Game Thread: Phoenix Suns To Take On Ailing Houston Rockets

Mar 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives the ball to the basket during the second quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives the ball to the basket during the second quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Game Thread:

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9:50 — FINAL (OT): Rockets 135, Suns 129. Warren leads the way with 21 points, Booker adds 20. Suns unable to come back from down 17 to start the 4th. Teletovic had 19 points and 12 boards.

9:47 — Goodwin layup cuts it to 130-125 with 32.9 seconds left. Suns have to foul. Livingston makes them both to extend lead back to seven

9:46 — Suns look tired. They’re down seven with under a minute to play.

9:44 — Some guy named Denzel Livingston seems hellbent on leading Houston to victory. Drills a corner three to extend Houston’s lead to seven with just over two minutes left. Teletovic hits two FTs to cut it back down to five with 2:17 left.

9:43 — Suns have had a couple of close shots lip out. Rockets take a six-point lead

9:40 — Half the fans left when it went to overtime. Guess that’s what happens for preseason/when you surrender a five-point lead with less than a minute to go. Ronnie Price fouls out and Archie Goodwin checks in. Rockets up 119-117 with 4:26 to go.

9:37 — Suns recover the ball from the jump, but Warren doesn’t get his shot off in time. WE’RE HEADING TO OT!

9:36 — Jump ball at center court. Wow.

9:34 — Bad play there. Suns inbound the ball and turn it over. Rockets ball with 1.5 seconds left at their own basket. GAME-WINNER IS BACK IN PLAY. That call is being reviewed.

9:32 — WELL AT LEAST THEY DIDN’T LOSE! Suns give up a layup to Livingston with 5.1 seconds left. Game tied at 117.


9:30 — Suns get the ball into Warren, who is fouled and will head to the line. 11.5 seconds left. T.J. misses the first, makes the second. Rockets timeout with Suns up 117-115.

9:28 — Booker lobs the inbounds pass too high to a cutting Weems and Houston recovers. Rockets at the foul line, Livingston misses the first. Makes the second with 13.2 seconds left. Suns timeout. Phoenix up 116-115.

9:27 — The show that Booker and Warren are putting on right now is unbelievable. This place is LOUD for a preseason game. Suns up 116-114 with 17.8 seconds left and have the ball with half a second on the shot clock.

9:25 — Warren hits another jumper over Dekker to give the Suns a 113-111 lead. Phoenix secures the rebound, finds Booker in the corner for three. This crowd is going BONKERS

9:24 — T.J. Warren hits a ridiculously tough step-back to tie the game at 111. PRESEASON COMEBACKS ARE THE BEST KIND OF COMEBACKS!

9:23 — McDaniels goes 1-for-2 from the line. Weems gets a nice handoff from Booker for an easy dunk to cut the lead to two.

9:22 — Two free throws coming for K.J. McDaniels. Rockets clinging to 110-107 lead with 2:05 to play. Devin Booker has 12 points in the fourth, put the crowd into a frenzy with his last three in transition. You could barely hear the death rattle of Archie Goodwin’s playing time over it.

9:20 — Dekker makes them both. Booker finds Weems for three, but he misses. Suns close out on defense with a rebound, find Warren in transition, but the Rockets score. Then Booker drills a thereto cut the lead to 110-107 with just over two minutes to play.

9:18 — Devin Booker will not be denied! His layup and strong take to the basket after a behind-the-back dribble pulls Phoenix within four, but the Suns give up an offensive rebound to Dekker on the other end.

9:16 — Big miss by Archie. That would have cut it to three after he got past Sam Dekker, but couldn’t convert at that tough angle. Harrell goes 1-for-2 at the line. Rockets up 106-100

9:15 — T.J. Warren’s three-point play in transition pulls the Suns within eight with just over four minutes to go. THEN HE DOES IT AGAIN TO CUT IT TO FIVE

9:14 — The Suns almost traveled on a four-on-none fast break. THE NBA: WHERE PRESEASON HAPPENS!

9:13 — Big missed bucket by Booker. Couldn’t fight through the contact going to the rim, Houston scores on the other end after his missed layup. Rockets back up 105-92.

9:12 — HOLD THE PHONE! Booker finds Teletovic in the corner for three to cut the lead to 11. Still life yet for the Suns.

9:10 — At least Booker is staying aggressive. Going hard to the basket, nearly stole the inbounds pass with Phoenix providing full-court pressure now

9:07 — Harrell gets an easy dunk after a Houston offensive rebound. Probably got fouled by Jefferson too. Rockets up 103-87 with 7:49 left in the game. Suns could be handed their first loss of the preseason but OH LOOK IT’S FREE T-SHIRT TIME

9:06 — Or, you know, lose Will Cummings and give up a wide open layup. Either/or.

9:06 — Booker’s free throws cut the lead back down to 12. Suns need to string together some defensive rebounds and secure a few stops to make a run at that lead.

9:03 — Booker is being aggressive out there. Injecting some life into this Suns lineup right now. Phoenix trails 99-85 with 8:49 left in the game, timeout on the floor.

9:01 — Thanks to Sam Dekker, the crowd goes wild for free Carls Jr on back-to-back missed free throws. Oh, Suns fans…

8:59 — Devin Booker with an and-one driving to the basket. His free throw cuts the lead to 14

8:57 — Cory Jefferson in to start the fourth. Harrell swats Archie’s drive to the rim.

8:56 — End of the third quarter: Rockets 97, Suns 80. Houston casually dropped 42 points in the third. That dunk over Knight might have been the turning point.

8:54 — And then Terry, the U of A alum, buries the three in Sun Devil territory. Unbelievable. Then Ariza buries a triple in transition. Rockets up 95-80 now.

8:53 — P.J. Tucker took a hard spill, looked like he hit his head on the ground, but he hits a three the next time down the floor and is staying in the game. Meanwhile, this happened:

8:51 — Joshua Smith fouls out in 10 minutes of action. So at least the Suns have that going for them!

8:50 — Houston starting to pull away behind Corey Brewer threes. Rockets now up 11 with 2:09 left in the period.

8:46 — Timeout on the floor. Rockets up 83-75 with 3:12 left in the third quarter.

8:44 — The Suns are making Terrence Jones look like a damn All-Star. He just buried a three with Keef playing off of him to put Rockets up 81-70, but Teletovic responds with a three of his own trying to bust out of his shooting slump.

8:42 — Brandon Knight is a highly underrated spot-up shooter. Also, here’s what Clint Capela did to Brandon Knight:

8:40 — Suns are getting sloppy with the ball, committing some bad pass turnovers in the half court. Rockets up 73-66 after Brewer goes 1-for-2 from the foul line.

8:37 — Here’s that last Sonny Weems dunk. Just to feel better about what happened to poor Brandon Knight. Rockets up 71-64 now.

8:36 — I don’t know what it is about Brandon Knight, but that poor dude always finds himself on the wrong end of posters. Clint Capela just baptized him as Knight was trying to take a charge. You’ll be seeing that one on the SportsCenter’s Top 10 tonight. Yeesh.

8:31 — Sonny Weems with back-to-back dunks. He’s good at finding those open alleyways to the basket off the ball.

8:30 — Rockets are killing Suns on the offensive glass, but luckily for Phoenix, Capela just missed an easy put-back dunk.

8:27 — Terrence Jones leads the Rockets with 17 first half points…just to give you an indication of how much the Suns need Tyson Chandler and Alex Len in the frontcourt.

8:12 — HALFTIME: Suns 53, Rockets 55 after T-Jones hits a three at the buzzer. Price and Keef have 8 points apiece.

8:07 — Rockets playing Sam Dekker and Trevor Ariza as its bigs right now. Suns making them pay down low.

8:03 — Timeout after Joshua Smith picks up his fourth foul. Suns tied with Houston 48-48 with 2:29 left in the first half.

8:02 — The Suns seem to have forgotten that Terrence Jones is a lefty. I think all of his buckets have been left-handed layups.

8:01 — Teletovic showing some nice extra effort on the glass, tipping in a missed P.J. Tucker three-pointer.

8:00 — Meanwhile, Devin Booker, who just checked in after the timeout, immediately splashes through his first three-point attempt. Jones with a three-point play in transition against Leuer makes it 46-44 Suns.

7:59 — The Suns gorilla just tore up a Rockets fan’s “Fear The Beard” sign. He’s the best.

7:58 — Here’s that Knight-to-Sims alley-oop:

7:57 — Timeout Suns after giving up three consecutive layups. That Teletovic-Leuer frontcourt pairing is bleeding buckets down in the paint. Rockets up 41-40 after 10-2 run with 5:18 left in the second quarter.

7:55 — Random preseason rotation, or something to keep an eye on? Devin Booker hasn’t entered the game and didn’t play much in the second preseason game either….

7:54 — The one problem with Jon Leuer: he cannot defend very well. Jones/Capela eating him alive in limited minutes.

7:52 — Knight finds Sims for an alley-oop after back-to-back turnovers and some Helter Skelter play out there. In other news, Mirza caught a pass and actually passed it without shooting it!

7:49 — Official timeout. Suns up 34-30 with 8:59 left in the first half.

7:48 — So Mirza Teletovic has been slightly disappointing in the preseason thus far. Just badly missed an attempt at a finger roll slicing through the lane

7:46 — RONNIE PRICE IS GOING TO BE AN ALL-STAR THIS YEAR. No, but seriously, he knocks down a jumper on Beverley, picks Beverley’s pocket after the ensuing inbounds pass and lays it right back up and in for four straight points. Suns up 34-30

7:43 — Mirza Teletovic into the game to start the second quarter. Suns up 30-27.

7:41 — End of first quarter: Suns 30, Rockets 27. Markieff Morris leads Phoenix with eight points after rocky start

7:39 — Warren and Goodwin getting out in transition here. Nice play between the two young guns. Meanwhile, Harrell picks up his fourth foul…in four minutes of playing time.

7:37 — Montrezl Harrell already has three fouls. Keef has forced him into all three. Suns up 28-24 after Keef goes two for three from the foul line.

7:36 — Henry Sims literally has his hands full trying to earn a spot on the Suns roster:

7:34 — THE BANK IS OPEN FOR ARCHIE GOODWIN! Hits a three off the backboard right at the shot clock buzzer.

7:32 — T.J. Warren quickly scores after checking in. Meanwhile, 360-pound behemoth Joshua Smith is in for the Rockets. He quickly backs down Henry Sims for an easy and-one that drew laughter from media row. I mean, how do you stop a guy that’s 360 pounds?? Suns up 22-21 with Smith’s free throw coming after the timeout.

7:30 — Henry Sims checks in with just over four minutes to go in the first. He needs to prove his worth out here tonight. Meanwhile, Keef takes Montrezl Harrell to the basket for the three-point play to put Phoenix up 20-17.

7:29 — Ronnie Price makes yet another preseason three and WHAT THE HELL HOW IS THIS STILL HAPPENING FOR A 29 PERCENT THREE-POINT SHOOTER??

7:27 — It’s ruled a two-shot foul so Ronnie Price goes to the line. He makes 1 of 2, Suns down 14-12.

7:26 — The last play is currently under review to assess whether it was a two-shot foul. YAY PRESEASON MONITOR REVIEWS IN THE FIRST EFFING QUARTER!! By the way, here’s that alley-oop from Tucker to Weems:

7:25 — Jones is making Keef look SOFT down low. Just backed him down for another easy bucket right in the paint. Rockets up 14-11.

7:22 — Timeout Suns. Rockets up 12-11 with 5:47 left in the first quarter.

7:21 — Ronnie Price is the first Suns sub to check in, replacing Brandon Knight. Knight has six points and two triples.

7:20 — BUT THE CROWD LIKED THAT ONE! Weems gets the alley-oop dunk in transition and Brandon Knight knocks down a three to make it 11-9.

7:19 — Sonny Weems picks up this second foul with 7:11 left in the first quarter. Yet another poor start for Phoenix.

7:16 — Soooo….it turns out a frontcourt of Keef and Leuer isn’t the greatest defensively. Jones blows right by Leuer for the easy layup after Capela’s offensive rebound gives the Rockets a second chance. Houston up 9-4.

7:15 — Keef’s first three-point attempt of the night not quite as good as last time. Barely draws iron.

7:14 — P.J. Tucker with the hustle play all by himself to keep possession with the Suns. That’s the kind of stuff that will help him keep his starting job.

7:12 — Brandon Knight is a much better shooter than he’s given credit for. He can drill threes off the dribble and sets his feet really quickly. His bucket triple the game at 3-3.

7:11 — Jones goes right at Keef first play of the game for an EASY bucket. Pretty soft defense there, something Keef really needs to work on this year. Next play Jones goes at him again and draws a foul

7:08 — I love that the Suns’ intro video to get the fans hyped before starting lineups ends with Jon Leuer banging it home on DeMarcus Cousins. I just don’t know why.

7:00 — Montrezl Harrell just threw down a windmill dunk off the bounce in warmups. Best of luck to Keef, Jon Leuer and the rest of the Suns’ frontcourt trying to keep him off the boards tonight.

6:56 — This is a big night for Henry Sims, Cory Jefferson and Kyle Casey to prove they belong with so many players out tonight. They’re fighting for two available roster spots.

6:52 — Add Donatas Motiejunas to the list of Rockets players not playing tonight, joining Harden, Howard, Lawson and Thornton. Houston’s starters: Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones and Clint Capela.

6:20 — Unrelated note, say what you want about Markieff Morris, but at least he’s trying.

6:15 — In all seriousness though, if you’re justifiably worried about Len’s ankle, here’s what Hornacek had to say about it:

6:12 — Gerald Bourguet here, I’ll be handling the game thread for tonight! Per Jeff Hornacek, Eric Bledsoe (stomach bug), Alex Len (ankle sprain) and Tyson Chandler (back spasms) are out tonight for the Suns. Meanwhile, James Harden, Dwight Howard, Ty Lawson and Marcus Thornton are not expected to play for the Rockets either. I know what you’re all thinking….NO MARCUS THORNTON REVENGE GAME.


Phoenix Suns (2-0) vs. Houston Rockets (1-2)
When: Wed Oct. 14, 2015 @ 7:00 p.m.
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, AZ.


Last year, the Phoenix Suns began the preseason 2-0. First, they defeated Flamengo — a Spanish team — and then followed that up with a dominating eight-point home victory over the Denver Nuggets. However, in the next game, the Suns lost to the Houston Rockets — in a game that left its mark on the team. The Suns lost their shot at perfection on that day, and since then, they’ve been out for revenge.

Okay, so maybe it’s not that dramatic at all, but it’s still basketball. That’s something, right?

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This year, the 2-0 preseason Phoenix Suns once again get to take on the Houston Rockets, though this time things are a little bit different. In that last game, Anthony Tolliver logged 30 minutes for the Suns, while two of the team’s starters — Goran Dragic and Miles Plumlee — now play for completely different teams.

There were certainly some differences for the Rockets too. In Sunday’s game against the Orlando Magic, Houston’s leading scorers were — in order — Corey Brewer, Marcus Thornton, James Harden, Ty Lawson and Trevor Ariza. In the last preseason meeting between the Rockets and Suns, only one of those players was even active — Trevor Ariza, who posted six points and five rebounds in just 15 minutes.

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However, there were also some similarities. Both James Harden and Dwight Howard sat out the last preseason meeting between the two teams, which could very well be the case again today. Additionally, it was the bench that was doing a lot of the heavy lifting coming into the game against Phoenix, which has happened once again, at least in the Rockets’ last couple outings.

This year, the holes in the Houston lineup should provide Phoenix with a chance to not only win, but to also play a variety of players throughout the night. T.J. Warren, for example, is averaging just under 15 points per game coming into this contest, and he’ll certainly look for another big-time performance, although he’ll be playing against the K.J. McDaniels of the world, and not just against some random backups.

Finally, it should be a very pleasing game to watch all around. The Rockets want to push the tempo, and the Suns should have no problem getting out in transition. Both teams have a couple of potential highlight-makers, and it would not be shocking to see this game go way up into the 100s.

Three Things To Watch:

1. A Big Splash — In the Suns’ first preseason game, Markieff Morris and Alex Len totaled just 12 points and 13 rebounds, shooting a combined 4-of-18 from the floor. With Morris, there was lots of talk about how he may have been unprepared for the season after skipping the voluntary workouts, while with Len, the concerns continued to be about his development as a player.

However, in the team’s second preseason game, both of those areas of uncertainties became areas of strength.

For Len, his ability to stretch the floor provided a welcome boost, as he continued to show his development as more of a stretch-5 on the offensive end, whereas — outside of his three three-point attempts — Morris did most of his damage from inside the paint. The two combined to shoot 14-of-20 from the field and 8-of-10 from the line en route to a fairly comfortable win.

Against the Rockets, they’ll be facing another solid frontline, which includes 360-pound center Joshua Smith, who played at Georgetown last season. Weight-wise, Smith is one of the bigger players in the NBA, and even had an incident in the NCAA last season where he injured a player — Kansas point guard Devonte’ Graham — simply by stepping on his foot.

However, he’s also a pretty talented player himself. Against Orlando, Smith posted eight points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes; for the preseason as a whole, he’s shooting over 58 percent from the field.

2. Testing The Depth — With Mirza Teletovic, Jon Leuer, Alex Len, Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and either T.J. Warren or P.J. Tucker coming off the bench on a typical night, it’d be hard to argue the Suns lack quality depth. However, for the opponent, such is even more the case. The Rockets have a second unit full of guys who are ready to step in and play, which could serve to test some of the younger Suns players a bit.

Against Orlando, the bench mob was incredibly active. Brewer dropped in 20 points, despite logging just nine field goal attempts. Former Sun Marcus Thornton added 17, while Joshua Smith, Denzel Livingston and Sam Dekker added eight, eight and seven points respectively.

In the end — playing without James Harden for much of the night — the Rockets would fall to the Magic, but their bench ended up accounting for 75 of their 119 points, which included the team’s top two scorers, leading rebounder and leading assist-getter.

3. Does James Harden Play? — After knocking knees with Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier on Sunday, James Harden left the court and didn’t return. The Rockets have already been playing without Dwight Howard, and they may choose to operate with caution in the case of Harden, even though the injury itself didn’t really look all that bad as a whole.

If Harden does play — obviously — the complexity of the game completely changes. In the preseason, Harden is averaging just over 31 points per 40 minutes, and he seems to have already connected with new point guard Ty Lawson.

In fact, those two players dominated, alongside Trevor Ariza, as the ball found its way to an open three-point shooter on just about every possession. For that reason, all three players finished with a plus/minus of +13, which tied for the best on their team, and was better than any of the opponent’s starters.

Fun Fact:

Shooting guards are having some fun against the Rockets. The last two starting shooting guards the team faced — Evan Fournier and John Jenkins — each posted 19 points, despite playing an average of just 28 minutes per game.

Obviously Harden isn’t the greatest defender in the world, not to mention the preseason doesn’t exactly bring out the best defensive work in anyone, so one of the keys to the game has to be to attack the Rockets at the two-guard position. And if Harden is out, that doesn’t change either.

With all that being said, expect either Archie Goodwin or Devin Booker to have a pretty solid game, as they continue to get more and more playing time this preseason. Against the Kings, Devin Booker struggled, going just 2-of-7 from the field, and it didn’t get much better on Friday against the Jazz, where he shot just 3-of-7.

However, Archie Goodwin has not exactly run away with the battle either, averaging just 5.0 points and 1.5 assists per game, meaning the opportunity for someone to grab ahold of those starting minutes is still there.

Next: Alex Len's Possible Breakout Year Off The Bench

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