The Phoenix Suns lost a very sloppy game to the Houston Rockets by the score of 95-92 . Both coaches chose to play most of their reserves, as only three of the ten starters in the game reached 20 minutes and only Terrence Jones and Kostas Papainkolaou for the Rockets played in the fourth quarter and closed out the game.
This game started off with an extremely sloppy first half. The Suns had nine turnovers in the first quarter and the two teams shot a combined 4-25 from three in the half. The leading scorer for the Suns was Eric Bledsoe with 7 and Goran Dragic didn't score again in the first half after scoring five quick points in the beginning of the game.
In my opinion it looked like everyone was off. The Rockets were missing a lot of good looks from three and the Suns were just extremely out of rhythm offensively. Both teams weren't all that bad defensively, but that wasn't even close to what led to this line at half. The Suns also missed eight free throws in the first half.
We saw the debut of Joe Jackson in this one. As our own Dave King pointed out, this is likely Jackson getting some time on the floor before his release like Jamil Wilson had last week. Jackson had a rough going of it and a lot of that had a lot to do with him matching up with Pat Beverley. He showed off his extreme speed, but ironically enough the speed of the NBA was what looked to have him rushing his play and turning the ball over.
The second half started with a quarter of runs. The Suns came in with a lot of energy and a handful of plays from P.J. Tucker saw them reclaim the lead. It wasn't long thought before the reserves came in for the Suns and that saw the Rockets go on a monster run to take the lead once again. You're not going to believe it, but the Suns made it the third run of the quarter at the end to head into the fourth with a six point lead thanks to a nice scoring spurt by T.J. Warren.
The fourth quarter started with a great display from Isaiah Thomas and Anthony Tolliver. Thomas did a great job of taking what the defense would give him and didn't force any shots, as he would even take his shooting form in mid-air and still pull off a pass. Thomas is still getting used to where his teammates are on the floor and we can check Tolliver off the list. Tolliver hit three from deep in about a 4 minute span in the second half. It looks like Tolliver and Thomas will be running a lot of pick-and-pop action for Hornacek this year.
Hornacek couldn't find a lineup to work all night until this point where Thomas/Goodwin/Warren/Tolliver/Barron played with each other for the first eight minutes of the quarter. To be honest this lineup was just playing basketball. They weren't doing anything too special on either end, but were solid enough to give the Suns a cushion. Thomas in particular was the standout as well as Barron doing a decent enough job in the key.
This game would have a preseason ending to it as Tyler Ennis checked in for Thomas around the 4 minute mark to close the game out. Ironically enough this is one of the biggest skills that Ennis has in being a clutch late game performer so I was eager to see how it would go.
Ennis brought that quick and methodical playmaking to the point guard spot, but it didn't produce anything. The Suns went to Earl Barron in some situations to close this game out. Yes, you read that right. Barron, who I mentioned earlier, was probably the most impressive Suns player tonight. He finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The game would end as it should have, sloppy. Archie Goodwin had a humongous turnover on his own end on a drive which led to a Rockets fast break. The Rockets missed the open three, got an offensive rebound, missed that, and then T.J. Warren turned over the rebound as he tried to move it in transition. Isaiah Canaan got the ball right away with the and-1 and that gave the Rockets the 93-90 lead with 30 seconds left in the game.
That unit left on the floor didn't give the Suns any three-point threat except for Tolliver and that resulted in an ugly step-back three attempted by Archie Goodwin with 11 seconds left which he missed. The Rockets made one of their free throws and that would do it.
The Suns will be back in action on Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs.