Phoenix 94, Detroit 91

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AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN (TICKER) Stephon Marbury was the best player in what his coach deemed the Phoenix Suns’ best game of the season.

Marbury scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter as the Suns held on for a 94-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Marbury’s two free throws erased a one-point deficit and gave the Suns the lead for good, 84-83, with 4:41 left. He added a hook shot a little more than a minute later and assisted on Penny Hardaway’s layup that pushed the advantage to 88-85 with 2:08 to go.

Richard Hamilton’s jumper pulled the Pistons within one point, but Marbury answered with a 3-pointer - Phoenix’s only shot from behind the arc - with 1:23 remaining.

“Biggest win of the year for us, without a doubt,” Suns coach Frank Johnson said. “The biggest basket is Steph’s three when we were up one, then we were able to come down and get a stop.”

Hamtilon made another jumper to cut the deficit to 91-89 with 28 seconds to play before Jake Voskuhl made 1-of-2 free throws with 10 seconds to go. After a timeout, Chauncey Billups rushed a 3-point attempt with about seven seconds left, producing an off-balanced leaner that went off the backboard.

“We drew up a play, we knew they had a foul to give, and I felt that they were going to take the foul,” Billups said. “We drew up actually two plays, one just to get it in and they were going to foul and then another different play. We got it in and I went and tried to get the foul. But I guess not. Got the shot up anyway and that shot really had no chance. It would have had a chance if I didn’t get fouled.”

Billups drained a 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds remaining in overtime to beat Atlanta on Wednesday.

“I knew he was going to take a three,” Marbury said. “We’ve been playing against each other since we were 13 years old. Previously, he’s been making game-winners so you kind of know that he’s in that mode and he has the green light to do it.”

Shawn Marion converted two free throws to seal the win before Detroit’s Jon Barry went in for a layup before the buzzer.

“This was a big victory tonight,” said Marbury, who shot 10-of-19 from the field, dished out nine assists and grabbed seven rebounds. “We didn’t lose our poise, we kept playing hard, we made some key defensive stops, so all of those things factored in. Every play that we made tonight was huge for us.”

According to the Pistons, it seemed as if every huge play for the Suns was made by Marbury.

“He’s tough,” Barry said. “His ability to get in the lane really makes it happen for them. Then he pulls up for that three, it was really a crucial shot, I think with a minute to go, put them up four.”

“He’s a good player,” agreed Pistons center Cliff Robinson. “He’s not going to give up his dribble. He’s going to stay aggressive with the ball and try to make plays. He was able to get in there and collapse the defense and make a few plays. That was the difference in the game.”

Marion finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Bo Outlaw recorded a season-high 17 points for the Suns, who took a one-game lead over Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They also equaled their road win total of last season with 13.

“All of these games are getting us ready for what’s going to happen the rest of the way, especially the young guys,” Outlaw said. “It’s going to be like this every night. We know we can’t take any game off.”

Billups scored 23 points and Ben Wallace had 13 and 16 rebounds as Detroit had a its lead over New Jersey for the best record in the Eastern Conference trimmed to 1 1/2 games.

The Pistons, who had a three-game home winning streak snapped, also saw their lead over the second-place Indiana Pacers in the Central Division shrink to 3 1/2 games.

“It’s disappointing, man,” Billups said. “That team came in here fighting for their lives right now, for a playoff spot. They came in and played hard and we were just matching, taking turns matching shots early in the game and that’s not the way we play. That’s just not the way that we’ve gotten the record that we have now, is trading baskets. We’ve got to get away from that.”

Both teams squandered double-digit leads.

Detroit jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first three minutes, but Phoenix was able to cut its deficit to 33-32 heading into the second quarter.

The Suns opened their largest cushion, 56-45, on a dunk by Marion with 55 seconds remaining in the half.

“In the first half we had the game where we wanted it,” Johnson said. “We wanted an up-and-down game. We got back into it after they made their run because we started to get stops and making some easy buckets.”

But the Pistons got back into the game and reclaimed the lead, 79-78, on Wallace’s layup with 7:31 to go.

“The bottom line is it’s hard to get yourselves in situations where you’ve got to make heroic plays at the end of games constantly,” Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. “The answer for us is going to have to be to tighten up defensively and not put ourselves behind the eight-ball like that where we’re constantly fighting back for the entire game on our home court. It’s just too tough.”

Phoenix shot 53 percent (37-of-70) from the field. It held a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint but surrendered 20 points on 18 turnovers.

Hamilton had 20 points and Robinson added 11 for Detroit, which shot 43 percent (34-of-79), including 8-of-26 from the arc.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
S. Marbury S. Marbury
10-19,  26 Pts
7 Rebs, 9 Assists
C. Billups C. Billups
7-18,  23 Pts
2 Rebs, 6 Assists

Team Stat Leaders