Harden, Rockets threaten Suns’ winning streak
The Phoenix Suns have been perfect halfway through the longest homestand in franchise history behind their typically potent offense.
One of the few teams to stifle them this season has been the Houston Rockets, who will try to stop the Suns’ longest home winning streak in nearly five years Friday night.
Phoenix (26-18) picked up a dramatic 118-113 win over Portland on Wednesday to mark its seventh consecutive home victory. After squandering a 25-point lead, the Suns leaned on Eric Bledsoe to mount a late comeback and beat the Northwest Division leaders in the fourth game of their eight-game homestand.
"We just kept our composure and finished the game strong," Bledsoe told the Suns’ official site. "These games are starting to fall in our favor, whereas a couple early on, those games down to two minutes or something, we’d lose."
Phoenix is riding its longest home win streak since winning eight straight March 14-April 13, 2010.
Per usual, the Suns relied on a strong offensive output Wednesday in their 14th win in 18 tries. Bledsoe finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds, Isiah Thomas scored 27 and the Suns topped the 110-point mark for the third consecutive game.
Phoenix sits near the top of the NBA with both 107.5 points per contest and 19.4 points off turnovers, the latter of which could prove fruitful Friday. The Rockets (29-14) rank among the worst teams in the league with 17.5 giveaways per contest.
Houston had 20 turnovers in Wednesday’s 126-113 loss to Golden State. It was the Rockets’ third loss in five games, and they have failed to outrebound the opposition in any of them.
"We can fix things that we can control," guard Patrick Beverley said. "You can’t control missing shots, you can’t control missing layups and stuff like that. But you can control turning the ball over, you can control hustle plays, getting outrebounded."
The Rockets did overcome 24 turnovers in a 100-95 home win over Phoenix on Dec. 6 in the teams’ only meeting. They limited the Suns to 36.6 percent from the field – their second-worst performance of the season – despite missing Dwight Howard with a strained knee.
The three-time former Defensive Player of the Year averaged 29.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the previous two matchups, part of Houston’s three-game win streak in the series.
Howard was held to seven points Wednesday – one off a season low – while James Harden scored 33. The former Arizona State star has averaged 18.2 points on 28.4 percent shooting in his last five meetings with Phoenix.
Harden, who scored a season-high 45 two nights earlier in Monday’s win over Indiana, is a big reason the Rockets have reached the 110-point mark in five of six. However, they’ve given up at least 120 in three of those games and lost them all. After being tied for second in the league in scoring defense Jan. 13, Houston now sits outside the top 10 with 99.0 points allowed per game.
The Rockets let Golden State shoot 50.0 percent Wednesday – a benchmark that could prove vital again Friday. Under coach Jeff Hornacek, the Suns are 35-1 when hitting at least 50.0 percent from the field, and they have reached that mark in each of their last four wins.
Phoenix has a three-game lead on Oklahoma City for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and is within 3 1/2 of fifth-place Houston.
"We’re playing for something," Suns guard Gerald Green said. "We’re not trying to take anything for granted."