The winning streak is snapped.
After 15 straight losses, the Rockets were on a roll, having won .... well, one game, but this year for Houston that's a dominating stretch. Regardless, it's back to losing after Stephon Marbury and the Phoenix Suns beat the Rockets 97-91 in the Compaq Center Wednesday night.
The loss drops the Rockets record to 8-21, currently half-game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the worst record in the Western Conference.
Marbury was just too damn strong in the final 4-5 minutes.... he scored 11 of his 33 points in that span, hitting 10-21 from the field for the game and 13-14 from the charity stripe.
"He played a heck of a game," said Cuttino Mobley.
Cuttino would know... he played a heck of a game as well. Mobley matched Marbury's output with 33 points, hitting 13-27 shots and 3-9 from long range. The Suns threw Dan Majerle on him late, which slowed Mobley (though I think Majerle got a little too much credit). Majerle just got up in his face and swiped like crazy at the ball.... you could tell it flustered Cuttino, who took it as a challenge, missing 6 of his last 8 shots.
Up to that point, Cuttino was smoking hot... he scored almost half (16) of his points in the third quarter alone.
The other piece of good news: Eddie Griffin is starting to get this league down. While he did not shoot well (8-21 from the floor), Griffin came up with another strong night, scoring 19, grabbing a game-high 13 boards (no other player on either team had more than 7) and blocking 3 shots in his third straight start.
The bad news? Terence Morris got his first ever NBA start, ahead of Walt Williams and Oscar Torres, and Morris did not shoot well at all. The rookie out of Maryland clanged 8 of his 9 shots, finishing with just 2 points (though he grabbed 7 boards) in 31 minutes. I still applaud Rudy T in this instance for taking a chance starting Morris.
Kenny Thomas returned to action from a groin injury, and finished with 13 points and 6 boards in 27 minutes. Torres came off the bench and scored 9 points on 4-7 in 15 minutes, but couldn't handle a hot pass from Mobley late. Moochie Norris added 6 points and 9 assists.
The Rockets were stung badly at the free throw line, making just 13-20. The offense at times was really bad... I can't understand Rudy's reasoning for Moochie and Mobley standing out at the wing, staring down their defenders, and wasting 22 seconds off a 24-second shot clock in the process. Even Bill Worrell and Calvin Murphy, who will pull the positives out of a 50-point blowout, were blasting the lack of ball movement for the Rocks.
The best news? Steve Francis comes back on Friday. Though a huge boost, it's not going to change these offensive sets much.
Thanks to 8 points by Mobley in the first, the Rockets took a 20-15 edge in to the second period.
But they couldn't contain Stephon Marbury at all in the second period. He sparked a 32-point explosion for the Suns in the second, and at halftime Phoenix led 47-44.
Marbury had 17 to lead the Suns. Cuttino Mobley led the Rocks with 10, Oscar Torres 9 and Kenny Thomas added 8.
After Mobley scored three straight buckets early in the third, the Rockets took a 50-49 edge with 10:14 to go. But Phoenix countered with a 6-0 run to boost the lead back up to 5.
Phoenix kept the lead the rest of the third, despite a huge quarter by Mobley. He finished with 16 points in the third quarter alone, giving him 26 for the night. Heading in to the fourth: Phoenix 71, Houston 67.
When Mobley nailed a three, then Moochie found Griffin underneath for a sweet reverse jam, the Rockets regained the lead 74-73 and the crowd was roaring!
Phoenix scored 5 quick points, capped by a Rodney Rogers triple, and after KT hit 1-2 free throws, Bo Outlaw scored and got fouled (missed the free throw), and the Rockets trailed 80-75.
Griffin then nailed a bomb to trim it to 80-78 and after a few misses for both teams, KT made two free throws to make it 80 all.
When Marbury converted a three-point play the Suns were back up 3 at 85-82. Dan Majerle was starting to get in Mobley's head with ball-swiping defense, and you could tell Cuttino was taking it personal, but with 2:41 left he beat Majerle to make it 85-84 Suns.
Cat then stole the ball, then got fouled, making both free throws to give the Rocks an 86-85 lead with 2:20 left.
Majerle then missed two three-pointers, with the Suns getting the offensive board each time, then Marbury drove and scored. After a costly turnover by the Rockets (Cuttino made a blazing fast pass to Torres), Marbury made an acrobatic layup over Griffin with 1:21 to go to make it 89-86 Suns.
After working the ball around, Griffin badly missed a three (way long), and Rodney Rogers on the other end drained a back-breaking triple to make it 92-86 Suns with just over 50 ticks left.
Cato was fouled and made both free throws, but the Rockets immediately fouled Marbury and he made both his charity shots with 36.6 seconds left. Timeout Rockets.
Griffin immediately hit a three to make it 94-91, and Marbury was fouled, making both. When Cuttino missed a three on the other end, that had about sealed it.