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Recap: Rockets vs. Suns, April 13, 2012

Friday April 13, 2012 11:52 PM

Rockets Burned By Suns Once Again

Phoenix makes cold-shooting Rockets pay, sends Houston to third straight home defeat

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - In this wild year of unpredictable twists and turns, scorching hot streaks and ice cold stretches, only one constant has reigned supreme during the Rockets’ roller coaster regular season: absolutely nothing has come easily for this club.

That’s perhaps the best place to start when explaining how the Rockets could return to Houston after an amazing 4-0 road trip and follow it up with a pair of duds on their home court -- the latest being a disappointing 112-105 defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Suns.

Of course the reasons for this latest loss go well beyond mere twists of fate and regressions to the mean. The Rockets were once again victimized by an inopportune and untimely loss of their outside shooting stroke, just as they were against Utah Wednesday night. Houston’s players had plenty of open looks -- the same sort of shots they were draining with regularity on their road trip -- they simply couldn’t convert.

The Suns, meanwhile, spent much of the evening knocking down big shots from all over the court. Jared Dudley, who came into the game slumping badly, snapped out of his funk with a 7-for-12 shooting performance which included a 3-for-5 mark from downtown. Sebastian Telfair, a 38 percent shooter on the season, hit four of the five shots he attempted, including both of his bombs from beyond the arc. These things happen over the course of the season. Hot-shooting teams will hit you in the middle of a cold snap and before you know it you’re off-kilter and left searching for that ever-shifting equilibrium again.

So while there’s no need for panic at present, the impending end of the regular season and the intensity of the playoff chase most definitely demand a sense of urgency to rectify the issues at hand. After the game, Goran Dragic suggested his team focus more on penetration when those outside shots aren’t falling, but the Rockets did earn 33 trips to the free throw line Friday while outscoring the Suns 48-32 in terms of points in the paint. If anything, it seemed Houston lacked a certain crispness in its ball and body movement. Fix that and the easy buckets that follow may be the key to unleashing the floodgates of the Rockets’ occasionally costive offense.

“We stopped playing the way we were playing,” said Luis Scola, who finished the game with 21 points and 6 rebounds. “We stopped playing solid and hard and our chemistry is a little bit wrong right now. We're not making right decisions and you can see it on the court. We're not being as fluid as we had been. Both teams came in that were desperate and they played with a sense of urgency and we haven't.”

Of course, the Rockets’ defense has plenty of room for improvement as well after allowing the Suns to score at least 30 points in each of the final three quarters. Phoenix hit more than its fair share of tough shots to be sure, but Houston fouled too often and seemed a step slow on its rotations for much of the evening. Cold shooting nights are bound to happen. But they can be survived if the defense is there to hold the fort. On this homestand at least, the Rockets’ D just wasn’t up for the task.

The good news: time after time the Rockets have responded when their backs have been up against the wall. They gave themselves a margin for error thanks to their perfect road swing, but that margin has now evaporated. Beginning Sunday night in Denver, Houston will play six games in eight nights -- a stretch that will likely determine their playoff fate. Navigating that schedule won’t be easy. But perhaps this club wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’ve been talking about solidifying our home court and taking advantage of it, but these past two games we haven’t been doing that,” said Marcus Camby, who managed to score just four points in the second half after racking up 10 points, 18 rebounds and three blocked shots through the first two quarters of the game. “We just keep making the situation tougher for ourselves. So we have to regroup tomorrow, head up to Denver and try to get both of those games.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

In the last two games we’ve missed some of our shots and that just seems to affect us a little bit. Then in the fourth quarter we started putting our head back down and driving to the hoop and made stuff happen.

We gave up too many points tonight. That team can score, I understand that, but they got some layups, they got some run-outs; they started that third quarter Nash bangs a three, then they had some run-outs after that. We’d miss a shot that we thought we our shot then we’d kind of hang our head for a second and they’re off and running. But the game was decided in the third quarter. We rallied again, this team will fight, but we just didn’t have enough.

If you’ve seen us play all year, we do shoot jump shots. We came down I think on three consecutive series where we had wide-open ones that we missed then they’d come down and make a challenged one 鈥