Phoenix Suns 112, Houston Rockets 105 -- A fortunate Friday the 13th


Behind Nash's monster third quarter, the Suns fought their way back into playoff contention by beating Goran Dragic and the Rockets. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Behind Nash's monster third quarter, the Suns fought their way back into playoff contention by beating Dragic and the Rockets. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Trailing 55-51 after an uninspiring first half in which the ageless Marcus Camby waltzed through the lane for 18 rebounds, the Phoenix Suns knew they had 24 minutes left to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Turns out they only needed 12.

The Suns played their quarter of the season in the third, outscoring the Rockets 30-14 to take command of this game and ultimately charge right back into the playoff picture after holding off Houston, 112-105.

“We were very disappointed with the first half because we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and lost a lot of hustle plays,” Suns guard Steve Nash told reporters. “We wanted to come out in the second half and make that right and give ourselves a chance to win. We were disappointed with our first half effort so we made up for it in the second half.”

Boy did they ever.

After going scoreless in the first half, Nash knocked down a trey to start the second and did not stop until he had himself an 18-point half. Two Time scored 10 of those points on 3-for-4 shooting while dishing three assists in the third.

After getting quite the tongue lashing for Camby’s first-half performance, which the Polish Machine disclosed on the Suns’ postgame show, Marcin Gortat dominated the third with eight points on 4-for-4 shooting and five boards.

Overall the Suns hit 10-of-18 shots, and if you take out Shannon Brown’s four misses the rest of the team shot 71.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the defense shut down Houston’s offense, limiting the Rockets to 26.1 percent shooting. Camby played the entire 12 minutes and did not grab a single board (he didn’t pull one down in the fourth either) and suddenly a four-point deficit became a 12-point lead.

“We came out in the third quarter, which is how we should have started the game and did a great job of establishing exactly what we wanted to do offensively, and then we did a great job defensively,” Gentry told reporters. “Our rotations were much better and because of that we got a lot of easy shots.”

Added Grant Hill, “We just came out with a sense of urgency in the third quarter. The starters and the bench played well and we just did what we had to do to get the win.”

And thus in one short quarter the Suns went from the chopping block to one game out of a playoff spot.

They also clinched the tiebreaker with the Rockets by virtue of their even season series record and the fact that Phoenix will win the next conference record tiebreaker if these teams end up in a dead heat.

The good news kept pouring in as the Hornets downed the Jazz behind 25 points from Eric Gordon, a result that catapulted the Suns back to ninth in the West.

Later on the Lakers outlasted the Nuggets, which means the Suns are just one game behind both the Rockets and the Nuggets with seven games to play. As tough as their schedule looks, five games will be at home and that means they are every bit in this race.

“Potentially massive day for Suns if Lakers win this,” John Hollinger tweeted before the Lakers won that. “Playoffs looking much more realistic than a couple hours ago.”

Hill returned to the Suns’ lineup and contributed despite understandably looking a bit rusty just two weeks out from arthroscopic knee surgery. He knocked down 2-of-7 shots but played his usual solid defense while tangibly leading on the floor as he always does.

Hill was healthy enough to play the final 17:36 (which could be why he missed a couple late free throws). That could not have been the plan, but he was going well and we all know Gentry wants him on the floor during crucial moments.

That’s exactly what the final minute turned out to be as the Suns never make anything easy. Houston spurted out to a 15-6 run to reduce Phoenix’s lead to seven on a Goran Dragic three with 2:44 left after the Suns led by 16 midway through the final quarter.

The Rockets had a chance to cut the lead down to two with a minute left but Courtney Lee’s three rimmed out before Jared Dudley delivered a long ball at the other end to seal this one with 36 ticks left.

Thanks in large part due to the third quarter outburst the starting lineup bounced back by outscoring Houston by eight and shooting 56.3 percent in 19 minutes together. The bench mob played nine minutes with Hill instead of Childress and won by five, according to the NBA’s stats tool.

In total, Friday the 13th was only unlucky for the teams directly ahead of Phoenix in the West. The Suns gained a game on their three closest opponents and a tiebreaker to boot. If they make the playoffs, we will look back on this day as a major turning point in the race.

The work is far from done with six of Phoenix’s final seven games coming against West playoff contenders, but the events of tonight keep the Suns in the thick of a wild race that’s shaping up to be as unpredictable as the first 59 games of the season were.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

  • JZ

    Suns really need to pursue Camby and Kaman this off season. Then maybe look to trade Gortat and Childress to Dallas for Lamar and Matrix. Also, resign Redd and maybe Brown at a reasonable price.

  • neurotic steve nash fan

    Great win boys! Refs tried, but the suns persevered. I hate Scola more than Arock. just kidding…. I hate Arock way more. No, but Scola needs to be taken care of. Was hoping Kieff would get him. Sometimes I wish Gortat would stop smiling and maybe start swinging. I know Suns fans are famous for complaining about the officiating, but tonight was extra bad.

    Still lovin that bench though. I was actually torn when Gentry put Nash back in with 6 min to go. I’m sure everyone was thinking the same thing.

    Also great to see Dudley doin it again.

  • Tony

    Great win tonight! The Suns in essence played 5 against 7 tonight, with Crawford and that other stooge ref entirely on the side of the Rockets. I cannot remember the last time I’ve seen such one-sided officiating and it’s not like the Suns were playing the Lakers. I mean seriously, a flagrant 1 on Dudley for an off the ball slight shove? Or 3 fts to Budinger when Scola is the one who was fouled? I hope someone from the League investigates this game and suspends both officials for an obvious agenda in deliberating attempting to get the Rockets a W.

    On another note, where’s A-Rock and Rich to blast Nash???? Funny how we hear nothing from them when the Suns win behind a great game by Nash. LMAO.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    That was a great victory. After blowing the Memphis game it was great to see the Suns win a hard fought physical game. Nash came out in the second half with a killer instinct just like the Utah game, and that was awesome to see. Back to. Back against the spurs will be tough though. Here’s to hope!

  • HankS

    A great win, by all means. I just love the way these Suns keep fighting. A quick glance on the murderous remaining schedule tells you there’s still a very good chance they won’t make the play-offs after all, but boy, I prefer this to tanking so much! The Trail Blazers may be better than the Suns next year, but I’d hate it if the Suns took their approach. In this respect, I’m all behind the Suns’ management.

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

    “On another note, where’s A-Rock and Rich to blast Nash???? Funny how we hear nothing from them when the Suns win behind a great game by Nash. LMAO.”

    … Tony, why are you calling me out?

    Once more, I have nothing against him, and am one of the biggest Nash fans on this PLANET. He is my second favorite Sun EVER behind Kevin Johnson, PERIOD.

    And he had a great second half and he was the backbone of a great 3rd quarter surge that, in part, sealed a win for the Suns.

    Nobody has ever questioned his skill or what he means to the Suns organization as it stands today.

    And still. It was a great win, for a team fighting hard for the opportunity to be swept by OKC.

    That is the ceiling of these Nash-led Suns.

    And I’m sorry, but moving forward, I am not happy with that. Being in the moment, it was a great exciting win. Outside of that, when you look forward, it means almost nothing.

    I’m too loyal to the team I support to be comfortable with it being a fringe playoff team year after year. That is not what I want the team to be.

    I’d rather they blow it all up and try to rebuild it and be able to see another half-decade of them moving in the right direction.

    Hate all you want.

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

    Wanted to drop this off via Bill Simmons’ Grantland post.

    Talking about Dragic. You know, the guy who wasn’t worth keeping around. The guy who couldn’t take the torch from Nash. The guy Aaron Brooks, (AARON BROOKS), and a draft pick is better than.

    “I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned Goran Dragic’s epic free agency run yet! Thrust into Houston’s starting lineup with Kyle Lowry sidelined, Dragic morphed into a delightful cross between Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili and Tiny Archibald and helped keep Houston’s playoff hopes glimmering. In 20 games as a starter, he’s averaging 18.2 points and 8.7 assists with 50/42/84 shooting splits, and that doesn’t even tell the whole story because he’s a killer at the end of games. According to 82games.com, he’s shooting a sizzling 70 percent in crunch time. Seventy percent!!!!

    Given that he’s only 25, what’s Dragic worth on the open market to a team with cap space like Portland, Indiana, Toronto or Dallas? Or would Houston be better off re-signing Dragic, then dealing Lowry with their two first-rounders (theirs and New York’s) and/or Kevin Martin/Luis Scola for a proven All-Star like LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh or (in the irony of ironies) Pau Gasol? And by the way, shouldn’t we mention that Dragic (a throw-in for the vetoed L.A./N.O./Houston three-teamer) is now more valuable than anyone in that trade except for Chris Paul and Eric Gordon (the prize of New Orleans’s eventual haul for Chris Paul)? You gotta love the NBA! There can’t be a weirder sport. There just can’t.”

    What he said is absolutely true, and even to this day when Dragon is asked about it, you can tell that he absolutely wanted to be the guy for this team.

    Conspiracy theory? I still think part of the reason Dragon was sent away was so that Sarver and company could hold onto this, “Nash is all we have left so we have to keep him” nonsense.

  • gordon

    Dragic played himself into that trade. I don’t miss him one bit. He quit on the Suns last year and I don’t want to see him in the Suns uniform ever again.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Just thinking of the dragic trade makes me so angry. I really try not to engage in bashing, but seriously, is there a franchise more inept than the Suns when it comes to the front office? They gave dragic and a first founder away for NOTHING. They gave Kurt Thomas and picks away for nothing. They routinely sign average to below average players to large contracts.

    Every fan who watches the suns consistently knew how much dragic meant to the team and to us. We saw him develop the best parts of Nash’s game. We saw him single-handely decimate any chance the spurs had of coming back to win the 2010 series. We saw him get under the Lakers skin the following series. We saw him school Vujacic and talk smack to him. Just for those two series alone, we all loved him. And they gave him away for nothing. This isn’t any hindsight vision talking either, when that stupid trade went down at the last minute of the deadline, I knew they would regret it. They gave away a nash-like PG for a shoot first PG with an attitude problem. I mean, seriously if I’m a blue collar factory worker who knows nothing about basketball, how can I see these things and the guys who GET PAID to do this stuff can’t see this?

    Ok, my rant is done. I apologize but the dragic rant had been on my chest for a long time. I will rant no more.

  • PennyAnd1

    Hey A$$-Rock, do you see the importance of Grant Hill? Hill is such a genius, shut the opponents best scorer Lee/Lowry.

    I kinda like the idea of Hill & Brown going half & half in a quarter sharing time. in the end, Hill, Brown, Dudley, Gortat, Nash was great. Suns have so many combinations that really works.

    If Suns make it to playoff, I’m sure they will upset teams, and even make it all the way with the way they are playing.

  • PennyAnd1

    @Fan in Chi Town

    I agree with you, Dragic was a tragic for the Suns organization to be traded. But in the end, Telfair is doing great, and besides Dragic needs to be a starter somewhere else to evolve into becoming another Nash. Dragic still has great connection with the players & fans in Phoenix. Maybe when Nash steps down, Dragic can relive the Nash story all over again. It was very exciting.

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

    Blasphemy in regards to Dragic.

    When his second unit was set, he steam-rolled the other team. It was clear what sort of skill he had.

    Only when the powers that be brought in all of those silly players and, also, took the ball away from him in favor of Turkoglu, his numbers came down. Keep in mind that at the same time, Nash wasn’t doing very well himself.

    It was a trade made to save [make] a bit of money and Dragon was the fall guy, that’s all it was.

    Also, I’m sorry, but I’ll take Dragon over two Telfairs, and I like Telfair.

    It was the pinnacle of the trades that have the rest of the league so sour on our front office. Go back and listen to any of those ESPN, NBA TV, Sports Illustrated interviews. Not a single person had any clue as to why Sarver would give Dragic away. Every single person looked at the move, as it happened, as totally idiotic.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    Penny – don’t get me wrong, Telfair has his upside. He seems to have a decent grasp on the second unit offense. I also like that every time he launches a three I expect it to go in. He’s hit some big shots for us this season, ill-advised shots that only him and Brown would take, but he makes them for sure.

    But dragic was/is awesome and an all around smarter player than Telfair. He is proving he can run a team. As much as I love Nash, he is 38, and I personally would rather them go for a younger PG. If they can’t get D-Will, bringing dragic back would be the next best thing in my opinion.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Important victory, very important, very important! Got it?

    P. S.: Dragic regret it forever! still do not understand that exchange with Brooks …. and I think I’ll never know!

    P. S. 2: I do not know if Scola is nice or nasty …. but I know it’s a good player!

  • paul
  • A-ROCK

    All you guys are band wagon fans, when nash leaves you will be gone for a second until the suns prove you wrong for following him and you’ll be back on the n#tts.

    I can’t believe how one game against the rockets make you think every thing is all peachy… they beat the rockets a team they should have beat!

    Nash didn’t when the game for them he almost lost it and made it closer than it was suppose to be with that horrible defense and all 5 turnovers.

    Nash did pass right next to the basket with open shots no wonder gortat misses the balls because he is in a motion to rebound. smh

    Nash got most his points from free throws in garbage time and he never really initiat’s contact to get to the line which is an asset.

    He once again was a liabilty on the floor turning the ball over 5 times and scoring under 20 points.

    Nash will never score 30 points again!! ha

    Nash is no longer elite and looks like a regular gaurd to me besides his dazzling passes every now and then!

    Everything that glitters ain’t gold for you fools, I would like to see some consistantcy from him.

    Grant played great coming off the bench, dudly may loose his starting role.

  • A-ROCK

    The suns played an undersized houston that was throwing suns players around, let’s see how they fare against a team with a pf and center in san antonio.

    I think they can when but that depends on how each player is utilized.

  • A-ROCK

    All the Suns 1st team are is a bunch of go to guys for Nash.

    Which doesn’t maximize the players, once they break the mold they will be elite.

    How can you be the B!tch of a guy who isn’t tough.
    Nash is resilant but not tough, he bounces back from what others inflict on him and complains but is not dominant.

    That’s why fry and gortat is soft, just playing there roles and the 2nd unit is tougher keif, grant and telfair since they weren’t in that mold.

    The shooting gaurd has to have that same toughness in the 1st unit in order for them to be successful because they don’t have a motor running the team as the matrix did with nash.

    The 2 guard has to jack up shots and create his own plays which looks like he plays on an island with nash and there is no one to corrale the boards on offense as the matrix did to give them 2nd chance points since the pf is out above the 3 point line.

    Which makes the sun’s look like the 2 guard has to step up and the team looks like they can’t shoot since they loose out on 2nd chance points.

  • Tim from British Columbia

    I don’t agree with Gordon about Dragic quitting on the Suns last year. He went through a bad spell and the management quit on him. I would love to see him back in Suns uniform again (although I like how hard Telfair works) Dragon learned alot from Nash and is even better now. Great win last night. Go Suns and make the playoffs!

  • Tony

    Yet another despicable and racist filled rant from A-Rock about Nash. What a clown he is. This is a guy who would rather see the Suns lose than see the Suns win behind a strong game from Nash. By the way dummy, Nash only scored 2 fts in garbage time.

  • http://godaddy.com Big Daddy

    I wish you all would shut the f*ck up and quit bitching. None of y’all are suns analysts, just a bunch of fans. Just enjoy the entertainment Steve Nash is still providing us.

  • A-ROCK

    Where do you get racist from?

    you do not have any valid points and you want to justify Nash’s strong game with Racism?

    Any average point guard could have gotten 18 points with 5 turnovers ie jeremy lin.

  • PennyAnd1

    A-Rock

    If you don’t like Nash you don’t know basketball. nuff said. Like I said just follow Dwight Howard or LBJ if you have that mentality in you, it’ll go alot easier on a troll fan like you.

    @Fan in Chi Town

    I agree with you. Dragic is better & cooler than Telfair. I was lamenting when Dragic got traded. Just like Gentry’s son I was very upset about that trade. But like I said, Dragic needs some time to evolve on his own. And so far he has proven that he can be consistent, something that Telfair can’t do, unless playing with a good team. Telfair is only doing great now because of his decision making, something he certainly picked up playing against Nash in practice.

    In the end, we have to realize that Dragic is gone, and Telfair as a back up might just get us through the playoffs into the championship just for this season. I still have a feeling Dragic will return to Phoenix someday and relive the Nash story all over again. He seems to have a great connection with fans & players.

  • PennyAnd1

    @A-Rock

    Jeremy Lin is no average PG. He is a top PG with the likes of Rubio, CP3, Rondo, Dragic who knows how to play teamwork, yet can’t really make teammates better than Steve Nash.

    Then there are the offensive minded rookies like Irving, Westbrook, and that guy from Wizards who can’t do much unless they are paired with a superstar or two.

    Then there are the elite Parker, Rose, and (2 time MVP) Nash who knows when to shoot & pass.

    Have you ever tried watching other teams PG and see yourself saying, “bad pass! or pass the ball! bad shot! this is boring! do something!” I do..I can’t see that with Nash. His running game is so exciting.

    Sure he messes up at some times. But most of those were missed catched or miscommunication..but atleast the intention was a smart move. Only rarely does he make stupid plays.

  • steve

    “He is a top PG with the likes of Rubio, CP3, Rondo, Dragic”

    That list is really all over the place. Of all the “top” PGs you could have listed, I think you only hit on two and missed on the other two. Calling Rubio and Dragic “top” PGs is a bit of a stretch. Rubio has a couple of elite skills. He is an excellent passer and a great defender, but he’s got a long ways to go before he’s a “top” PG, in my opinion. Dragic has one elite skill (dribble penetration and finishing), in my opinion, and a bunch of good skills to back that up.

    Anyways, it’s best if you guys just ignore A-Rock. Everyone knows he’s here just to light fires. I highly doubt he believes anything he says.

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