Notebook: Rockets 111, Suns 81



Posted Mar 14, 2013 12:20 AM

By Matt Miller, For NBA.com

THE FACTS: All it took to wake up a sluggish Houston Rockets squad was a timeout from coach Kevin McHale.

After sleepwalking through the first quarter and a half of Wednesday's matchup with the Phoenix Suns, the Rockets answered their coach's call to crank up their defensive intensity and rolled to a 111-81 victory at Toyota Center. Six players scored in double figures for Houston (35-30), led by rookie Donatas Motiejunas' career-high 19 point effort on 7-for-12 shooting. James Harden finished with 18 points and four assists, while Jeremy Lin added 13 points and six assists for the Rockets, who have won seven of their last eight home games.

Wesley Johnson paced Phoenix (22-42), which has lost four of its last five games overall and six of eight on the road, with 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting. Former Rocket Goran Dragic added 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in his first game in Houston since he left the club to sign with the Suns as a free agent last summer.

QUOTABLE: "At that one [timeout], everyone just understood that without defense we will not win. We just decided to go out -- everyone was fired up -- and we just blocked them out."

-- Donatas Motiejunas on the timeout that sparked Houston's game-changing surge

THE STAT: The Rockets' return to Houston for a season-high, seven-game homestand seemed to cure their ailing offense. After the Rockets were limited to 41.6 percent (99-for-238) shooting from the field and an average of only 29.3 points in the paint during a three-game road trip, Houston knocked down 51.3 percent of its shot attempts and poured in 50 points in the paint in Wednesday's rout.

TURNING POINT: The Rockets played with little intensity on the defensive end for the first quarter and a half, allowing the Suns to bury several uncontested shots. After Jared Dudley drained an open 3-pointer -- which came as a result of lazy defense by Harden and Greg Smith -- to put Phoenix ahead 43-38, McHale called a timeout to proverbially kick his team in the tail for its lethargic effort. The Rockets' defense took charge from there, limiting the Suns to 1-for-7 shooting and forcing four turnovers as Houston closed the first half on a 22-2 run to claim a 58-45 lead.

QUOTABLE II: "He's one of those kids, on his report card it says, 'Plays well with others.'"

-- Kevin McHale on Motiejunas' ability to effectively mesh with his teammates despite his lack of NBA experience

HOT: The Rockets have connected on at least 10 3-pointers in a season-best, six-consecutive games, shooting 43.6 percent (85-for-195) from long distance during this stretch.

NOT: Former Rocket Luis Scola could not use his return to Houston as a springboard to snap his offensive slump, finishing with only four points on 2-for-5 shooting to go with four rebounds and two turnovers. The 6-foot-9 forward has averaged only 7.5 points on 33.3 percent (14-for-42) shooting and 2.2 turnovers over his last six games.

BAD MOVE: Dragic quickly picked up a pair of cheap fouls in a span of 73 seconds midway through the second quarter, which forced interim coach Lindsey Hunter to pull his starting point guard in favor of rookie Kendall Marshall. The Suns missed Dragic's leadership dearly. Houston's increased defensive pressure forced Marshall and his teammates to become indecisive and stagnant, transforming a competitive contest into a blowout.

QUOTABLE III: "That's probably the first time I've felt like we didn't compete as a unit ... Nothing is promised for none of us here, so our guys have to compete like every day is our last, and I didn't see that tonight. It's very disappointing, very embarrassing and unacceptable."

-- Suns coach Lindsey Hunter on what caused the game spiraled out of control in such a rapid fashion

NOTABLE: The 18,132 in attendance gave a warm reception to former Rockets Dragic and Scola, who were playing their first game in Houston since they and the club parted ways last offseason, during the pre-game player introductions. The Rockets organization paid tribute to Scola's five seasons with Houston by playing a special video of his highlights during his time with the Rockets at the conclusion of the opening period. ... Suns center Jermaine O'Neal returned to the lineup after missing the previous four games to be with his 13-year-old daughter as she underwent successful heart surgery. ... The 30-point win is the Rockets' largest margin of victory over Phoenix in the history of both franchises. ... After Phoenix netted 24 second-chance points in Saturday's 107-105 win over Houston, the Rockets held the Suns to only four second-chance points Wednesday. Houston also turned the tables on the Suns in transition. After Phoenix recorded a 32-14 edge in fast-break points Saturday, the Rockets outscored the Suns 17-11 on the break Wednesday. ... Houston snapped a three-game losing streak against Phoenix. ... Rockets center Smith pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds. ... The Rockets improved to 18-2 this season when they drain at least 50.0 percent of their field-goal attempts. ... The Suns are now 7-26 on the road this season. ... Phoenix, which was outrebounded 46-29, fell to 2-17 on the road when its opponent snatches more rebounds.

UP NEXT: For the Suns: Friday @ Atlanta, Saturday @ Washington, Monday vs. L.A. Lakers. For the Rockets: Friday vs. Minnesota, Sunday vs. Golden State, Wednesday vs. Utah.