PHOENIX — If the previews are any indication, then a potential Phoenix Suns-Houston Rockets first round playoff matchup will be good competition. And entertainment.
But you’ll have to excuse the Suns if they prefer an alternate ending.
With all five starters scoring in double figures including a career-high by Patrick Beverley, the Rockets handed the Suns a 115-112 loss in front of 15,510 at US Airways Center on Sunday.
Beverley scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a back-breaking three to give Houston a 113-110 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, Goran Dragic pulled the Suns to within one with a layup with 14.7 seconds to play. After two free throws by Donatas Motiejunas, Goran Dragic was short on a game-tying three.
The loss ended the Suns’ three-game winning streak and gave the Rockets the season series, two games to one.
Dragic finished with a career-high 35 points.
Dragic scored a Suns’ season-high for points in a quarter with 19 in the second, hitting all five of his three-point attempts. At one point, Dragic made 10 straight field goals, a streak that ended with a missed three in the third quarter.
Gerald Green scored 18 of his 23 points in the third quarter. He banked in a three with 0.6 for a 28-14 close to the quarter and a 10-point lead, 93-83. It was Green’s 16th game with 20 or more points, establishing a new career-high for most games with at least 20 points in a season.
Markieff Morris scored eight of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. He has scored in double figures in five straight games and in 17 of the last 18, averaging 15.9 points on 49.5 percent shooting over this stretch.
The Suns scored season-high tying points in the second quarter (40, shooting 70.6 percent on 12-of-17 from the floor) and third quarter (37, shooting 64 percent on 16-of-25 from the floor). The 77 combined points is their highest total over two consecutive quarters in a game this season.
After holding the previous three opponents under 40 percent — winning all three games, the Suns allowed 52.6 percent including 60 percent in the fourth quarter as the Rockets erased an 11-point deficit.
The Suns shot 31.8 percent (7-of-22) in both the first and fourth quarters in which they were outscored by a combined 27 points: 30-16 in the first, 32-19 in the second.
The Suns missed 11-of-13 shots as the Rockets closed the first quarter on a 16-4 run.
The Suns missed all seven of their three-point attempts in the fourth quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Rockets outscored the Suns 64-42 in points in the paint, that includes a 22-4 advantage in the first quarter and a 40-14 advantage at halftime. Of Houston’s 41 field goals, 32 came in the paint as the Rockets shot 32-of-52 (61.5 percent) in the key. The 64 points in the paint by Houston are the second-most by a Suns opponent this season (68 at Detroit on January 11) and just the fourth time this season a Suns opponent has scored 60 or more points in the paint.
HE SAID IT
“They wanted it more in the beginning and they took it right at us, then you’re battling back. You might get the lead but then it went the other way,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “The fourth quarter I felt like we had some decent looks, but some of them were forced. When the game is on the line, they made the plays.”
In what appeared to be an obvious missed call, the officials called a clear path to the basket foul on Marcus Morris for tripping Chandler Parsons midway through the fourth quarter. Parsons hit two free throws while James Harden made a 19-foot jumper for a four-point possession and seven unanswered Rockets’ points to cut the Suns lead to 98-96 with 5:54 remaining.
The Suns loss snapped a 19-game home winning streak when scoring at least 110 points; it was also their highest field goal percentage (48.8 percent) in a losing effort of the season.
Leandro Barbosa missed his second straight game because of a sprained left big toe. He suffered the injury in the first half against Boston on Wednesday.
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald sat courtside, sitting five seats over from the team’s play-by-play voice Dave Pasch, who was calling the game for ESPN.
The Suns play the finale of the four-game homestand, welcoming in the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, February 25. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. MST with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns have won 12 of the last 16 meetings with Minnesota, including the one meeting earlier this season when Green hit the game-winner in the final seconds of a 104-103 victory at Target Center.