HOUSTON — The Phoenix Suns did something against the Houston Rockets they had not done in their previous two games.
Every time the Rockets made a run at the young Suns on Wednesday night, Phoenix responded.
Eric Bledsoe had 20 points and seven assists to lead Phoenix to a 97-88 win over Houston on Wednesday night that snapped the Suns’ two-game losing streak.
Article continues below ...
P.J. Tucker added 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting with six rebounds.
Channing Frye had 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, and Goran Dragic chipped in 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting for the Suns, who shot 45.6 percent from the field, including 45.8 percent from behind the arc.
“Throughout the year, we have had games where we have the lead in the fourth quarter,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We have blown some, and as a young team, that happens. You want to see the progress where that doesn’t happen. They cut it down, and we could have gotten panicked where we forced shots, but we didn’t.”
Dwight Howard had 15 points and 18 rebounds, Aaron Brooks added 17 points and six assists, and Omri Casspi had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Rockets, who lost their second straight game.
James Harden, who was guarded by Tucker, finished with 14 points, hitting 3 of 17 from the field and going 0 for 10 from behind the arc. Patrick Beverley had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Houston shot 35 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 23 times.
Houston coach Kevin McHale said the Rockets did not play very well.
“In the first quarter, Phoenix came up and got real aggressive with us and were denying us around the court,” McHale said. “We didn’t handle that very well, and then you compound that with shots not going. We had no flow tonight. . I just thought the 13 assists, 23 turnovers, some really errant passing. We gave up 25 points off our turnovers, so we just fed them.”
The Rockets opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run to cut the Suns’ lead to 75-74 on Brooks’ 3-pointer with 7 minutes remaining.
As they did throughout the game, the Suns responded, going on a 13-0 run over the next four minutes to expand the lead to 14 on Marcus Morris’ 3-pointer with 3 minutes remaining.
Houston tried to answer, closing within 88-82 on an 8-0 run capped by Brooks’ 3-pointer with 1:49 remaining.
“Playing on the road against the No. 1 offensive team in the league, you know they are going to make a run,” Tucker said. “It’s just one of those things where you keep playing hard and keep taking those shots. We started missing some shots, but we wanted to stick with it and pushing the ball back up.”
Again, the Suns would have an answer as Morris connected on a 3-pointer from the corner followed by two free throws from Dragic to push the lead to 11 with 1:15 left.
“We know that Houston likes to push the ball,” Dragic said. “In every NBA game, we know that every team is going to have a run. If you’re solid on defense and play together on offense, I think we find the right open guy at the right time, and he makes shot. That’s huge play.”
Houston tried once more to slice into the lead, getting it down to seven points on Beverley’s 3-pointer with 57 seconds left. Houston got no closer the rest of the way.
Howard said the Rockets’ bad offensive night had nothing to do with them missing shots, the Suns “just played harder than us.”
“We can’t give away games like this,” Howard said. “It will come back to bite us in games later this season. We’ve got to learn how, no matter how many guys we have out there, short-handed and all, we’ve got to play the same way, play hard and play aggressive.”
After the Rockets got to 63-61 on Garcia’s 3-pointer with 2:20 left in the third, the Suns finished the quarter on a 10-0 run, capped by two free throws by Markieff Morris to take a 12-point lead into the fourth.
Houston opened the second half with an 11-4 run to get within 55-51 on Beverley’s 3-pointer with 6:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Phoenix used a 14-3 run over a three-minute span of the second quarter to take a 47-34 lead on Tucker’s 3 with 3:09 remaining in the quarter.
The Suns shot 50 percent in the first half and took a 51-40 lead into the break. Houston shot 29.8 percent in the first half.
“We just didn’t have enough energy,” Harden said. “We didn’t make shots on the offensive end or move the basketball, and they did.”