Suns shut down Rockets in Houston
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Eric Bledsoe had 20 points and seven assists to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 97-88 victory over the cold-shooting Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.
Goran Dragic added 19 points and P.J. Tucker scored 18 as the Suns halted a two-game skid and dealt the Rockets their first defeat at home since Nov. 9.
Playing without a pair of key players in Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik, Houston managed a meager .352 field goal percentage and was held to its lowest scoring output of the season. Top weapon James Harden went 3-for-17 from the floor and 0-for-10 from 3-point range while mustering 14 points.
Dwight Howard posted 15 points and 18 rebounds for the Rockets, who had won six in a row at the Toyota Center. Aaron Brooks finished with 17 points and six assists.
"Phoenix came out and got real aggressive with us," said Houston coach Kevin McHale. "We didn't have any flow tonight but that's two games in a row now that we didn't have any flow."
The shorthanded Rockets shot a woeful 29.6 percent during the opening quarter and trailed 25-20 at period's end, and their offensive struggles extended into the second as Phoenix began to increase its margin.
Bledsoe and Tucker netted five points each during a 14-4 push that sent the Suns in front by double digits, with the latter's 3-pointer with 3:09 left in the half putting Houston at a 47-34 deficit. Phoenix led by 14 before Harden was fouled shooting from beyond the arc and hit all three free throws to pull the Rockets within 51-40.
Houston went just 14-of-47 on field goal attempts over the initial two quarters.
The Rockets were able to make some headway in the third quarter, using an 11-2 spurt capped by a Patrick Beverley three to cut the lead to 55-51 near the midway mark of the frame. The differential was just two around four minutes afterward, when Francisco Garcia's triple pulled Houston within 63-61.
Phoenix closed out the quarter on a 10-0 surge, however, with Channing Frye and Tucker draining 3-pointers to begin the flurry, to build a 73-61 lead entering the fourth.
Houston again kept coming, though, outscoring the Suns by a 13-2 spread to open the period and closing the gap to 75-74 on a Brooks three with 7:09 left.
The Suns responded by scoring the next 13 points to pull away, with Marcus Morris providing the dagger with a beyond-the-arc basket that made the score 88-74 with three minutes remaining.
"They cut it down, and we could have gotten panicked where we forced shots, but we didn't," Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said of his team withstanding the Houston run.
The Rockets had eclipsed the 100-point mark in 11 of their last 12 games, with their 93-86 win at Memphis on Nov. 25 the club's previous season low for points ... Parsons missed his second straight game with back spasms, while Asik is expected to sit out a week with a bruised right thigh sustained Monday at Utah ... Tucker ended 8-of-13 from the field ... The Rockets' bench outscored the Suns' reserves by a 31-22 margin, with Omri Casspi adding 14 points to Brooks' 17.
12/04 23:59:54 ET