Suns 96, Trail Blazers 92

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PHOENIX (AP)—The Phoenix Suns are gaining confidence, and the Portland Trail Blazers are fading fast.

Joe Johnson scored 25 points, including the go-ahead rebound basket with 18.1 seconds to play, and the Suns handed the Blazers their fifth loss in a row, 96-92 Sunday night.

Johnson, averaging 20 points per game since Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway were traded to New York, has scored 20, 26 and 25 points in his last three games as the Suns matched their season-long winning streak at three.

“I have great will and confidence right now,” Johnson said.

The Blazers have lost nine of 10, including two to Phoenix in a five-day span, and are 2-16 on the road. Coach Maurice Cheek’s voice cracked in his postgame interview, and he admitted he had been crying.

“Well, we had some shots down the stretch,” Cheeks said. “We just couldn’t finish those shots, just couldn’t convert, just couldn’t make them.”

Jeff McInnis, who had played all 38 previous games—26 as a starter, did not play as Cheeks went with Qyntel Woods as backup to starting point guard Damon Stoudamire. When someone noted that McInnis was upset after playing just 18 minutes against Dallas Saturday night, Cheeks had a blunt response.

“You know, we’ve lost nine out of 10 games so I can’t be trying to please guys who are unhappy about this or unhappy about that,” Cheeks said.

Shawn Marion had 22 points and 16 rebounds, and Leandro Barbosa scored 20 for the Suns but committed seven of the team’s 21 turnovers that resulted in 28 Portland points.

“We’re on a streak. Break us up,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni joked. “We didn’t play great in the sense of shooting, but I think we did other things.”

Zach Randolph scored 25 for the Blazers, on their longest losing streak in two seasons. Rasheed Wallace—still in a Portland uniform after trade talks with Dallas broke down—scored 19, but only six in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.

Portland led 92-90 after Randolph’s three-point play with 2:26 to go, but missed its last eight shots, four of them by Wallace. Overall, the Blazers missed 15 of their last 16 shots.

Marion’s rebound basket tied it at 92-all with 1:19 to play. Marion threw up an airball from 8 feet, but Johnson grabbed it and scored to put Phoenix up 94-92 with 18.1 seconds left. After Wallace missed a 12-footer, Marion sealed it with two free throws with 6.4 seconds to play.

Amare Stoudemire, who scored 16 for Phoenix, left the game with 4:41 to play after reinjuring his left ankle on a soaring block of Ruben Patterson’s fast-break dunk attempt. He did not make the team’s trip to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Monday night.

Patterson had blocked Stoudemire’s stuff try moments earlier. Stoudemire, who missed 18 games with a high ankle sprain before coming back eight days ago, stayed on the bench the rest of the way.

He said afterward that although he didn’t think the injury was serious, he would not be rushed back to the lineup.

“I can’t let nobody force me to come back and tell me that it’s OK when I know that it’s not,” he said. “I’m going to take my time and take it day to day, and go off my inner feeling.”

Wallace sank consecutive 3-pointers to put the Blazers up 45-41 with 4:07 left in the first half, and a 6-0 spurt gave Portland a 51-43 lead 1:41 before the break. Stoudemire’s stuff and Marion’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 51-48 at the half.

Marion had 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the first half. Wallace had 13 first-half points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 3-pointers.

Neither team led by more than four points in the third quarter, and theBlazers were up 74-71 entering the fourth.

Notes

Phoenix’s starting guards outscored their Portland counterparts 45-15. … The Suns had three players with at least 20 points for the third game in a row. Phoenix committed nine turnovers in the second quarter. … Barbosa has made 3-pointers in nine consecutive games. … After going 4-for-5 in the first half, Wallace made 2-of-12 in the second, 0-for-7 in the fourth quarter. …The Blazers also blew a late lead against Dallas on Saturday.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Portland
Z. Randolph Z. Randolph
8-20,  25 Pts
11 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Phoenix
S. Marion S. Marion
9-21,  22 Pts
16 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists