Saturday, March 07, 2009
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Brooks' career night carries Rockets

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[March 07, 2009]  HOUSTON (AP) -- Aaron Brooks scored a career-high 30 points and drove past Shaquille O'Neal for the winning basket in the Houston Rockets' 116-112 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Ron Artest added 21 points and Yao Ming had 15 points, 13 rebounds and a season-high six assists for the Rockets, who've won 11 straight home games.

Steve Nash shook off a poor first half to score a season-high 32 points and O'Neal scored 17 points on his 37th birthday for the Suns.

The Rockets led most of the way, but Nash made his fourth 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to tie it at 112.

With the shot clock running down for the Rockets, Yao set a high screen for the 6-foot Brooks, who beat O'Neal to the basket with an underhanded layup with 7.3 seconds left.

Nash missed a 3-pointer off the front of the rim on the Suns' final play. Artest rebounded and made two free throws with 0.3 seconds left.

The Suns have lost four straight road games and slipped three games behind Dallas in the race for the No. 8 playoff spot in the West. The Rockets moved ahead of New Orleans for fourth place in the conference.

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Before Brooks and Nash dueled in the second half, the talk before the game was the matchup between Yao and O'Neal.

Yao blocked O'Neal's first shot 20 seconds into the game, but Luis Scola carried Houston early, grabbing five rebounds and scoring eight points in the first 8 minutes.

Robin Lopez replaced O'Neal with 4:36 left in the first quarter and Yao blocked Lopez's first shot, part of the Suns' 3-for-14 start.

The Rockets led 23-18 after the first quarter, and Nash and Leandro Barbosa made 3-pointers early in the second quarter to give the Suns their first lead, while O'Neal struggled. He missed 4 of his first 6 shots and lost the ball to 6-foot Kyle Lowry.

O'Neal sent Yao to the floor on an offensive rebound and dunked to cut Houston's lead to 37-34, but the Rockets answered with a 7-0 burst to stretch the lead to 10.

Nash had a worse first half than O'Neal, going 1-for-10 from the field, and Houston led 56-46 at the break.

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With O'Neal setting screens for him early in the third quarter, Nash scored 13 points to help the Suns cut the deficit to three. Louis Amundson finished a fast break with a layup and drove for another basket to tie it at 75-all.

The Rockets led 81-76 after three quarters, and O'Neal and Yao were back in the game for the start of the fourth.

O'Neal went out for a rest with 7:41 left and Houston ahead 89-82. The Suns double-teamed Yao with O'Neal on the bench, and he found Carl Landry open for a dunk for his sixth assist.

The Rockets led 94-88 when O'Neal returned near the 6-minute mark. But the game turned into a 3-point shooting duel, with 3s by Nash and Matt Barnes matched by Brooks and Artest to keep the Rockets ahead by six.

Notes:@ The Suns went 12-for-28 from 3-point range, the most makes by a Houston opponent this season. ... Scola had 15 points and 11 rebounds. He has nine double-doubles in his past 11 games. ... Suns coach Alvin Gentry presented O'Neal with a chocolate birthday cake after Friday morning's shootaround. Goran Dragic then sang "Happy Birthday" in his native Slovenian. ... Barbosa scored 24 for the Suns.

[Associated Press; By CHRIS DUNCAN]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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