PHOENIX — Houston got up early and Phoenix led heading into the fourth quarter, but the Rockets made the plays late at U.S. Airways Center to hand the Suns their first loss of the post-All-Star break.
The 115-112 loss for the Suns on Sunday came in painful fashion. Despite Goran Dragic scoring a career-high 35 points and Phoenix battling Dwight Howard and James Harden effectively enough, botched plays late and poor defense early doomed Jeff Hornacek’s team.
Howard scored an efficient 25 points and Harden struggled by going 6-for-15 from the floor. The Rockets committed 22 turnovers leading to 29 points, but the Suns didn’t have enough stops in them to come back from an early deficit and then win.
So how did Phoenix answer the three pregame points of note?
Will Phoenix avoid trading buckets?
They took it a step further tonight. The Suns decided to just trade runs instead of buckets all night. The Rockets dominated the first 14 minutes by taking a 37-19 lead before things got crazy. Goran Dragic, who had a career-high 35 points, and the Morris brothers led a 29-8 charge that included a 15-0 burst toward the end of the second quarter that gave the Suns a brief 48-45 lead. The Rockets quickly rebounded and scored 11 straight to retake control going into the halftime break.
The trend picked up right where it left off to begin the second half. After the Rockets scored the first four points, the Suns countered by scoring the next nine. Shortly after, the Suns went on a 13-1 burst that gave them a seven-point cushion. It pretty much went back and forth in that sort of fashion the entire night.
Can Frye and Green get going early?
I would say neither did.
Channing Frye did start off the game hot behind the arch, hitting his first two three-point attempts, but that is all he contributed early on. He allowed Terrence Jones to score six of the first eight Rockets points and had trouble, along with the rest of the team, stopping Houston in the paint. The Rockets went scored 22 first quarter points in the paint and finished with 64 for the game.
Gerald Green had his own set of problems early on. He only scored two first quarter points on 1-for-4 shooting with a turnover. He also had a lackadaisical moment on the defensive end when he didn’t pay attention after a made basket and allowed Chandler Parsons to receive an advance pass and take it in for a lay-up.
The second half brought much better fortunes to Green as he scored 19 second-half points, with 18 of them coming in the third.
Frye finished 2-for-11 from the floor, but Markieff Morris put in an admirable 21 points and seven rebounds.
What’s the free throw differential?
The Rockets took advantage of their size, James Harden’s aggressiveness and some questionable calls to win this category tonight. A poor start from the line to begin the game certainly didn’t help the Suns, either. Dragic missed his first three free throws before hitting his fourth attempt late in the game that caused him to throw his hands in the sky as to say “finally”. Harden led the way for Houston going 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. The Rockets finished 28-of-32 from the line with the Suns ending the game 17-of-24.