It was an ugly game for the Suns, who really looked sluggish from start to finish. Despite the fact that Houston was without all-star center Dwight Howard, Phoenix got absolutely crushed on the...

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It's a lot to ask of a team to win in Dallas and Houston on consecutive nights, and the Suns weren't up to the task tonight. A fourth quarter push couldn't dig the Suns out of their early hole.

After possibly their most impressive all-around game of the season last night in beating the Mavericks, the Suns couldn't replicate that performance in Houston vs. an excellent Rockets team, losing 100-95.

Markieff Morris starred last night in outplaying Dirk Nowitzki, but Donatas Motiejunas was too much for Morris to handle on the defensive end tonight, and Keef hit only 2-14 shots to finish with 4 points and 7 rebounds, compared to 16 points and 11 rebounds from Motiejunas.

Five Rockets scored in double figures, led by Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley with 19 each, followed by Motiejunas' 16 and James Harden's 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists.

The Suns made several runs in this game after the Rockets lead ballooned to as many as 21 in the first half. It got as close as 9 in the second quarter as T.J. Warren made the most of his first significant minutes of the season with 5 points and 2 rebounds in the quarter. But the Rockets always had an answer with their 3-point shooting, and finished the first half up by 19 at 60-41.

Phoenix, meanwhile, didn't shoot anywhere close to their scorching percentage of the last couple of games, hitting only 37% of their FGs and 7-28 3s. Blame tired legs, though the Rockets also played last night.

A healthy Isaiah Thomas would have really come in handy in this game. The Suns needed a spark, as Dragic and Bledsoe were awful from behind the arc at a combined 1-11.

Eric Bledsoe led the Suns with 23 points, though he shoot poorly at 7-17. Gerald Green chipped in 16 off the bench, and P.J. Tucker 15.

Another early second half run by the Suns gave us a bit of hope, as the Rockets' lead was trimmed to 9 with 10 minutes to go before they laid down the law yet again. A Suns run followed by a Rockets answer was the theme of tonight's game.

Give the Suns credit for continuing to compete after it was decided. They narrowed the lead to 7 at 92-85, then to 4 at 97-93 but, like Sysyphus, could not push the boulder all the way up the hill. Beverley's return made a real difference in tonight's game, as he made a few hustle plays and 3s down the stretch.

This is a scary good Rockets team. Even missing four rotation players in Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Kostas Papanikolaou and Isaiah Canaan, they still dominated the Suns for most of the game. At full strength, they are a championship contender along with the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors in the loaded West.

For the Suns, it's on to the next one for this brutal road trip as the Clippers await in LA on Monday night.

Time: 6 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ After an impressive opening act, it’s time for round two in the Lone Star State. A night after scoring a 118-106 road victory over the Dallas Mavericks, the Suns travel...

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Coming off an impressive win in Dallas last night, the 12-8 Suns will need to keep the energy high in Houston tonight, facing the 15-4 Rockets in the second game of a back to back for both teams. Game will be televised on Fox Sports AZ Plus at 6PM AZ time, with the radio broadcast on 98.7 FM.

A disappointing home loss to the Magic on Sunday appears to have provided a bit of a wake-up call for the Phoenix Suns, as they've torched their two opponents since, beating both the Pacers and Mavericks by double digits, scoring 116 and 118 points.

The Rockets will pose a different challenge as their team, led by James Harden but missing injured rim protector Dwight Howard and perimeter pest Patrick Beverley, is playing surprisingly strong defense so far this season. They rate 3rd in the NBA in D-Rating, and even Harden, notorious for his matador defense, is bringing it on that end with a D-Rating of 98.

Injuries continue to plague the Rockets. Isaiah Canaan missed last night's OT victory over the Timberwolves with a sprained ankle, and Kostas Papanikolaou left the game with a sprained knee. Throw in the absence of Terrence Jones, and the Rockets might be missing 5 rotation players tonight. They keep winning, however, as they've taken 6 of their last 7 games.

Isaiah Thomas' lingering ankle bruise is the only injury concern for the Suns, and IT figures to be a game-time decision again after he missed his fifth consecutive game last night. A greater concern is how much fuel the Suns have in the tank for tonight's game.

While the Suns led the Mavs throughout the game and were never seriously threatened, they weren't able to take the pedal off the metal or empty the bench. Eric Bledsoe logged 40 minutes, Goran Dragic 37, and those were hard minutes. That intense play was a key to victory last night and figures to be again tonight. Will they have the energy to bring it?

Gratuitous Gerald Green highlight to brighten your day:

Keys to the Game

  • Next man up: With both teams coming off a game last night, and the Rockets banged up, the benches figure to play a large role in tonight's contest. If IT can go for the Suns and play to his standards, it will help tremendously. He was acquired for situations exactly like this, after Bledsoe and Dragic played heavy minutes last night.
  • P.J. Tucker vs. James Harden: Harden is a legitimate superstar. He scores (25.7 PPG), assists (6.5 APG), rebounds 6.0 RPG), and now he's even playing defense. His shooting %s are ho-hum, but he's still efficient because he makes a living at the FT line (9.8 FTAs/game). The shorthanded Rockets will rely heavily on Harden, and he's capable of carrying the team on his back. It will be up to the seemingly indefatigable Tucker to at least slow him down.
  • Energy and intensity: After sleepwalking through most of the loss to the Magic, the Suns have played the way coach Jeff Hornacek wants them to in the last two victories. They're playing aggressive defense, moving the ball, and constantly pushing the pace. Will they have fresh legs to run and knock down their 3s?
  • Fire-breathing Dragon: Remember when we were all concerned by Dragic's slow start? Our Slovenian star looks just fine recently, scoring 22, 34 and 28 points in the last three games. He's now the Suns leading scorer at 16.1 PPG, and his shooting %s are up to a robust 38% from 3 and 50% overall. Dragic has always been a streaky player, and he appears to be locked in right now.
Projected Lineups

PG: Eric Bledsoe vs. The loathsome Jason Terry
SG: Goran Dragic vs. James Harden
SF: P.J. Tucker vs. Trevor Ariza
PF: Markieff Morris vs. Tarik Black
C: Miles Plumlee vs. Donatas Motiejunas

View from the other sideThe Dream Shake

Game time: 6PM AZ Time

Television: Fox Sports AZ, with pre-game starting at 5:30

Radio: The inimitable Al McCoy will be calling the game on Phoenix 98.7 FM. Zing go the strings!

Join the game thread here at 5:30. There will be pie! (Disclaimer: Only if you bring your own pie.)

Hey there folks, we've got a new feature here at Bright Side where you get to rank the players! It's a pretty cool little widget that should be easy to use.

Today, just rank the player BASED ON THE DALLAS GAME. You'll get a chance to rate players after each game, so there's no need to factor in other games.

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