PHOENIX – Yao Ming had 31 points and 13 rebounds, helping the Houston Rockets beat the Phoenix Suns 100-94 Wednesday night for their third straight victory.

Yao was impressive throughout – shooting 12-for-19 from the floor on an assortment of shots, including turnarounds, jump hooks and stuffs. He scored eight of the Rockets’ last 13 points as Houston staved off a Phoenix comeback in the closing minutes.

Tracy McGrady added 18 points and Rafer Alston 15 for the Rockets, who have put together their winning streak after losing six in a row.

Steve Nash topped Phoenix with 29 points and six assists – ending his streak of at least 10 assists at eight games. Amare Stoudemire scored 25 points for the Suns and Shawn Marion had 18.

The Suns, who trailed by as many as eight points in the final period, closed to 96-94, on Nash’s jumper with 50 seconds left, but Steve Francis scored on a drive and Alston hit a layup for the final score.

Fueled by the little-used Francis, the Rockets overcame a 28-27 first-quarter deficit and took an 11-point lead midway through the second period. Francis, who did not play in 11 of Houston’s first 15 games because of coach Rick Adelman’s decision, led a 19-7 run in the opening 5:43 of the quarter to give Houston a 46-35 advantage. During that span, Francis had seven points, three assists and one steal.

The Suns narrowed the deficit to 56-52 at halftime with the help of Marion’s seven points and two 3-pointers by Nash in the final 4:47.

Yao, meanwhile, was dominating. He had 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, and six rebounds in the first half. In the first period, he showed his versatility by scoring on a fast-break dunk, then a left-handed hook.

Nash led the Suns at halftime with 18 points, including 3-of-4 on 3s.

The first period was marked by 10 lead changes and eight ties. In that time, Yao and McGrady nearly accounted for all of the Rockets’ offense, taking 15 of the team’s 20 shots and scoring 22 of the 27 points.

The third quarter was marred by turnovers and poor shooting, with each team scoring only 19 points. At the end, Houston led 77-73. After the Suns briefly regained the lead in the period, 64-63, Houston ran off eight straight point for a 71-64 advantage.

Notes: Before the game, the Suns assigned rookie forward Alando Tucker to the Albuquerque Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League. … The Suns’ Leandro Barbosa celebrated his 25th birthday Wednesday. … Nash extended his free throw streak to 44 consecutive makes by hitting all four of his foul shot attempts. … The loss ended the Suns’ five-game home winning streak.

AP-ES-11-28-07 2332EST


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