Dec 4, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns small forward P.J. Tucker (17) controls the ball during the fourth quarter as Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Suns Smother Rockets, Tucker shuts down Harden


 

In a much-needed victory, the Suns smothered the Rockets on the road 97-88 and now hold a 10-9 record, as they return to form from earlier in the season.

It was really a team effort as Phoenix got out in the passing lanes like I said they needed to, resulting in 23 Houston turnovers. Many of those were taken by the Suns in transition, as Phoenix finished with 26 fastbreak points.

The Suns came aggressive out of the gate, finishing the first period with a five-point lead.  As time expired going into the half, Harden acted his way into a bogus call that resulted in three made Harden free throws for a 51-40 score. “The Beard” kicked out his legs as he shot a three-pointer (that he missed). He then shifted his weight back, falling backwards to “earn” the call when Tucker inevitably grazed Harden’s outstretched legs, it looked as if Tucker had run right into him, thus the foul call. It frustrates Phoenix fans because when Jared Dudley was in the valley of the Sun, he was made the scapegoat for this type of offensive foul, but Harden got away with it.

In the third quarter, the Suns came out sluggish and it looked as if the “can’t hold a lead” and “fold under pressure” Suns were back. However, the Suns battled back, outscoring the Rockets 10-0 in the final 1:50 of the third quarter for a 12 point lead to end the third. In the final quarter, the Rockets made a few runs, but Phoenix pushed back and finished with the nine-point victory.

This really was a bounce back game for most of the Suns.

Tucker was the hero of the game as he posted a stat line of 18 points, six boards, four assists and four steals, while holding All-Star James Harden to 14 points in 40 minutes on 3-17 (0-10 from three) shooting.

Bledsoe led the way in scoring for Phoenix with his bounce back game of 20 points, seven assists, two steals and a block. Goran Dragic finished with 19 points and four steals, while Channing Frye had 14 points and the Morris twins both. Added eight.

With Harden kept in check by Tucker, someone else had to step up for Houston. Dwight Howard had a quiet game, but when you looked at his final stat line, you’d be surprised to find 15 points and 18 rebounds next to his name. Both Aaron Brooks’ 17 and Omri Casspi’s 14 points off the bench helped at least keep the Rockets close.

The big deal was that the Suns held the league’s best offensive team to only 88 points, when they usually score just more than 109 per game. Last time the Rockets were held under 90 points was April 12th last season against the Memphis Grizzlies.

While the Rockets were missing Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Ask due to injury, they still had All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard on the court for them, but the Suns still prevailed.

This is a big win against a superior opponent that will bolster Phoenix’s confidence going forward, and that is exactly what this young team needs.

Phoenix now travels home and awaits a Friday matchup with the Toronto Raptors.

Tags: Basketball Dwight Howard Eric Bledsoe Goran Dragic James Harden NBA P.j Tucker Phoenix Suns