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Suns get needed lift from rookie

©Associated Press

December 30, 2002

CLEVELAND -- Amare Stoudemire played with the intensity of a hyperactive high schooler and the physical presence of a polished professional.

The 20-year-old rookie made up for the absence of leading scorer Shawn Marion with 19 points and 13 rebounds to lead the surging Suns 103-84 over the Cavaliers on Sunday night.

Stoudemire dominated inside with an active game that had Cleveland defenders reaching and fouling in an effort to stop him. The 6-8 forward, drafted in the first round out of high school, hit a career-best 11 of 15 free throws as Phoenix won its fifth straight and ninth in its past 10.

"We're always talking about him, saying, 'Man, did you see that?' " said Suns guard Anfernee Hardaway, who scored 16.

"He's got unbelievable talent and a chance to be outstanding," said Cavs guard Milt Palacio, who played with Stoudemire in summer league before being dealt to Cleveland by the Suns in September. "He's quick, strong and hustles. That's a dangerous combination."

Marion, averaging 20.4 points and a team-high 9.8 rebounds, has a sprained left ankle. He was injured Friday night in a win over the Clippers and is questionable tonight in Minnesota.

Ricky Davis scored 15 to lead the Cavaliers, who have lost six of seven to fall to a league-worst 6-26.

"Without Marion, this was a winnable game for us," Cavs coach John Lucas said. "But we have to come out with more urgency. We have to defend like we did in the second half."

Rookie Casey Jacobsen, getting increased playing time because of Marion's injury, had 14 points. The Suns led by more than 10 most of the game.

ROCKETS 97, HORNETS 85: Cuttino Mobley scored 12 of his 24 in the fourth as host Houston recovered from a seven-point third quarter. The third matched the lowest scoring for the Rockets, tying a Nov. 15, 1991, mark against the Lakers.

Jamal Mashburn scored 25 for New Orleans, which dropped its fourth straight. The Hornets scored 12 straight to open the second half, and New Orleans' 24-7 advantage in the third made it 67-59 entering the fourth.

LAKERS 104, RAPTORS 88: Shaquille O'Neal scored 35 on 14-of-18 shooting as host Los Angeles won its second straight. Kobe Bryant, playing with a slightly sprained right wrist, had 13 points and 12 assists. Morris Peterson scored 18 for Toronto, which lost its season-high sixth straight.

MAGIC: Forward Grant Hill might need 1-2 weeks rest because of tendinitis in his surgically repaired ankle, the Orlando Sentinel reported. He is expected to consult with doctors by phone today to see if an extended rest is the best solution.

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