The Suns, the worst defensive team in the NBA last season, held an opponent under 100 points for the third consecutive game Tuesday night, beating the Toronto Raptors 90-82.
Shawn Marion scored 28 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for his ninth double-double in 10 games this season. Steve Nash added 23 points and nine assists for the Suns, the league’s highest-scoring team in 2004-05 and again so far this season.
In winning consecutive home games for the first time, the Suns reached .500 for the first time this season.
“I guess we are just a defensive team now,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We did not shoot the ball well … but look at the positive, we’re playing well defensively.”
“Defense wins championships,” House said. “If that’s going to be our M.O., then we’ll be a great offensive team and a great defensive team.”
Houston lost its fourth straight game, 102-93 to Dallas on Tuesday.
Star forward Tracy McGrady missed his second straight game and fifth this season because of a strained back Tuesday. Starting guard Rafer Alston is also sidelined, missing his third consecutive game with a leg injury.
Because his team owns the worst record in the Western Conference, Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy is not opposed to making lineup changes.
“You give them enough time, which basically we’re approaching now,” he said. “It’s your job as a coach to sometimes make hard decisions. Particularly with veterans, you don’t want to give them too short a rope, but sometimes it’s just not happening and you have to go in a different direction.”
STANDINGS (through Nov. 22): Suns - 3rd place, 3 GB, Pacific Division. Rockets - 5th place, 6 GB, Southwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Suns - Marion, 19.6 ppg and 13.1 rpg; Nash, 11 apg. Rockets - McGrady, 21.7 ppg; Yao, 8.9 rpg; Alston, 4.1 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: April 9; Rockets, 98-97. At Phoenix, the Suns nearly rallied from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but Nash missed an 18-footer and Steven Hunter’s attempt to slam home the rebound bounced out.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Suns - 2-1 on the road; Rockets - 1-3 at home.