Stephon Marbury played the second half of New York's loss to Phoenix on Sunday night unaware his father had been taken to a hospital, where he died before the game ended.

Don Marbury, 66, was taken from Madison Square Garden to St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center during halftime, reportedly because of chest pains, but a family member advised a Knicks official not to inform Stephon Marbury at the time.

Stephon Marbury learned of his father's death from a family friend minutes after the game.

"It's a terrible thing that happened to him and his family last night," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said yesterday after practice. "For any parent watching their son or daughter perform, and to have something like that happen, anyone who has kids would sympathize with the son and you also sympathize with the family."

Thomas seemed a bit emotional while speaking for less than 5 minutes, and wouldn't discuss how long Stephon Marbury would be gone. Last month, forward Zach Randolph missed three games following the death of his grandmother.

"We as a family, the Knicks family, we'll give him all the support and try to be there for him and his family through this terrible time," Thomas said. "We just went through it with Zach and his family."

Marbury has endured an especially difficult time, on and off the court. He has been booed at home since skipping a game in Phoenix following a clash with Thomas, and an aunt died last month.

The Knicks play tomorrow in New Jersey, without a clear solution at point guard if Marbury hasn't returned. Reserve Mardy Collins didn't play Sunday because of a sprained left ankle, and Thomas hasn't used Nate Robinson in either of the last two games.

"We'll continue to remain strong within the team and stay together," Thomas said.


* Tim Duncan most likely will miss no more than a few games after injuring his ankle and knee. The Spurs star was hurt against Portland on Sunday, and the team said his MRI exam came back negative.

In games last night:

* At Salt Lake City, Mehmet Okur scored 25 points as Utah defeated Miami, 110-101. Also, the Jazz reached an agreement with coach Jerry Sloan, 65, on a 1-year contract extension that will keep him with Utah through the 2009 season.

* At Memphis, Travis Outlaw scored 21 points, including the winning 6-foot runner as the buzzer sounded, to give the Portland Trail Blazers their first road victory of the season, 106-105 over the Grizzlies.

* At Toronto, Kris Humphries and Carlos Delfino each scored 17 points, Joey Graham added 13 and the Raptors shrugged off injuries to three top players to beat the Charlotte Bobcats, 98-79. The Raptors were without forwards Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani and guard T.J. Ford.

* At Chicago, Josh Howard scored 27 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 25 and the Dallas Mavericks hung on to beat the Bulls, 103-98. *