For the second time in consecutive nights, the Phoenix Suns put forth a good effort on the court and kept a game close. And for the second time in consecutive nights, the Suns could not close the gap and were sent away with a loss.
The Houston Rockets hosted the Jeff Hornacek-coached squad Wednesday night, and it was a high-scoring affair in which the Suns played from behind for a majority of the game. But Houston could never quite pull away until roughly four minutes left in the contest. The Rockets won 122-108.
Following a five-game winning streak, Phoenix has lost two in a row, dropping to 29-20 on the year. Houston retained the Western Conference’s fifth-best record and improved to 33-17.
Here’s a look at Wednesday’s contest at the Toyota Center by the numbers:
After two straight losses, Phoenix is tied with Golden State at 3.5 games back of Houston for the fifth-best record in the West.
In 11 games against Southwest division teams thus far, the Suns have only won 4 of those contests.
Point guard Goran Dragic tied his season-long streak of nine games with at least one 3-pointer. Dragic made 2-of-6 from downtown Wednesday, and finished with a team-high 23 points, to go with eight assists, three steals and six rebounds.
Power forward Channing Frye narrowly extended his streak of games with a 3-pointer to 10 (a new season-high) when he made one from downtown with just under three minutes left against Houston. The University of Arizona product struggled in the game, finishing with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting and failing to grab a rebound.
Rookie center Alex Len finished with the best +/- ratio on the Suns at +11, meaning Phoenix scored 11 more points than its opponent in his time on the court. Len posted just two points, one rebound and three fouls in his 15 minutes of playing time.
Backup guard Leandro Barbosa had his second strong game in a row. He shot 5-for-7, had two assists and a block and finished with 13 points — tied for his second-highest total of the season. He also made two 3-pointers for the first time since he rejoined the team in January.
Rockets guard James Harden has now made all 20 of his free throws against the Suns in two matchups this season. The former Arizona State standout made 12-of-12 from the line Wednesday. He only converted four field goals in 10 tries, but finished with 23 points.
Houston Center Dwight Howard grabbed 18 rebounds when the two teams last played on Dec. 4, and he pulled down 14 Wednesday. The Rockets star, who averages 12.3 boards per game, posted a game-high 34 points and added three steals and two blocks. He also made 12-of-18 free throws (66.7) — not bad considering he shoots 53.3 percent from the line on the season.
Phoenix’s bench was a bright spot at the Toyota Center, outscoring that of Houston by a 46-19 margin. Three Suns reserves scored in double-figures: Barbosa with 13, Markieff Morris with 12 and Marcus Morris with 11. Backup point guard Ish Smith also added eight points.
The Rockets’ starting front line put up a whopping 76 points on the Suns. Howard led with 34, while forwards Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons each scored 19. Phoenix’s starting front line combined for only 26 points. P.J. Tucker was the only one of the three players to reach double-figures, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
The Rockets were hot from downtown, hitting 11 out of 16 threes (78.6 percent). Parsons hit 3-of-3 from behind the arc and Harden made 3-of-5 to lead the home team. The Suns, meanwhile, made only eight of their 30 long bombs (26.7 percent).
Although the Suns have scored higher this season, the Rockets’ 122 points marked the most points Phoenix has allowed in a contest in 2013-14. It shouldn’t be too surprising, given that Houston is the fourth-highest scoring team in the league with 105.1 points per game. Houston’s 88 points against the Suns when the two teams last met looks like an aberration after Wednesday’s outcome. To add insult to injury, the Suns have now allowed their opponent to reach or surpass 100 points in 10 of the last 12 games.