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Rockets, Suns set for battle in the desert

(Sports Network) - A solid defensive effort down the stretch propelled the Houston Rockets to victory their last time out and they hope it carries over into Saturday's road test with the Phoenix Suns.

The Rockets registered a 94-88 win at Golden State Friday night and held the Warriors to 12 points in the fourth quarter. Free throws down the stretch by James Harden and Jeremy Lin sealed Golden State's fate and pulled the Rockets within a game of the Warriors in the West standings. Golden State is sixth in the conference.

Houston made 25-of-34 foul shots and was led by Chandler Parson's game-high 26 points. Harden ended with 20 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, while Lin and Carlos Delfino scored 15 and 12 points, respectively.

"I think we've definitely taken some positive steps forward in our defense. We held them to only 12 points in the fourth quarter," Harden said. "On the road, in a playoff-type atmosphere, that shows the camaraderie that we have and the togetherness that we are building. Tonight was a good road win."

The Rockets, who had scored 100-plus points in seven straight games, are second in the NBA with 106.8 ppg and have won three of four and five of their last eight games. They are 14-20 away from Space City and will start a seven- game homestand Wednesday versus the Suns.

Phoenix has dropped two in a row since a three-game winning streak and suffered a 121-112 loss at Sacramento Friday night.

Six Suns players scored in double figures as Michael Beasley led the way with 24 points off the bench. Wes Johnson had 19 and Goran Dragic delivered 17 and 16 assists for Phoenix, which shot 47.8 percent and made only 7-of-23 from beyond the arc.

The Suns played without centers Marcin Gortat (foot) and Jermaine O'Neal (personal). Coach Lindsey Hunter talked about missing his bigs.

"Definitely with Gortat and Jermaine O'Neal out, those two guys were our anchors and they really supported us down low defensively," Hunter said. "But we can't sit here and talk about what we don't have. One of our favorite phrases to say is 'no excuses'. If a guy is not there then the next guy needs to step up and that's part of it. So we'll get back to the drawing board and fix these things."

Dragic's 16 assists were two shy of matching a career high set Feb. 19 at Portland. He is averaging 14.7 points, 10.8 assists and 2.44 steals since the All-Star break. The 112 points scored by the Suns were the most since a season-best 121 dropped on Charlotte Dec. 19. Sacramento, though, had four players with at least 20 points on the night.

Phoenix is 4-5 since the break and 8-13 since changing coaches. Hunter is 4-4 in the desert after replacing Alvin Gentry in January.

The Suns will play two straight home games versus Houston and Denver and own a 14-16 record at U.S. Airways Center. They split four games with the Rockets a season ago and have won two straight and nine of the past 12 meetings.

03/09 10:50:25 ET

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