The Houston Rockets are quite the road warriors these days in the NBA, and they made the Phoenix Suns another victim in their own building with a 96-89 win Thursday night at US Airways Center.
The Rockets snapped a three-game Suns winning streak and won their third straight on the road, not showing much effects from a win in Portland Wednesday night. The Suns figured to have the advantage with more rest, and jumped out to a nine-point lead in the first quarter.
The Rockets erased that in a hurry with a huge second quarter in which they scored 28 points to the Suns 15, and Houston led by as many as 14 points in the quarter. Phoenix trailed by 10 at halftime, but exploded in the third quarter.
Perhaps the 32-point effort took a lot out of them, or maybe the Rockets are just feeling it. But the Suns tied the score at 57 when Steve Nash hit a short transition jumper with 8:16 left in the third. Things looked even brighter when Jared Dudley swished a three from the top of the arc with 7:25 left to put the Suns up 60-57, as the Suns hit their first six shots of the quarter and made six 3-pointers in the quarter alone.
But the Suns made just 9 of 27 threes for the game.
The big keys were rebounding -- the Rockets dominated on the boards 44-31 -- and bench production. Houston got double figures in scoring from all five reserves, including 10 from former Arizona Wildcat Jordan Hill and 14 from another 'Cat, Chase Budinger.
"We changed up that very last five minutes to switching on him (Nash) so he couldn't make those pocket passes and find the open guys. That was the difference," Budinger said after the game.
Goran Dragic, once Nash's backup at the point in Phoenix, had a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists.
Dragic hit a three with 4:15 to play in the game to give the Rockets a 90-85 lead, after what had been a back-and-forth fourth quarter. That shot seemed to give the Rockets a large-enough lead to hang on, and indeed they did.
The Suns (11-15) got 14 points and 13 assists from All-Star reserve Nash and 21 points with 10 boards from Frye. The Rockets look like a playoff team after improving to 16-11.