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Wednesday March 9, 2011 0:39 AM

Suns Rise Over Rockets

Phoenix prevails following wild finish, hangs on for 113-110 victory over Houston

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Pick any superlative you wish and chances are it applied to Kyle Lowry’s play Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Houston’s dynamic point guard was marvelous, sensational and out of this world. For large stretches, he carried his team on his back while attempting to will the Rockets to victory. The numbers were extraordinary as well: 32 points, 11-of-18 shooting from the floor and a career-high seven 3-pointers made.

The only problem: the Suns’ Hakim Warrick and Vince Carter were spectacular, too, and their remarkable shooting display allowed Phoenix to overcome Lowry’s heroics and hold on for a 113-110 victory.

“We had our opportunities to win this game but they were hitting shots,” said Rockets rookie Patrick Patterson, who wasn’t too shabby himself, knocking down nine of the 12 shots he took on his way to recording 18 points. “We contested shots and played good defense for multiple segments but it seemed like everything they put up went in, whether it was a contested shot or a shot that really wasn’t in rhythm.”

That was especially true in the pivotal fourth quarter when the Suns seemingly couldn’t miss. Phoenix connected on 13 of its 19 shots from the field in the final frame, with Carter and Warrick doing much of the damage. Together, they teamed up to score 23 of the Suns’ 34 fourth quarter points as Phoenix rallied from a double-digit first half deficit. Warrick, who was filling in for the injured Channing Frye, finished with a career-high 32 points; a number Carter equaled while producing his second-highest scoring night as a member of the Suns.

Yet despite struggling to contain that dynamic duo and the always-brilliant Steve Nash, Houston still had its chances to win down the stretch thanks to the sublime play of Lowry. The Rockets’ red-hot point guard scored 10 of his team’s final 12 points, including a pair of 3-point bombs from well beyond the arc in the game’s final minute to give Houston an opportunity to steal another win. But a pair of critical errors sabotaged the Rockets’ designs of doing so.

After the first of Lowry’s last minute treys, the Rockets managed to get a rare fourth quarter stop when Marcin Gortat misfired on a contested midrange jumper. But Brad Miller, who had played such a pivotal role in Houston’s efforts to hang tight in the fourth quarter, had his ensuing outlet pass picked off by Grant Hill, allowing the Suns to milk a bit of clock before the Rockets were forced to foul Nash and send him to the line.

Ten seconds later, Lowry drained another triple, this time from approximately 30-feet out, bringing Houston within two. The Rockets fouled Nash once more and he shockingly missed the second freebie, giving Houston 13 seconds to try to tie the game.

The ensuing possession, however, seemed doomed from the start. Once more, it was Miller who grabbed the defensive board and, once more, his initial pass flirted with disaster. Nash nearly came up with the game-clinching steal, but this time Miller gained control and got the ball to Lowry who promptly proceeded to race up the court eying a game-tying trey. Instead of pulling up once more and taking the shot himself, however, Lowry hesitated for just a moment, allowing time for Phoenix’s Jared Dudley to close out and force Lowry into picking up his dribble. With no other reasonable outlets available, Lowry passed to Miller who was also being closely covered just beyond the top of the arc. And with time running out, Miller had no choice but to fling a desperation turnaround jumper toward the rim; a shot which fell far from its intended target, leaving the Rockets to bemoan their inability to prevail in a game that could have major playoff implications moving forward.

“I should have shot the ball,” lamented Lowry after the game. “I should have shot it. I should have made it a clean look. They made shots, we made shots. That’s how the game is supposed to be played down the stretch, a tough, hard fought game.”

The loss certainly serves as a bit of a buzz kill following a stretch which had seen the Rockets win seven of their past eight games. Phoenix now owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against Houston and the defeat dropped the Rockets three and a half games behind Memphis for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. But with a six-game home stand now awaiting them, the Rockets are left no choice but to regroup, refocus and rally once more.

And 1s: Luis Scola’s streak of 311 consecutive games played came to an end Tuesday night, when he was a pregame scratch due to a strained left knee. Scola will be listed as day-to-day going forward.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

“It’s a tough loss, a tough loss. We didn’t guard them well in the second half and they made us pay. They made shots, Vince Carter made shots and we got behind and when you have to fouls Steve (Nash) it’s tough. I mean he missed one but it’s a tough thing because he’s not usually going to miss free throws. I thought Lowry played a great game. He was attacking them. We missed a lot of shots. We missed shots from guys that normally make shots and that’s the way the game went.”

KYLE LOWRY

“I should have shot the ball. I should have shot it. I should have made it a clean look. That’s how basketball games are supposed to be played. They made shots, we made shots. That’s how the game is supposed to be played down the stretch, tough hard fought game. Vince made some shots and they made some real tough individual plays. They did their pick and roll and Warrick did awesome tonight. He made up for them missing Frye tonight.”

PATRICK PATTERSON

We had our opportunities to win this game but they were hitting shots. We contested shots and played good defense for multiple segments but it seemed like everything they put up went in, whether it was a contested shot or a shot that really wasn’t in rhythm. And on the offensive end, we were making shots, some shots we didn’t knock down, but I think down the stretch it came down to they ran their plays, they set screens to get open, Steve Nash took control of his team and they finished the game and we couldn’t.

PHOENIX HEAD COACH ALVIN GENTRY

(Opening statement)
“I thought we did a great job. I thought we played throughout. We didn’t get to some balls early on in the game that I thought they beat us to, but I thought in the second half we did just about everything we needed to do. Although it was a high-scoring game, I thought it was a grounded out game.”

(On Grant Hill)
“Grant was great, and I’ll say it again. I’m going to say it until somebody hears it or somebody writes it: if Grant Hill is not on the All-Defensive team, then I don’t know who should be. I really don’t. Every single night we ask him to guard the best player; it doesn’t matter what position he’s in, we ask him to guard the best player unless it’s the five man….just the work he put in and then to be able to come back offensively, he usually wears himself out guarding those guys, but he was even good offensively tonight. I’ll say it again; I think Grant Hill, without a doubt, deserves to be on the All-Defensive Team for what he does for our team and what we ask him to do.”

(On Hakim Warrick)
“Hakim’s had good games for us. He’s had really good games for us. He had a game where he had 26 points in the first half. I think he’s one of those guys who, the longer he’s out there, the more comfortable he gets. He got some early baskets that settled him down; he got some baskets from the perimeter.”

PHOENIX FORWARD HAKIM WARRICK 32 POINTS | 8 REBOUNDS

(On playing without Channing Frye)
“I know, collectively, everyone is going to have step up their game. He’s a big part of this team, this organization and he’s been playing so well for us, so I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive and just do my part.”

(On playing with confidence)
“This game is mostly confidence, so you see the ball go in the basket and you’re going to continue to be aggressive and no matter what I’m going to be aggressive, but once you get some early buckets it really helps you out.”

PHOENIX GUARD VINCE CARTER 32 POINTS | 6 REBOUNDS

(On the first game after a road trip)
“The last game of the road trip and the first one, the next one off the trip is usually the toughest one, but we were able to fight through it. When you play a team like that, coming of their back-to-back you have to put them away, and they can score, they put up a lot of points. We gave ourselves a chance in the last five minutes of the game and found a way (to win).”

(On the game)
“They played hard, we gave them life and they stuck around, they were aggressive for most of the game. But at the same time we were able to stay close and give ourselves a chance.”

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