Suns 107, Rockets 105

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- Goran Dragic scored 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and the Phoenix Suns got a big boost from their reserves to beat the Houston Rockets 107-105 on Saturday night at US Airways Center.
Jared Dudley scored 22 points to go with seven assists off the bench for the Suns (22-41), his sixth 20-point game this season but first as a reserve. Phoenix got 55 points from its reserves, and 14 points and five rebounds from Markieff Morris.
A night after shooting 3 of 17 in a win at Golden State, James Harden scored 38 points for the Rockets, who failed to move closer to Golden State for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference playoff hunt. Carlos Delfino hit 5 of 9 3-pointers and finished with 21 points off the bench for the Rockets (34-30), and Chandler Parsons added 14 points but shot just 5 of 16.
Harden fueled a mini-spurt which pulled Houston to within one point, but Dragic scored four consecutive points and Marcus Morris' put-back gave Phoenix a 99-93 lead. The Rockets came up empty on five consecutive possessions in that span until a Harden free throw with 1:27 left. The Suns missed on the ensuing possession but corralled the offensive rebound and Dragic hit a fadeaway jumper to make it 101-93 with 45 seconds left. After Harden hit his sixth 3-pointer of the night, Dragic hit both free throws for a 103-96 lead with 26 seconds left.
Both teams began the fourth quarter with hot shooting, but the Suns went on a 9-2 push to bump their lead to 93-86 with 5:46 left in the game when Kendall Marshall banked in a long jumper to beat the shot clock after a loose-ball scramble. But Harden responded with a 3-pointer and, a couple possessions later, a drive which culminated with a three-point play to make it 93-92 with four minutes to play.
With Houston point guard Jeremy Lin on the bench for the final seven minutes of the third quarter with four fouls, Harden scored 12 points in the period and the Rockets used their patented outside shooting (6 of 12 from behind the arc in the quarter) to briefly re-claim the lead, but a 3-pointer by Michael Beasley to end the quarter allowed Phoenix to re-take the lead at 77-76 entering the fourth. Lin fouled out in the closing seconds with 11 points, four assists and five turnovers.
Houston led 28-24 after the first quarter, but Phoenix went on a 16-0 run in second quarter thanks in part to Houston's 11 turnovers. Dudley had 11 points (including two 3-pointers) and four assists in the second quarter. Harden's 13 points and Parsons (26 points per game in the past six games) had 11 for Houston as the Rockets cut Phoenix's lead to 50-46 at halftime.
NOTES: Houston All-Star guard Harden, who played for two years at Arizona State about 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, is averaging 17.3 points per game against Phoenix, second most against any opponent so far in his career. "He is a two-guard that dominates the ball so much," Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said before the game. "Kind of like a version of LeBron James almost." ... Phoenix forwards Luis Scola and Marcus Morris faced their former team on Saturday night. Scola spent his first five years in the NBA with Houston before being released last summer. ... After scoring 26 points (including 6 of 8 from 3-point range) in Houston's win over Golden State on Friday night, Rockets forward Parsons is averaging 24.3 points on 63.6 percent shooting from the field -- 61.4 percent (27 of 44) from beyond the arc -- in the past six games. ... Suns point guard Dragic had a career-high five steals in Friday night's loss at Sacramento. He's one of six players in the league averaging 14 points, seven assists and 1.5 steals per game (James, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague). Dragic also entered Saturday night's game with an NBA-best 97 assists since the All-Star break. ... Including Saturday night's matchup, Phoenix and Houston will play each other four times in the next 36 days after not meeting once in the season's first 62 games.

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