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Locker Room Report: Dragic, Bledsoe, Thomas talk loss to Rockets as trade deadline looms

At least this time it wasn't a buzzer-beater, but the 29-25 Phoenix Suns come into the All-Star break looking far from a team that can win enough games to the make the playoffs this season.

Coach Hornacek was asked if the Suns have any kind of momentum from a first half that, in the end, still does leave them in playoff contention.

"Does it look like it?" he responded. "We've had opportunities. We've had tough stretch here prior to these four games, which we thought maybe if we can get out of that tough stretch of eight games we were playing right in a row, but when you're playing these teams - especially in the West - there's no rest. You can't have off-nights. I guess the break will come at a good time - guys will have a chance to be able to think about it and come back ready to make a push."

Goran Dragic was particularly despondent in his corner of the locker room as he got dressed to leave. He spoke as someone who just couldn't fathom how to beat the Rockets after another loss to them.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "You know, even if you're defending well it's... I don't know, that small lineup, it's tough to get a board.

"James Harden is a difference maker. You know, you cannot put only one guy to guard him; you need to double team him or something. Usually when you do that they have four other guys that are waiting to shoot the ball or to penetrate. We just couldn't stay in front of those guys, they move the ball well and they were knocking shots down and unfortunately for us, we didn't move the ball."

No, the Suns did not move the ball. A year ago, they were last in the league in assist ratio (% of made field goals that were assisted) and this year they are still in the bottom five.

The Suns began the game sluggish again, like so often this year, and got down by 18 points after the first quarter when James Harden made a three-pointer just before the quarter buzzer.

But then the Suns pushed back in the second quarter, getting Donatas Motiejunas and Patrick Beverley into foul trouble through their aggression at attacking the rim. They came out strong from the halftime break and even took an 8-point lead halfway through the third in a furious rally of steals and rim protection (thanks Miles!) before Houston started making shots once again.

Hornacek, quite frustrated with these losses, didn't spend much time giving the Suns credit for what they did right in the middle of the game.

"In the third quarter, they (Houston) were missing their shots," Hornacek said. "And then in the fourth quarter, they made almost every three it seemed like. [Harden] creates those. He draws everybody and throws it and passes it at the right time. That's why he's one of the best in the league. He knows how to do that. To their credit, they made those shots."

The Rockets reserves - Josh Smith, Kostas Papanikolau, Jason Terry and Corey Brewer - made 7 of 14 three-point attempts, and seven Rockets overall made at least one three pointer among the team's 16.

Harden scored 40 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter (the highest quarter of his career), after nearly breaking his elbow on a flow attempt late in the third while the Suns were on a roll. He also had 12 rebounds, 9 assists, three steals and a block.

"He's a great individual player," Eric Bledsoe said. "I know you've seen him right. He made all the tough plays for his team like all the great players do. You know, he's in the run for MVP and he should be up there."

Bledsoe gave Harden credit, but boiled the loss down to the Suns mistakes.

"We always get ourselves in the game," he said of shrugging off the early 18-point deficit. "Mistakes, they kill us. You know the offensive rebounds by Brewer. You know, Harden made some tough plays, but the shots he did miss they still got the offensive rebound and we turned the ball over at the end."

Without Alex Len, the Suns struggle more than ever with their rebounding. When Miles Plumlee got his break late in the third quarter, coach Hornacek put the Morris twins as the bigs around three guards. During this stretch, the Rockets went on a 34-14 tear to take the lead back for good.

"We were trying to get some subs," Hornacek said of the twins staying in during the whole run. "These guys are tired. It was kind of an up-and-down game. It doesn't matter who's in there, we've got to be able to do the little things. When you're small, that's obviously when you've got to do other things. We just felt that maybe Markieff (Morris) in there with Marcus, they tend to play better together and see if they can get going a little bit. That's just the way it is."

Isaiah Thomas talked about the mistakes as well. He also talked about needing to get away to clear their minds, and that he was looking forward to the All-Star weekend festivities, and winning the Skills Challenge.

There you have it, folks.

The guys need a break. Dragic is going to Hawaii. Thomas is going to New York.

"Hopefully the All-Star break will clear our heads a bit and we can start fresh," Dragic said.

All the players just need some time to chill and get their minds right.

"We're going to stick together," Bledsoe said.

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