Tucker's Defense Leads Suns Past Rockets
Considering the circumstances, tonight’s 97-88 victory over the Houston Rockets may be the Suns’ biggest win of the year so far.
Not only did it bring the Suns record on the year back over .500 to 10-9, on the second night of a back-to-back road trip Phoenix held the NBA’s highest scoring team to just 88 points (over 20 below their season average) on 35 percent shooting.
Indeed, after Tuesday’s disparaging loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Suns demonstrated heart and resilience on Wednesday en route to an impressive win over one of the Western Conference’s best teams.
P.J. Tucker had, perhaps, his best all-around game in a Suns uniform. Tucker finished with 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals, but his greatest contribution was holding a usually dominant James Harden to only 14 points on 3-of-17 shooting (including 0-of-10 beyond the arc).
More importantly, his energy inspired every Suns player throughout the duration of the game.
“James Harden is one of the best offensive players in the game,” P.J. Tucker said after the win. “I viewed the matchup as my opportunity as a leader to set the tone. I’m just happy we came away with a win.
“We play at home on Friday and I start preparing for that immediately.”
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.
The backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic also had a terrific night. The two combined for 39 points, eight assists, six steals and five rebounds on 13-of-25 from the floor.
One underrated aspect of tonight’s game that won’t necessarily show up in the box score was the decision by Jeff Hornacek to play Channing Frye extended minutes, thus, effectively bringing Dwight Howard out of the paint to create more scoring opportunities in the lane and around the perimeter.
It worked; the Suns outscored the Rockets 42-40 in the paint and tallied 11 3-pointers to Houston’s nine.
“Throughout the year, we’ve had games where we’ve lead in the fourth quarter and blown the lead,” Jeff Hornacek said. “That happens with a young team. You want to see progress where that doesn’t happen as often. They cut the lead a bit in the fourth; we could’ve panicked but we didn’t. We got good shots. Channing [Frye] made a great pass to Marcus [Morris] out of a timeout and Marcus hit the shot in the corner late in the game.
“That was a big play.”
Furthermore, Phoenix had 26 fast break points to Houston’s 14 – all the more impressive when you consider it was the second night of a back-to-back road trip.
The Suns return home to face the Toronto Raptors on Friday, December 6.