Houston Rockets 99, Phoenix Suns 81 -- As bad as it gets

Scola and the Rockets shut down Nash and the Suns. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Houston Rockets closed out the first quarter with a 17-6 run and never looked back in a sloppy, turnover-laden 99-81 victory over the Phoenix Suns at the Toyota Center in Houston.

Phoenix had its second-worst scoring output of the season Friday night, mustering only 81 points on 41 percent shooting. This was only slightly better than the 79 points they managed in a victory over Boston 14 days ago. After scoring a season-high 120 points against New Orleans on Wednesday, the Suns couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn against a Rockets team that gave up 120 to Minnesota on Monday night.

The Rockets had three starters and four bench players score in double figures. Houston is a roster full of guys playing hard to earn minutes, and it showed. Their bench outscored the Suns’ starters 50-47.

Former Arizona Wildcat Chase Budinger had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Courtney Lee and Patrick Patterson both scored 12 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field. Patterson was able to score down low in the post and also step out to hit the jump shot. He pulled down three of the Rockets’ 14 offensive boards. Former Sun Goran Dragic also had 10 points while spelling Kyle Lowry.

The lone bright spot on Phoenix’s bench was Shannon Brown. Brown was able to penetrate and get to the hoop easily for most of the game en route to 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Markieff Morris played aggressively in the garbage time fourth quarter taking 10 shots and scoring seven points.

Markieff missed out on the opportunity to play against his twin brother Marcus for the first time as Marcus was sent down to the D-League’s Rio Grande Vipers. The only other performance of note off the bench was that of Sebastian Telfair, who got the majority of the minutes at backup point guard. Telfair, like everyone else on the floor for Phoenix, was unable to jumpstart a very stagnant offense.

A game after setting the franchise record for assists, Steve Nash looked incredibly ordinary on the evening. Though he racked up nine assists (something I’m beginning to think he could literally do in his sleep), Nash took only five shots and scored only six points. The Rockets focused on him defensively all game. They trapped him in the corner on pick-and-rolls, forcing him into four turnovers. They also threw a second defender at him at the top of the key several times just to disrupt the flow of Phoenix’s offense. The Rockets were mostly successful there, with the exception of Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley.

Gortat looked dominant down low, scoring 15 points on a variety of strong post moves. He recorded his fourth straight double-double, pulling down 12 rebounds. Marcin also dominated his matchup with Samuel Dalembert on both ends of the floor. Dalembert’s only field goal came on a driving layup right off the opening tip. Other that that, Gortat kept the big man from Haiti in check and recorded three blocks on the night, two of which came on the same possession against Dalembert. The biggest issue with Gortat’s night was the team’s performance without him on the floor. The Suns settled for jump shots all night instead of attacking the rim. Shannon Brown and Gortat scored 27 of Phoenix’s 36 points in the paint.

Jared Dudley had a strong night shooting the ball as he scored in double figures for the fourth straight game. He connected on 5 of 10 shots, including 2 of 4 from downtown. While his shooting touch looked good, Dudley struggled at the rim, getting his shot blocked on several occasions.

Though he’s not the most athletic shooting guard in the league, Dudley must focus on getting the ball to the rim and not the defender’s position. Each time he attacks the basket it is evident he’s thinking about getting swatted. He must take the ball strong and use his big body to create contact while getting the ball up on the rim. Too often he gets blocked or stripped with the ball still in his hands.

In the first half, the Rockets could not miss. They built a 30-20 lead in the first quarter and then doubled it to 20 by halftime. Though their field goal percentage eventually dwindled to just under 44 percent, the Rockets were at 50 percent or more for most of the first half.

Kevin Martin, in just his third game back after missing a pair of contests with a foot injury, came out on fire by scoring 11 in the first quarter. The Rockets’ leading scorer only played 18 minutes total. Courtney Lee emulated Martin’s performance in the second quarter by scoring eight points on 4-for-6 shooting.

The Rockets’ successful offensive first half can be attributed to terrible Phoenix defense. Defensive assistant Elston Turner, who spent four seasons in Houston as an assistant to Rick Adelman, will not be happy when he reviews the tape of this game. The Suns gave up an incredible amount of uncontested or lightly contested layups. The penetration came from the wings and the top of the key, and pretty much every Suns player was guilty of letting his man get by him at least once. Rockets standout rookie Chandler Parsons got to the rim several times without a Suns defender within three feet of him.

In addition to putting in a turnstile in the paint, the Suns were again killed on the defensive glass. Houston grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and scored a total of 48 points in the paint. The Suns big men must have left their hands back in Phoenix as many of Houston’s second-chance points came from quick bounces off the rim. The Suns must do a better job of getting a body on a man, even with attempts at the rim.

The Suns, mainly Channing Frye and Gortat, also played awful defense on Luis Scola. Scola knocked down jump shot after jump shot on his way to a 14-point outing as Suns defenders sagged off him in a half-hearted attempt at help defense.

When asked about his team’s effort, head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters, “We got pushed around, and the end result was what it was.”

When asked about any positives to take from the game, Gentry quipped, “I wasn’t pleased with anything we did. There were no bright spots and no moral victories.”

Those words pretty much sum up the Suns’ takeaway from this game. Not a great way to start out a four games in five nights stretch.

The Suns will play at home against the Charlotte Bobcats tomorrow night. Perhaps chewing on the worst team in the NBA will get the taste from this wretched loss out of the team’s mouth.

Tags: Houston Rockets Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • shazam

    we still have 3 more years of holding our nose..we need draft picks for talent and to trade…be happy we lost and dont go to the live games until the franchise stops the con http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sFej5pnVXI

  • https://twitter.com/#!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I watched this game, and there was a lot of blood.

    All respect due to Ryan for shouting out Shannon Brown, but he was awful. He did a lot of stupid things besides going 6 for 11.

    And now, I’m going to back flip.

    A few days ago I came to the aid of coach Alvin Gentry as some of our other readers / contributors / fans started calling for his head.
    I now also have come to the conclusion that his head needs to be put on a plate.

    Not really because he’s a bad coach. He’s not. He has a system and with the proper pieces it works well in this league.

    Problem is, the Suns don’t have those players needed and with the players on the roster along with the direction the team is headed because of Gortat, I don’t think he is the right fit going forward, especially with Nash leaving soon for whatever reason.

    I look at the team, and even when looking at Nash, Gortat is clearly the beast of the team right now. It isn’t even close. He is the foundation of the team in the here and now, and Gentry fails to recognize this.
    Multiply the fact that Gentry has been looking and searching with admirable desperation to find some form of lineup that works without success while he almost seems to ignore the fact that the solution is sitting there at the 5 spot.

    The team doesn’t have shooters. Yet he caters to them still, (because it’s his system). This is wrong.

    Gortat should have already been positioned as the feature attraction in the Suns offense. Nash should be working with him as always with the PnR plays, but Gentry, by now, should have added in some dump-downs where Gortat goes to work and Nash goes off a Morris / Warrick screen and becomes the shooter the Suns lack. There should also be more pick-n-dives on the weak-side when Gortat has the ball.

    It is so obvious that this is the direction the team needs to take.

    Then, instead of banishing J Chill and Warrick to the bench for 3 or 4 or 19 games at a time, they can be in the game, in the flow of the game, doing what they do best.

    Instead, Frye, Brown, Telfair, Price, and even Morris continue to be allowed to brick it all over the place from 27 feet while Gortat does what he can by himself underneath as he tries to grab these awful “attempted” shots taken by his teammates.

    Also, back to Morris, Gentry is ruining him. Those first few games, (where it was still clear that Morris didn’t quite have an idea of what he was supposed to do in Gentry’s system), he was beasting. Mid-range with a 3 sprinkled in here and there but he was doing work INSIDE opposite the center. Gentry should have looked at that and adjusted.

    But alas.

    I guess, for now, we’ll keep watching whatever this is that the Suns are doing on the court. At least our draft stock keeps getting higher with each loss.

  • Mel.

    I think the biggest issue relating to Gentry–and the firing discussion–is the fact that there’s absolutely NO sense of adjustment happening within the framework of what we’ve seen, this season. For all the press-friendly blathering about improving this and that, the lineups have remained relatively stagnant (following some early-season tinkering), and the team’s just coasting on the same fumes and hockey-lineup balling that we’ve seen since 2010.

    It worked then, and it worked brilliantly; however, this team’s a shell of the bench and starting five that we had then, and requires some serious open-heart surgery. I don’t doubt that Gentry’s on point with watching tape and keeping morale high, but I don’t see ANYTHING in the character of this year’s roster that suggests that he’s got the brass to shake things up or make some serious changes… and that’s a major problem.

    The irony being that the situation feels eerily similar to the tale of the tape in Los Angeles; Mike Brown’s a “nice guy” and the players “believe in him,” but at NO time does anybody watching the up and down play of the Lakers get the sense that anything he’s doing is having a proactive effect on the floor. Announcers act surprised when Bynum gets the ball; when there’s an actual PLAY run in tight games (like the Denver matchup), it’s almost grounds for a headline on Land o’ Lakers.

    The only difference is that Phoenix has one and half less superstar-caliber players and actual cap space in the future… though it’s debatable as to how much good that’s going to do a team scrabbling to assert any kind of identity.

  • Scott

    @Rich -

    Actually, I think the problem is perhaps the opposite, if I understand you correctly.

    Gentry is playing the team as though Gortat IS a beast, but he’s not. He gets fouled about once a game; hardly beast-like. He doesn’t charge the rim, he backs off from it if there’s anyone near it. Sure, if he’s 10 feet out he might try a dribble and leaping layup past a foe, but the whole idea is a no-contact play.

    If that’s beasting, then the word has changed its meaning.

    Yet Gentry is playing Gortat as though he’s Amare. He’s putting him alone in the middle and spreading the floor with shooters. But Gortat isn’t beasting, so instead of drawing the double-team, he draws single coverage. Let’s face it: Gortat struggles to score against single coverage, and that’s with Nash setting him up. If he is capable of scoring more, then he should be doing so. Until Gortat scores 30 a game, teams are going to play him with single coverage, and this means the Suns’ shooters are all covered.

    I still think Gortat needs help inside, and his most logical assistant is Lopez. Lopez is used to being a complementary player to a scoring PF. Lopez has the size, can box out, and can get to the rim. Lopez draws fouls at the rim and can shoot free throws.

    If you have two big men near the basket, it takes pressure off of Nash. He doesn’t have to create. He can run something if the opportunity is there, but if there’s nothing, then any guard / wing with the ball can throw it into the the big guys. If the big guys don’t have anything, they should at least be drawing coverage off of a shooter, and the bigs can then pass back out for the undefended shot.

    Likewise, if you put longball threats Frye and Morris together on the 2nd unit, then on offense either all defenders will be drawn out of the paint to the perimeter – allowing a guard / wing to drive to the hoop – or some Suns shooter is going to be open.

    I think Gentry has potentials with this team he’s not explored. Maybe he doesn’t have the time to do so, but on the other hand, he’s had plenty of garbage time in actual games.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Scott, sorry. But you’re 100% wrong in regards to Gortat.

    Now, if the shooters were actually, you know, making shots I would agree with you. They are not. You, yourself alluded to the same problems that I talked about too.

    Saying that Gentry is using Gortat in a Stoudemire role is the exact problem I’m talking about. He cannot use him in the same way as Amare. It is impossible because they are totally different players. Again, Gentry tries to continue on doing the same things, as you said, when he should not.

    Gortat could be a beast, and you are right in that he isn’t but it is not his fault. Him not getting to the foul line is not his fault either. He is being used incorrectly.

    The game where he went 11 – 14 from the line? He sort of took matters into his own hands and went to the rim a lot. He can’t do that without the touches and, again, because of the system, he cannot get the touches where HE can take advantage.

    Gentry takes him out as if he is managing Nash during the game. Clearly Gortat could go longer than he does. While he’s in there, he has to often watch the guards use him, then toss the rock out to some guy like Channing Frye or Bad News Brown or Grant Hill for a 27 foot brick with no hopes of an offensive rebound. Half of the shots that those guys get should be going to Gortat in a tweaked system that would allow him to dominate. 11 – 13 attempts? No way is that enough.

    That’s all on Gentry, and zero on Gortat.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Gortat should now be the featured player. Why shouldn’t he? He has great talent and works his butt off.

    Morris should be playing at least 30 minutes a game to allow him to develop his skills for next season-in this Suns lost season.

    Lopez is a total head case. He is useless and the Suns can do better with CBA player.

    By the way, the Suns are winning just enough to hurt their future.

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    The worst thing about Gentry is that he’s a nice guy and we are desperately in need of a Gregg Popovich kinda coach.

  • Cam

    I agree with the observations on Keef. He has been taking more and more jump shots outside of twenty than inside lately. I don’t think the Suns drafted him to be the next Frye, they drafted him to bring some toughness and rebounding inside. The question is, why is the FO allowing Gentry to use him like this when he was clearly brought in for another reason. Hopefully Gentry will feel some pressure to tweak his system to better complement the players he has.

    I think one reasons that Gentry is struggling with his game strategy/management is because of the shortened training camp and shortened season. If a coach doesn’t know what he has in a team he may have a hard time developing and integrating a new offense. That is part of the problem Mike Brown is having in L.A. So the only alternative is run what your team has been running for the past 8 years and hope it works. I think that’s why we see Keef Struggling. The Suns have never demanded rebounding from their team, namely the PF position and so it’s an unfamiliar thing to have a player who could be used to bang down low and collect boards. I find it hard to beleive that a 6’11″ PF like STAT, who can jump ut of the gym, can only collect 8 boards a game while Kevin Love gets over 12 a game, and yet it happens. The Suns coaches are just having trouble changing their game strategy mid season to use their teams strengths. Maybe a full offseason and training camp will produce different results. Go Suns.

  • http://godaddy.com Big Daddy

    @ JKL- 100% AGREE with everything you said.

  • Tony


    I’m with Scott. I don’t know what you’re talking about, Gortat gets plenty of opportunities to score, and he’s still scoring primarily because of pn&rs, where he gets a ton of easy baskets. One of the big problems is that is the only play they can run because they don’t have the shooters to do much else. Furthermore, Gortat is no great offensive force. His post game has gotten better, but he still misses a lot of easy shots down low.

    The problem with the Suns offense is not Nash. It’s the players he surrounded with. Dudley, Frye, and Hill are not shooting well and are pretty unathletic. When Hill’s not in the game, the team other than Nash has no one who can create their own shot either.
    The point is, that the Suns offensive woes are attributable not to Nash or Gentry, but to the lack of talent on the team. Thus, this should be no surprise that they’re struggling. If you want to blame someone, blame Sarver, Babby, and Blanks. Those are the three responsible figures for this Suns mess.

  • Zak

    Yeah, the Suns need to focus on getting the ball in Gortat’s hands. He needs to be the focus of the offense. Using outside shooting to clear up the inside for him only works when the outside shots are falling… which they haven’t this season.

    On paper the Suns should be at least as good as they were last season but they’re not. Frye shot .390 from the 3pt line last year but is hitting at a .299 clip so far this season and all his stats are down from last year. Hill’s stats are also down but not as bad as Frye’s although his 3pt %age has fallen badly. Dudley seems to be getting back into form although his 3pt shooting %age is also down from last year. Only Nash and Gortat are playing at or above their averages from last year.

    None of the fallen player stats are Gentry’s fault but perhaps not adapting his game plan to make the best use of his player’s skills – and/or cover their lack of – is.

  • Tony


    as far as Morris goes, he’s never had an offensive post game. In college, he rarely scored until his last season, when he developed a pretty good long-range shot. So, why do you assume he’s not playing the way he’s accustomed to playing?

  • Zak

    Yeah, Morris isn’t STAT but he isn’t Fyre either. From what I know of him he’s somewhere in between the two. If the Suns are encouraging him to be Frye 2.0 then they are making a very big mistake.

  • steve

    Morris has good footwork and moves down low. I’m not saying he’s an all star, but he’s a few years of hard work away from being boozer. Gortat is a beast. Could he get better? Of course. But his percentages, averages, and advanced metrics speak for themselves. He’s a stud. An inside out game worked through Gortat is a viable option, in my opinion.

  • shazam

    agree with tony and steve

  • B. Cray Z.

    Tony -

    Good analysis.

    Best teams have owners and GMs who keep a successful squad together as long as they are able. Once Gentry developed that youthful, energetic bench unit into Laker killers & Spurs’ nightmares, Sarver & Babby pulled the rug right out under Gentry’s feet.

    MUST reunite that killer bench unit. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

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