The Phoenix Suns came into Houston on short rest after a hard fought game against Chicago Bulls the night before, a 101-92 loss, while the Rockets have been resting up the past three days. The tired legs for the Suns (29-20) showed early and late by giving up the most points this season in a 122-108 defeat to the Rockets on Wednesday night.
Houston (33-17) started the game on a 16-4 run and ended it on a 14-6 burst. In between, the Suns played well enough to win, especially on offense. They had six guys in double digits, led by 23 from Goran Dragic, but just did not get enough defensively to give themselves a real chance to steal the game late.
Another early slow start out of the gate made you think that this could be a laugher with the Rockets doing whatever they wanted in a 16-4 run to start the game. The Suns quickly found themselves and ended up going on a 42-24 outburst to give themselves a six point lead in the second quarter after a helter-skelter layup by Ish Smith. With the Suns bench severely outplaying the Rockets bench, Kevin McHale went back to his starters and the Rockets quickly got the pace back in their favor to close out the half with a 66-63 lead.
The second half turned into a similar tale from last night in that the Suns could just never get over the hump. Every burst was answered by a Rockets run of their own and they could never find the defensive stop that they needed to retake the lead. Dwight Howard had a huge game scoring 34 points and grabbing 14 rebounds and closed the game from the free throw line hitting five of six when Jeff Hornacek tried the “hack-a-dwight” tactic.
Looking ahead, the Suns have two big home games left against the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat before the All-Star break. Let’s look to see how Ryan Weisert’s pregame questions were answered.
Can the Suns bottle up the Beard?
PJ Tucker did a good job against Harden as he has done in the past four games against the former Arizona State star. Dating back to last year, Harden is 5-30 from behind the arch and that includes a 3-5 performance tonight. The “Beard” ended up scoring 23 points, but got a lot of help by going 12-12 from the line. He did make a timely three late in the fourth that answered a Marcus Morris three to extend the Rockets lead to nine. Overall, Tucker and the Suns contained him to a point, but like all good scorers he found a way to get his.
Will the Suns get anything out of Miles Plumlee?
It was another tough night for Plumlee. He brought nothing on the offensive side of the ball scoring a mere six points with only one offensive rebound, and allowed Howard to have a big game on the other end. The Suns need the first half Plumlee to show up soon if they are going to make a strong playoff push and the upcoming All-Star break may just be the best thing for him.
Can the Morris twins shift the balance?
Not enough to get the win. Both had productive nights scoring in double digits and helped to give the team a brief lead in the second quarter after the slow start by the starters. The problem is that Markieff can’t seem to get a three point shot to fall. He is one for his last 10 in the past three games and it seems like he is wide open on most of these attempts. The good thing is that his brother has been playing well lately and they are close to both getting on a roll at the same time, which would make an already strong bench even stronger.