Marbury leaves team. Knicks lose anyway
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L
102
113
New York @ Phoenix
102 - 113
Record: 2-4
4 points and 4 rebs for Balkman (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
4 points and 4 rebs for Balkman (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
PHOENIX (AP) - Stephon Marbury went missing, two other starters were out. No way the New York Knicks would be able to stay with the Phoenix Suns .

But Tuesday night's game was not an embarrassment, just a 113-102 victory for Phoenix.

"Even with your full team and your best team, it's still hard to come into this building and play against this team and get a win," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "But there were some good things I saw, some very positive things."

Marbury abruptly left the team earlier in the day and reportedly returned to New York as the Knicks opened a four-game road trip. The team was left to carry on.

"Everybody doesn't really know what happened, so it's kind of tough to pass judgment on him," Eddy Curry said. "We're going to continue to fight without him. Of course we'd love to have him back, but until then, we've just got to keep playing."

Phoenix had four starters with at least 21 points, but that wasn't good enough for Suns coach Mike D'Antoni.

"I'm not real impressed," D'Antoni said. "We're OK. We should have had more energy. We should have played harder, and the crowd's worse than we are. I mean, they're deader than we are."

Was it tough to get motivated to play such a depleted team?

"It might have been, but you know what, that's no excuse," D'Antoni said. "I mean, we're a professional team. We should come out and play as hard as we can play and get off the floor and get better. We have to understand what we want this year, where we want to go and how hard it is to get there."

Amare Stoudemire had his best night since his arthroscopic knee surgery six weeks ago with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

Shawn Marion scored 23 points and Grant Hill 21, his most in his eight games with Phoenix. Hill was 7-for-8 from the field, 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. Leandro Barbosa , starting in place of injured Raja Bell , added 23 for the Suns, who shot 56 percent and won their third in a row.

Steve Nash didn't get his first field goal until 10:04 remained in the game. He finished with five points and 12 assists.

Phoenix led by as many as 17 in the second quarter, 19 in the third and 21 in the fourth.

In addition to Marbury, New York was without Quentin Richardson (hyperextended right elbow) and Zach Randolph (death of his grandmother), then lost Marbury's replacement, Mardy Collins , with a mild sprain of his right foot six minutes into the game.

Jamal Crawford , one of the remaining New York starters, scored 21. Fred Jones added 19 and Nate Robinson 18. Curry scored 17 before fouling out with 7:45 to play.

WNBC New York and The New York Post reported Marbury sent them messages to say he had Thomas' permission to leave the team.

"I would never leave my team on my own," Marbury told The Post. "What I'm telling you is that I got permission to leave from Isiah. He said I could go home."

Thomas would not confirm that he allowed Marbury to leave. The Knicks' coach avoided the subject altogether in his meeting with reporters before the game.

Stoudemire had sat out three games with swelling in his right knee, the result of the surgery, and had played just 21 1/2 minutes combined in his first two games back. But he was lively and on target from the start on Tuesday. He scored 12 in the first quarter and 18, with nine rebounds, in the first half. He finished 8-for-14 from the field and 10-for-14 from the foul line.

"Since I've been back, that's definitely the strongest that I've felt," said Stoudemire, who missed the entire training camp and all but the last two preseason games. "It's just a matter of improving, try to get more workouts in and try to get in better shape slowly but surely."

Phoenix was up 62-45 after Stoudemire's fadeaway 13-footer with 1:36 left in the half, but the Knicks finished the quarter with a 7-1 run. Marion's 3-pointer put the Suns up 76-58 with 6:51 left in the third, and Phoenix led 85-66 after Boris Diaw 's soft over-the-shoulder pass to Marion for a dunk.

Notes: Bell missed his second game in a row with a sprained right ankle. ... Richardson has not played in Phoenix since he was traded to the Knicks after the 2004-05 season. ... New York last won in Phoenix on Feb. 13, 2003. Marbury, then with the Suns, scored 43 points in that game. ... The Knicks' Jared Jeffries made his first regular-season appearance. He had been sidelined with a sprained right ACL and bone bruise.

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