't clicking. We didn't have it going," Nash said, "so in some ways I was proud of us for sticking with it, because this wasn't one of those nights when things were flowing."

The Suns blew a 22-point first-half lead, then pulled away after Houston went up 74-72 on McGrady's 18-footer with 9:21 to play.

Nash, 2-for-11 until that point, put Phoenix back ahead with a 3-pointer, then made a 22-footer to make it 77-74 with 8:34 left.

Chuck Hayes' basket cut the lead to 77-76, but the Suns outscored the Rockets 14-3 over the next four minutes. Barbosa, back after missing two games with a sprained left ankle, made his third layup against Yao of the night, then Nash's 3-pointer put Phoenix ahead 91-79 with 4:11 to go.

"It says something about your team to give up a lead and be able to come back and win the game," Bell said.

Down 17 at the break, the Rockets started the second half with a 16-3 surge. Luther Head and Alston sank 3-pointers to cut Phoenix's lead to 60-56 with 5:19 left in the third quarter.

The Suns were 1-for-10 with six turnovers to that point in the quarter.

"We just went dead offensively in the third quarter," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "For whatever reason, we just have that habit of losing our concentration a little bit and we went dead. If we score a normal third quarter of 25 points, we beat them by 20. That's what the game should have been, but it's not bad to suffer a little."

McGrady, 4-for-18 through three quarters, tied it at 72 with a 3-pointer, then gave Houston the lead, 74-72, with an 18-footer with 9:21 to play. Other than 2-0, it was the only lead of the night for the Rockets.

"We didn't guard anybody in the fourth quarter," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We had a hard time with their pick-and-roll game again."

Houston made just four of its first 19 shots in the second quarter, and the Suns led 55-33 after Stoudemire's two free throws with 1:36 left in the half. But the Rockets finished the half with a 7-2 spurt to cut the lead to 57-40 at the break.

Yao had five points in 12 minutes and went to the bench with his third foul with 8:15 to go in the half. He drew his fourth in the opening minutes of the second half but stayed on the court and scored 13 in the quarter.

"You can't go through droughts like we did in the first half and expect to win too many games here," Houston's Shane Battier said. "But with the droughts we had, we still had a shot."

(China Daily via AP December 1, 2006)

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