Summing it up
The Suns fell behind 12-2 right out of the gates, and despite their best efforts they just couldn't make it over the hump and come all the way back. Goran Dragic kept pace with Houston's James Harden, but the Suns didn't have anyone to slow down or cancel out Dwight Howard's production.
Telling the Story
The Rockets came away with points from each of their first five possessions and the Suns fell behind early on. The Suns hung with the Rockets for the rest of the game, but the hole they dug themselves was too deep to climb out of. Phoenix cut the lead to 35-30 after the first and 66-63 at half after forcing three ties in the second.
Yet every time the Suns made a run, the Rockets answered with a big shot. Houston scored the first six points of the half while Channing Frye missed three straight shots, and the lead was back to nine at 72-63. Gerald Green scored six of the next seven shots to cut it back down to four and keep the Suns within striking distance, but once again the Rockets answered with a three by Chandler Parsons. The Suns stretched the lead out to as many as 12, but the Suns came storming back again to make it 95-90 after three.
Phoenix needed a big push to start the half to make it a new game, but that didn't happen. Phoenix got the first bucket, but Houston scored the next six and the game was more or less over. The Suns just couldn't string together enough stops and buckets. They even resorted to the Hack-a-Howard with just over three minutes remaining, but Howard hit five of his six attempts to ice the game. The Rockets continued to score, while the Suns didn't, and the final score makes it look much worse than it really was for most of the game.
- Dwight Howard: 34 points, 11-17 field goals, 12-18 free throws, 13 rebounds. Howard was unstoppable all night. He bullied every player the Suns through at him down on the block, and scored with a variety of moves. He even knocked down his free throws. Howard was the difference tonight.
- Goran Dragic: 23 points, 6-13 field goals, 9-9 free throws, eight assists, six rebounds. Dragic was Dragic and canceled out James Harden's 23 points. Unfortunately, he didn't have a teammate go for 30+ like Harden did.
- Houston made a lot of great shots, but the Suns simply made it way too easy on them. P.J. Tucker gave everything he had defending Harden, but nobody else put up enough of a fight. The Suns' defense has been awful the last two games, and that needs to change very soon or the Suns will hit the All-Star break on a four-game losing streak.
- The Suns' bench did their job offensively tonight. Phoenix won bench points 46-19, and all five regular rotation bench players made their mark.
- Leandro Barbosa tied with two other Suns for second on the team in scoring with 13. LB promised to Scott Howard on Twitter that he would start knocking down jumpers eventually, and he made good on that promise tonight. LB was 5-7 from the field and 2-4 from deep. Beep beep.
- Alex Len's first two minutes of action tonight: three altered shots and a beautiful up-and-under post move for a bucket. I can't wait to see what this kid becomes.
- Dwight was the difference, but the Suns also let Houston's tertiary guys go off as well. Parsons and Terrence Jones each had 19 points on 12 shots. Tucker held Harden in check as well as you could have expected, but those two and Howard killed the Suns.
- Channing Frye and Gerald Green have both been struggling lately, on both sides of the ball. That's 40 percent of your starting lineup right there. They need to get going again.