Suns 97, Rockets 88

MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- As they did all game long, the Suns answered one last Houston Rockets rally with a series of clutch jump shots, and Phoenix claimed a 97-88 victory Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
After Rockets guard Aaron Brooks drilled a 3-pointer with 7:10 remaining to cut Phoenix's lead to 75-74, the Suns reeled off 13 consecutive points to silence short-handed Houston once and for all.
The Rockets (13-7) saw their six-game home winning streak end, and they posted a season-low point total.
Forwards P.J. Tucker and Channing Frye and guard Goran Dragic sparked the run as Phoenix (10-9) extended to an 88-74 lead. Former Rockets forward Marcus Morris added two critical 3-pointers inside the final four minutes.
Guard Eric Bledsoe paced the Suns with 20 points and seven assists, and Dragic added 19 points. Tucker had 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals and dominated his matchup with Rockets guard James Harden.
Harden scored 14 points on 3-for-17 shooting. Houston center Dwight Howard paired 15 points with 18 rebounds, while Brooks added 17 points and six assists off the bench.
Houston never trailed while winning its previous five home games, a run the Suns snapped when center Miles Plumlee scored on a put-back after 80 seconds.
When Phoenix reeled off am 8-0 burst to snap a 17-17 tie, it offered a preview of what was to come. For every occasion in which the Rockets clawed to within one basket, the Suns had a response, typically forcing a turnover or hitting a shot from behind the arc. Bledsoe followed a Tucker steal and transition layup with a 3-pointer that keyed a 14-4 run after Houston pulled within 33-30 on 3-pointer by swingman Francisco Garcia.
Trailing 51-40 at the break, the Rockets opened the second half with a smaller lineup, swapping Brooks and small forward Omri Casspi for Garcia and power forward Terrence Jones. However, after Houston closed its deficit to 55-51 the Suns answered with another barrage from deep.
During the closing stretch of the third quarter, Dragic, Bledsoe, Frye and Tucker all nailed treys while the Rockets committed four turnovers during that span. That sequence allowed the Suns to rebuild their lead to 73-61 entering the fourth after Houston closed to within 63-61 at the 2:20 mark.
NOTES: Rockets F Chandler Parsons missed his second consecutive game with back spasms. Combined with the loss of C Omer Asik (right thigh contusion), Houston played without three rotation players. Rockets G Jeremy Lin is sidelined due to a right knee sprain and contusion. ... Given that Phoenix leads the league in fast-break points (19.7 per game) while the Rockets rank last in turnover rate (18.1 per 100 possessions), Houston coach Kevin McHale was asked if his depleted rotation posed additional cause for concern. "We turn it over with our regular lineup," McHale said. "I don't know if a patchwork (lineup) has anything to do with that." ... While the Suns are adept at transition scoring, they rank just 14th in overall pace at 96.3 possessions per 48 minutes. "We don't have that middle ground," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "If we don't have a full-out fast-break layup or shot, we have a tendency to just walk it up."

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