Slow Second Half Causes Suns Defeat, 111-105
The Phoenix Suns came out ready to play tonight against the Houston Rockets, but couldn’t hold it together in the second half and ended up with the loss, 111-105. The Suns came out strong for the second night in a row, outscoring the Rockets by nine points in the first quarter and taking a three point lead into halftime.
The Suns got off to a great start tonight going on a 6-0 run right out of the gates. Markieff Morris picked up right where he left off from last game and hit a three pointer to put the Suns on the board. P.J. Tucker stole the coinciding inbound pass and converted an and-one to give the Suns energy from the start. The Houston starting five struggled in the first four minutes of the game and fell behind by 10 points, causing Houston Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to pull a line change, five in and five out. Houston’s bench made up a few points for them, and Phoenix ended the first quarter up by nine, 28-19.
The Rockets’ starters returned to start the second quarter and looked a bit more determined. Both teams traded early punches in the quarter until Devin Booker stroked a three pointer from the top of the key to put the Suns ahead 38-26. On the way back down the court, James Harden delivered a dirty elbow to the jaw of Booker and picked up the flagrant. Booker hit both from the line to stretch the lead to 13. The cheap-shot must have done something to fire up the Rockets, and they went on a big 10-2 run before Suns Head Coach Earl Watson could call the timeout with just a one point lead. The Rockets went on to tie the game for the first time since tip-off, before Morris was fouled on a three-pointer and hit all three free throws. The Suns brought a 59-56 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Houston remained hot coming out of halftime. Trevor Ariza started the run, hitting a three pointer to tie the game at 59. Corey Brewer then had back-to-back fast break buckets to give the rockets a four point lead. Early in the third quarter, Phoenix was failing to get back on defense, lacked proper spacing on offense, and started turning the ball over. Coach Watson called a timeout to kill the Houston run, and more than likely address those three issues, which were all issues dealing with eight quick turnovers in the quarter. The Rockets held a double lead through the majority of the quarter, but that lead was reduced by three as Archie Goodwin hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to bring the Suns within eight.
Suns’ sharp-shooting power forward Mirza Teletovic started the fourth quarter by going on a personal 10-3 run against the Rockets to bring the game within just one point. It took Teletovic just two minutes to hit two three-pointers, a fast break layup, and two free throws to get the Suns right back in the game. Alex Len hit a bucket, followed by a Jordan McRae three-pointer to give the Suns a four point lead, 95-91. Phoenix then entered their 1-2-2 match-up zone, which has been “interesting” to watch the Suns run lately this season. After starting the quarter on a 15-3 run, the Suns entered this zone and instantly got burned on a 7-0 run. The zone has troubles matching up and rotating on the perimeter, and then getting rebounds from those perimeter shots. In a zone, due to not being directly next to your man, it is tough to find the correct guy to box out, and this led to a few late offensive rebounds by Houston. Rockets’ PG Patrick Beverly contained two offensive rebounds in a single possession, which led to a Brewer three to put the dagger in the Suns’ collective coffin. The game ended with a final score of 111-105.
Goodwin led the way for the Suns, scoring a team high 22 points and had seven assists. Booker had a nice night from the free throw line, going 9/10 and finishing with 17 points on the night. Alex Len also had a big night, scoring 12 points and grabbing a career high 18 rebounds. An impressive nine of those rebounds came on the offensive glass.
Houston was led by the duo of Brewer and Ariza, who combined for 46 points. The two were very efficient from all over the floor tonight, hitting 16/27 shots from the floor. Harden was quiet early in the game, but finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.
Phoenix has the day off tomorrow, and host the Utah Jazz Saturday night. Tip-off is set for 7:00 local time.