Houston Rockets 122, Phoenix Suns 108 -Howard dominates


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.

Tags: Dwight Howard Goran Dragic Houston Rockets James Harden Phoenix Suns

  • EBJM

    The Rockets opened the game with a 16-4 run behind Terrance Jones who went right around Frye for three offensive boards. Jones had a big game.

    I loved the 2nd unit though, they brought the Suns all the way back. Len looked good even though he didn’t put up big numbers. After watching Miles air-ball a right-handed hook over his left shoulder I’d be content watching the Suns take their lumps with Len as the starter.

    Parsons showed how limited an offensive player Tucker is as the Suns SF.

    I’m jumping on the do not trade for Gasol bandwagon. He isn’t enough at this stage of his career to make up for when the Suns aren’t hitting their jumpshots.

    Howard just destroyed Miles tonight. D-Mo even had a few great plays who is in the rotation due to injuries to Asik and Smith.

  • Al

    I really am worried that the team will be on a 4 game losing streak (8th in the West) before All-Star break. This squad is only good enough to get 6th place tops. Team needs a young star player that can play in the post and stretch the floor. Frye has gone on his regular slump. He is too hesitant with his shot. I just want February 20 to get here already. I want to see what McD does with Okafor’s contract already.

  • Luka

    Pau Gasol isn’t the answer. The trade that I would make is with Philadelphia for: Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner.

    Philadelphia wants to tank at this point, and Turner is all but done there.

    Young is exactly what the Suns need. An athletic combo forward who can attack the rim and hit threes.

    McDonough could offer Philly the Morris twins, Okafor, and a first rounder for Young, Turner, and Lavoy Allen.

    Move Frye and Tucker to the bench and they can start Young at PF and Turner at SF.

  • vtsunrise

    Welcome to the nasty part of the schedule.

  • BCrayZ

    What a frustrating game.

    Our starting line up is very far from getting the job done.

    They are coming out like they did in Clevelabd & cannot count on the bench to dig them out of every hole. Barbosa seems to be the only one with both the energy & smarts to help our team. With another 70%+ shooting performance, zero turnovers & even a block he earned his plus 10 (+/-) for the game. Suns will do much better when he is teamed with Gogi & Frye. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • EBJM

    Ummmmmmm BCrayZ you do realize that within the first two minutes the Rockets shot to a 16-4 lead behind Terrance Jones 4 boards, three of them offensive, 9 points and he was playing some stifling defense. He also shot down Frye so bad he went to the bench with two fouls?

  • EBJM

    I’m sure you guys heard about the Laker/Cavalier game but I have never seen this before. Lakers are so decimated by injuries that D’Antoni actually ran out of players before the game ended.

    Robert Sacre was one of five Lakers still eligible to play until he picked up foul #6. D’Antoni didn’t have another player to replace him with. So the refs told Sacre to stay on the floor and assessed the Lakers a technical.

  • john

    @EBJM

    I haven’t ever seen that in a game. Honestly, I wasn’t even aware of the rule that there had to be 5 players on the court in the NBA. That’s crazy that the Lakers are in such bad shape. If only it could stay this way forever!

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Emanuel

    Do we need someone to score the ball inside or what people…………this Suns team need a Gasol, simple as that, if not Gasol, then Love, that is it……….again, guys that can score INSIDE…..young and turner are good players but they cant score inside when the game slows down……they are slashers, that is what we have right now, we need back to the basket players……am also getting a feeling that the Suns are a bit tired right now…….specially Goran, he’s doing too much by himself in the last couple of games……the twins just frustrates me man…….one thing is for sure, as good as the Suns have been we still need a TRADE!!!!! go Suns……….

  • Smovich

    What this team needs is a player like Lebron or Durant! Make it so Jeff & McMiracle!

  • foreveris2long

    John, EBJM, I did not see the Lakers game and had never seen that happen in a pro game but it is definitely the rule. I have seen it in college/high school where a team was limited in their available players due to a physical altercation. Automatic technical for every foul over the limit.

    EBJM regarding Len I was thinking the same thing as I was watching the Suns get pounded down low. As I am not delusional about the Suns advancing in the playoffs without a major trade and a healthy Bledsoe, I fully adopt your prescription to give Len more minutes. He has a lot of potential and just needs more quality minutes so he will be more relaxed out there.

    Emanuel you do know that Gasol is a bad defender with really slow feet as Zimmerman reminded everyone? You want to give up a 1st round pick for a guy who is injured, is 33 and will be a free agent in the summer? How far is he going to take us? I am just not crazy about the deal.

  • JTM

    They should use Okafor’s expiring contract to pick up Josh Smith. I young, but experienced and athletic PF that can run the floor as well. He is a good shor blocker and above average defender.

  • Roger

    Sarver is salivating for playoff $$. However, I believe Suns make trade for Pau if there is some assurance of Bledsoe returning for the 2nd half. Otherwise, no trade for Pau. If McD can swing the trade for Thaddeus Young for Okefor + Tucker + Indy pick, that would be a good trade with or without Bledsoe services. Philly might want Suns to take Kwame to save $. I know there are Tucker fans but TY is young, scorer and a good rebounder. He’s a solid SF which the Suns desperately need.

    Your thoughts…

  • foreveris2long

    Roger I agree on a possible deal for T. Young because eventually the Suns should explore upgrading the 3 spot. I have no problem using a 1st round pick for Young.

  • Mark

    T. Young’s contact isn’t great. He’s making 8.6M this year and signed for two more years at over 9. You don’t win with “good” guys with those kind of contracts.

    The quickest way to mediocrity is having 4 or 5 average players making 8 million each.

  • Smovich

    I’d rather see the Suns pursue Deng either by the deadline or in the off season than go for Young. Proven defender, good character and All Star caliber.

    Cavs just fired their GM. Time to go snag Deng from Cleveland.

  • DZ

    Deng can’t be traded again this season and will be a FA at the end of the season so there will probably be several teams going after him.

    I agree about Young’s contract, Mark. I wouldn’t mind having him on the team but the length of his contract bothers me. Tying up 9 mil a season for the next two years and resigning Bledsoe in the off season would hurt the Suns ability to go after a bigger name player later on.

    That’s the main reason I’m at least not against the trade for Gasol. Okafor is never going to play for the Suns this season and Gasol’s contract is expiring. He could help by bringing a real inside scoring threat to the Suns. Yes, the Lakers want a 1st round pick also but I think that the closer we get to the trade deadline the more likely they will back off of that demand and at least take the Indiana pick or maybe even just take a straight up trade to try to get under the luxury tax threshold. The idea of trading for Gasol isn’t about building for the future, it’s simply about hopefully making the team better this season. If it doesn’t work, the Suns will still have the same amount of cap space to work with in the off season.

  • EBJM

    Six degrees of separation between the Suns and Cavaliers: Chris Grant, the Cavs G.M. who recently was fired shared A.G.M duties with former Suns G.M. Lance Blanks under then G.M. Danny Ferry.

    Blanks and Grant were both heavily involved in player acquisitions for the Cavs.

    When Blanks left Cleveland to come to Phoenix, Ferry hired former Suns executive David Griffin to replace him. After Ferry was fired, Chris Grant was promoted and Griffin had the #2 spot all to himself.

    Now Grant is gone and David Griffin has taken over. Does that help Phoenix acquire the Cavs of some of their talent or hurt them?

    Remember Griffin resigned after Steve Kerr did over Robert Sarver’s B.S.

    Luol Deng has not had the anticipated “veteran leadership” role in the locker room as the Cavs have actually gotten worse since acquiring him.

    Mike Brown has been completely tuned out by his players.

    Kyrie Irving hasn’t been happy all season but he is signed through ’15.

    Dion Waiters is most likely available.

    Tristen Thompson is a better defender and rebounder than Markieff but is still a bit raw offensively.

    I sure hope Ryan and David are best friends because there are going to be some changes in Cleveland.

  • EBJM

    Hey Forever, DZ just brought another good question regarding rules and whether the Cavs could trade Luol Deng.

    My understanding is they can but since the Cavs are over the salary cap, he cannot be packaged with another player.

    A straight one for one trade. It just so happens Okafor and Deng both make roughly $14 million each.

    So does Ryan offer a 1st rd pick to pry him away?

  • Smovich

    EBJM, that is my understanding but you guys know a lot more than I when it comes to (a lot) NBA rules. It would be a gamble, but I’d consider multiple draft picks for Deng but nothing that is going to be a lotto pick this year or next. Indy’s pick this year + a 2nd and a first rounder next, protected…either the Lakers or the Suns depending on which one is worse + a 2nd?

    Too much? I’m sure most will say yes.

  • Al

    I honestly think that it is the best interest for Cavs to trade Deng to the Pistons for Josh Smith…No quality free agent is going to sign with CLE for a while…that includes Lebron. LA has more of a chance to sign Lebron than the Cavs. Phoenix could go after Evan Turner and Hawes…but the big prize would be Kevin Love. A 3 way deal between 76′rs-MIn-Suns with several of Suns 1st round picks would be ideal….

  • Smovich

    The Cavs are such a mess that I can’t imagine the way to fix that is to bring in a bad contract for one that is expiring. I think that the draft selection of the Cavs has been sub-par with this years pick being awful, that the Cavs will be looking to begin rebuilding and draft picks would help now that they ditched their GM.

  • EBJM

    IMO Griffin needs to fire Mike Brown immediately to have any chance of making Kyrie Irving happy.

    It just so happens former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov is on their staff and with the Suns connection and Kokoskov’s primarily being a player development coach, Griffin should make him interim coach the remainder of the season.

    They also have Bernie Bickerstaff and Jim Boylan on staff to support Igor. But Brown needs to go ASAP.

    Waiters and Irving will probably never co-exist so the Cavs will need to make a couple of great picks in this draft to replace him and try and find a center.

    Luol Deng probably would not want to stick around while they retool for a couple of years, so sending him to Phoenix for a couple of picks would help both teams.

    Since the Suns are under the cap, maybe they take Waiters off their hands in a separate deal?

    Cleveland has three picks in ’15 so if the Suns gave them a couple more in this draft and with Griffin doing the drafting, they could have it turned around in by ’16.

    I much rather see the Suns deal with Griffin for Deng and maybe even take a flyer on Waiters then the Lakers. Waiters would be in the final year of his rookie contract next season and he is definitely better than Christmas.

    Just a thought.

  • DZ

    I like Deng and his play but, even though he is 6′ 9″, his best position is SF. He would be an upgrade at SF but it doesn’t give the Suns help where they need it most, inside scoring. And Deng, unlike Gasol or even Okafor, will be looking for a bigger contract at the end of the season and I’m sure there will be plenty of teams that will offer him what he wants.

    If you want him for a half season rental, I’m okay with that but I would be against trying to pay him what he will expect to be paid to get him to stay, especially if the Suns are determined to hang on to Bledsoe.

    A lot of people keep talking about trading for Kevin Love but that just isn’t going to happen this season… but next season that actually might be possible. Love has the option to become an unrestricted free agent next year and I’d like the Suns to keep their options open until then. No trade they make this year is going to make the Suns a contender but there are some trades they might make that could keep them from being a future contender.

  • Foreveris2long

    EBJM Since Cleveland traded for Dieng during the season, they can turn around and trade him for another player straight up at any time. The time limitation of 3 months or December 15 before a player can be traded applies when a team acquires a free agent during the offseason. I am not a fan of paying $14m/ yr to keep Dieng in the offseason. However I understand those who want him.

  • DZ

    EBJM, Brown was given a 5 year contract and I doubt Gilbert will be willing to fire him so soon. They fired Grant already so I think that Brown is safe for the rest of the year. I do agree with you that Brown should go but I doubt that it will happen before the end of the season. Grant deserved his firing but that will probably buy Brown at least until the end of the season before they consider firing him. And if Griffin pulls off a trade or two that actually makes the Cavs better in the second half of the season, that might buy Brown even more time.

    I don’t disagree with you that Brown should go, I just don’t think that the Cavs will do it any time soon. And that will continue to hurt them.

  • Al

    I could see the Knicks and Cavs swapping SG’s. Shumpert for Waiters. Sun’s don’t need a chemistry kilelr like Waiters. It’s a good thing Cleveland drafted him instead. Remember when Cleveland was drafting the rookies Phoenix were interested in? Tristan Thompson, Waiters, Bennett…Those 3 guys could be playing for Phoenix…Made me think Lance Blanks was getting or giving advice from the Cavs.
    I think trading for Deng is not a bad option. However, the guy has been overused by Thibs and has a lot of mileage and may break down by the end of his next contract. 40 Million/4years would be good enough to keep him. Also, have to look at PJ’s next contract. Tucker could command 3.5-4 mill per year in the off season.
    This is still the ideal 3-way trade for me:
    http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=mgcx9op

    + 4 of Phoenix’s 1st round picks

  • Roger

    Dudley is available -SF/SG skills, locker room clown and video producer…multi-talented extraordinaire mate! Welcome back to the Valley of the Suns!

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    It makes no sense to make trades at this point with any player that will be a free agent in the off season

    Why shed 1st round picks on guys like Deng and Gasol?

    Those players are not enough for the Suns to do anything in the playoffs by themselves, and lets face it the Suns have not been a attractive place for a free agent to sign with in a atleast a few years

    Trading current assets to “win” now is just fools gold

    be realistic people, i like the Suns but the chances they get to the finals or the WCF is miniscule

    Gasol and Deng are players the Suns should have gotten years ago, Gasol is too old to be use to a rebuilding team like the Suns now, and in fact we actually drafted Deng with the 7th pick in the draft and traded him to Chicago for 3 million in CASH

    if you dont believe me look it up

    McMiracle should be thinking what is this team going to be like 3 years from now, not what is this team going to look like at the end of the season

    its not like anyone on the Suns has to be afraid of getting fired, everything Hornacek and McMiracle have done has been great moves so far

    Is Sarver pushing this “get to the playoffs’ mentality?

    i dont know for sure, but the only thing getting into the playoffs gets you is about $4 million in extra money due to sold out home games

    If we want to make a big move, fine

    but do it this off season, not now

    The Suns are just as close to being in the playoffs as they are to dropping out completely

    We need to get Len and Goodwin more minutes

    find a long term solution for the small forward position (hello 1st round picks!)

    and figure out if we want Bledsoe back

    The Suns cant afford to ship off current assets for nothing

    if you want Deng and Gasol, sign them as free agents after resigning Bledsoe

    and get someone to take our long term contracts so we have more FA money, i wouldnt mind sending Frye and PJ Tucker and Indiana pick for an expiring deal

    trading for Deng or Gasol right now would be a huge step back in my opinion

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    ESPN trade machine shows a deal of Channing Frye, PJ Tucker and Indiana Pick for Boris Diaw and the Spurs pick would work

    i would do that trade

    we get a better pick and shed Frye contract off the books, plus he goes to a winning team with a chance to win a title this year.

    we get Diaws expiring contract, and we can plug him in somewhere or just sit him, it doesnt really matter

    I hate dealing with the Spurs, but they are one of the few teams that want to win now, and have an expiring deal near Frye’s value