With 12 games remaining between now and the regular season, the Phoenix Suns picked up a key win on the road in Houston Saturday night, defeating the Rockets 117-102.
The Suns are now two and half games behind Oklahoma City for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Led by Eric Bledsoe’s career-high 34 points, the Suns remained within striking distance of the ailing Thunder, who will appear to have to go it without the services of reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant.
Friday it was announced that Durant was being “removed from basketball activities” as he tries to rehabilitate his injured right foot. With forward Serge Ibaka also out for the next four to six weeks with a knee injury, Oklahoma City undoubtedly has one eye on the road ahead and one eye on a rear-view mirror featuring the New Orleans Pelicans and the ever-present Suns.
Next up for Phoenix is a 6:00 p.m. home date Sunday versus Dallas.
Below we examine the Suns’ victory over Houston, by the numbers:
Eric Bledsoe’s 34 points Saturday led all scorers and marked a career-high for the five-year veteran. Doing most of his heavy lifting in first half, scoring 23 points, Bledsoe finished game an efficient 11-of-18 from the field while converting 10 of his 11 free throw attempts.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 22, 2015
After holding a narrow 62-61 lead at halftime, the Suns outscored the Rockets 37-25 in the third quarter, forcing Houston to dig themselves out of a double-digit hole in the fourth. Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker paced Phoenix with nine points apiece during the game-changing period.
Though the Rockets didn’t relent once fourth quarter play began, using 14-4 run to cut the Suns’ lead to five with five minutes remaining, Phoenix responded with a run of their own. Sparked by a left corner 3-pointer by Tucker, the Suns went on a 12-0 run to ultimately vanquish Houston.
Phoenix snapped a five-game losing streak to Houston dating back to February 5, 2014. In fact, the Suns previous win over Rockets came in Houston in 2013, as Bledsoe’s 20 points led the way that day. Of course, the Suns could have snapped that steak two matchups ago in Phoenix in overtime had James Harden not hit this game-winning jumper:
The number of minutes played by Gerald Green. For the third time in five games, Green registered a DNP Coach’s Decision. Instead, head coach Jeff Hornacek elected to get youngsters Archie Goodwin and T.J Warren more playing time, as the two combined to play 40 minutes.
The number of games separating Phoenix from Oklahoma City for the eighth seed out West. Standing between the Suns and Thunder are the New Orleans Pelicans, who themselves are two games out of the playoff picture.