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The game is tied. James Harden pulls up for a big three. The ball hits off the back of the rim, bounces up in the air, comes down and looks like it's headed for overtime. But old, wily veteran Jermaine O'Neal knows the score. He's tired and doesn't want to play five more minutes. He knows how much more important lottery balls are to the Suns than wins so he knocks the ball off the rim and gets called for basket interference.

Three points count. Rockets win, 101-98. Twitter explodes with glee.

That was fun. Good times.

(Hover your mouse over the image to play the animation)

Rocketslol_medium

Otherwise, the game was notable for the lack of Suns collapsing. They didn't exactly look great but managed to hang with the playoff-bound Rockets on the road thanks to former Rockets, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic. Both guys seemed more than happy to send a message to the Great and Almighty Daryl Morey who picked Jeremy Lin over Dragic and cut Scola like an unwanted wart.

Scola finished with 28 points and eight rebounds. 11 of those points came in the fourth quarter. Fun stuff from the old Argentine.

Dragic throughly out-played Lin, and had his own 15 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, and four steals.

Also of note were Kendall Marshall's 1-5 shooting show (including TWO missed wide open layups) and P.J. Tucker's visually stimulating but completely ineffective defense on James Harden. The bearded Sun Devil paced all players with 33 points. Omar Asik and his horrible hair cut had 22 rebounds.

For more, visit The Dream Shake.

[Note by Seth Pollack, 04/10/13 8:16 AM EDT ]

This is, uh, interesting. O'Neal said he thought the ball was off the rim. Fair enough, although he's likely fibbing. Hunter said he doesn't know the rules which is a great look from your coach on such a common rule.

Phoenix Suns’ goaltending call on final shot gives Houston Rockets win
O’Neal said he thought the ball had come off the rim and he was trying to prevent a Rockets tip-in. Hunter said he will need to re-examine the rule after the explanation he received.

Uspw_6845404

We all have our biases when it comes to players. Mine are fairly well known although I'd like to think they are based on reasonable observations and projections of talent and to pat myself on the back, my track record is pretty solid.

Markieff Morris is a guy I still like. I never thought he'd be an all-star and this season has perhaps lowered his ceiling in my mind, but he's a good all-around player who does a lot of things on the floor and shows a nice competitive spirit.

Kieff has recently come under fire for this defense and rebounding so I wanted to look more closely at that. Nothing he was or wasn't doing at that end stood out to me just watching games without being focused on him.

A comment by BSoS reader "BenchSplitter" in the Warriors game recap caught my attention and gave me the opportunity to dig into this more. This dedicated fan went back and documented what he saw as the specific issues with Markieff's defense in the third quarter of that game and so I pulled video of each play mentioned.

Below you'll see of those defensive possessions along with my take. Watch for yourself and make your own opinion. Just remember (I failed to mention this in the video) that we don't know what the defensive call is so all we have to go by is what we see and to me, Morris came out looking good to me.


Original Music provided by: Sicksteen of Yesterday's Nothing.

Big thanks to BenchSplitter for taking the time to detail these possessions. He can post his exact thoughts on these plays in the comments.

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The Phoenix Suns, visiting the Houston Rockets as they prepare to finish the season with 4 of their last 5 on the road, are a really bad road team. Not only are the Suns only 7-30 on the the road, they have dropped 10 of their last 12 on the road including their last SIX straight.

But they might prefer being on the road though, after losing 9 of their last 11 home games including SEVEN straight on the home court to the disappointment of die-hard Suns faithful who still came to see them play. At least on the road they won't have see the faces of their fans as they fall apart again in the third quarter.

Hit the road Jack!

The Suns visit a good Houston Rockets team tonight. Led by young James Harden, the Rockets are 43-34 on the season, seeded 7th in the West playoff race at the moment.

At home, they are even better, winning of 27 of 38 games in front of their home crowd including 13 of their last 16. Contrary to the Suns, the Rockets make their fans giddy over the present as well as the future, being the youngest playoff team in the West and ready to sign another max free agent this summer if they want to.

Tonight's outlook

Don't expect tonight to break any mold. The Suns fold on the road and the Rockets dominate at home. This game has all the makings of a really, really ugly game. I mean really ugly.

Of course, I highly recommend watching the game because this is one of the last times you will see the Suns play before a six-month break. As a Suns junkie, that's a LONG time between real games.

For those totally jaded, you can still watch whether doghouse roomies Marcus Morris, Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley get any solid run in this game.

All have challenged the interim head coach in some way, and all have realized he won't just turn the other cheek (unless it's the one on his backside as he walks away from them). This is Hunter's "tough love" that has so far backfired on him in a big way. I'm not a fan of letting the inmates run the asylum, so I have little sympathy for instigators, yet it's on Hunter to get the rest of the team to respond in a positive way and so far that's not happening.

Odds and ends

  • Chandler Parsons and Carlos Delfino have missed recent games and are questionable for tonight's matchup at home against one of the league's worst teams 10 days before the playoffs start. In other words, Houston is not chomping at the bit to play these guys, I'm sure.
  • With a win, the Rockets will secure a playoff spot - it's first in four years. That will be a sad sight for former Rockets Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Marcus Morris.
  • This is Scola, Dragic and Morris' second return to Houston, the last one ending in a 111-81 bloodbath in which none of them played particularly well.
  • The ever-blunt Luis Scola: "There's no reason why to be positive. So how are we going to stay positive? Nobody should be positive. We have to work hard. The way we do it is we realize that we have problems and that we need to fix them."
  • These two teams play again Monday, but don't expect Houston to be resting anybody. They are fighting the Warriors for the 6th seed, and a chance to avoid facing the Thunder or Spurs in the first round.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
James Harden 73 38.2 7.5 16.9 44.2 2.2 6.1 37.1 8.6 10.1 86.0 0.8 4.0 4.8 5.9 3.6 1.8 0.5 2.3 25.8
Chandler Parsons 73 36.2 5.9 12.3 48.1 2.0 5.2 38.3 1.4 2.0 72.4 1.1 4.3 5.4 3.5 1.9 1.0 0.4 2.0 15.3
Jeremy Lin 77 32.0 4.8 10.8 44.6 1.0 3.0 34.3 2.6 3.3 78.6 0.4 2.6 3.0 6.1 2.9 1.7 0.4 2.5 13.2
Carlos Delfino 63 25.4 3.8 9.3 40.5 2.3 6.3 37.2 0.7 0.9 85.5 0.3 3.0 3.3 2.0 1.1 1.0 0.1 1.7 10.7
Omer Asik 77 30.0 4.1 7.5 54.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.1 3.8 55.5 3.4 8.2 11.6 0.9 2.2 0.6 1.1 2.7 10.3
Aaron Brooks 52 19.1 2.8 6.1 45.4 1.0 2.6 37.3 0.8 1.0 76.9 0.3 1.3 1.5 2.2 1.3 0.6 0.2 1.8 7.2
Donatas Motiejunas 40 12.7 2.4 5.0 47.0 0.6 2.0 30.0 0.8 1.2 61.2 0.8 1.3 2.1 0.7 0.9 0.2 0.2 1.7 6.1
Greg Smith 65 15.1 2.3 3.8 62.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 1.9 63.6 1.5 3.0 4.5 0.3 0.6 0.2 0.5 2.4 5.9
Francisco Garcia 53 17.6 2.0 5.2 39.3 1.2 3.0 38.7 0.3 0.3 88.9 0.1 1.4 1.6 1.1 0.5 0.8 0.7 1.6 5.5
Patrick Beverley 36 17.1 1.9 4.5 42.0 0.9 2.3 39.5 0.8 1.0 81.1 1.1 1.5 2.6 3.1 1.1 0.9 0.5 1.9 5.5
Thomas Robinson 69 15.2 2.0 4.6 42.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.6 52.3 1.8 2.8 4.5 0.6 1.2 0.6 0.4 1.8 4.8
Terrence Jones 14 11.5 1.7 4.1 41.4 0.3 0.9 30.8 0.6 0.8 81.8 1.4 1.3 2.6 0.5 0.6 0.4 0.4 0.7 4.4
James Anderson 36 10.6 1.4 3.3 41.7 0.6 1.6 35.1 0.7 0.8 85.7 0.5 1.4 1.9 1.1 0.6 0.4 0.1 0.7 4.0
Tim Ohlbrecht 3 3.7 0.3 1.0 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 100.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.3 1.3 0.3 0.0 0.3 1.0


Time: 5 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ PHOENIX — Luis Scola will be at the center of attention when the Phoenix Suns take on the Houston Rockets Tuesday night at the Toyota Center, but it has little to do...

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Luis Scola has always been honest to the media, albeit bereft of specifics, in his season with the Phoenix Suns. His words emanate with authenticity and purpose. When Scola talks, people listen and nod.

More than any other player or coach this season, Scola has been open about saying what we were all thinking.

"We just don't know how to play well," Scola told Craig Grialou on Sunday night after the loss to the Hornets. Grialou, with arizonasports.com, is the intrepid reporter who finds time with players outside the "normal" media sessions. "We don't know how to play basketball and that's why we lose. Until we learn how to play 48 minutes of basketball, we're not going to win games. I'm surprised we won (23) games playing this way. Many of the games we won, we did the same thing. We just overcame it somehow.

"I'm also surprised we didn't fix it. We saw the problem pretty much the first week and we couldn't fix it. It's very frustrating. It's a bad year."

Scola has been telling us the problem all season long. Back when the season was young and Alvin Gentry was trying to rally the troops into a winning record, Scola already saw the writing on the wall. He was the first to speak openly of what would become a very long season.

Scola on November 2

"There's only one way to win games and that's playing focused for forty-eight minutes and play hard and hustle and do all the little things," he said after just the second game of the season, a good win against a bad Detroit team.

"It's not going to be pretty a lot of times," he warned. "But that's just the way it has to be."

Scola on November 24

"I am discourgaged," Luis Scola said, about the ongoing deficits. "I know we are going to lose a lot more games than we are going to win if we put ourselves 15, 16, 18, 19 down. We are going to lose most of those games."

The Suns started the season allowing 10-point deficits in 11 of their first 13 games. And remember, this was the EASY part of their season schedule.

Scola on December 1

"We need to change the dynamic, we need to change our attitude, we need to change our minds," he said. "We're in the kind of dynamic where everything goes wrong. We just can't get it going.

"We need to start thinking like a winning team. We need to start believing in ourselves and winning games."

Scola on December 10

"I don't know," Luis Scola said once again to a throng of reporters after the game, his response as honest as it can be to the media. He was not angry or defensive or evasive. He was, and always is, open and forthcoming and willing to talk to the media after every game. He apologizes for not having better answers.

"We don't have a day off anymore," he said about Monday's off day after the back-to-back. By his tone, you could tell he was grasping at straws. "We need to practice. It's not going to happen by talking. I think a lot about it, I just don't know."

After we left him alone, he just sat there in his shorts at least ten more minutes. He didn't go take a shower or talk to any other players. He just sat there, staring at the floor.

----------------

Since that game, Luis Scola's presence after games has been fleeting. He and most of the other Suns players prefer to hang out in the hot tub until long after the media give up and go home for the night.

Only diehard reporters like Paul Coro and Craig Grialou have gotten the occasional soundbite from Luis at off hours and times.

The writing was on the wall early, folks. It has clearly had little to do with the coach, since the Suns have burned through two of them. One was 13-28, the other has been 10-26. One had a full compliment of players, the other has had to go without Marcin Gortat since starting 8-13.

Both had to deal with virtually the same roster of players though, and the frustration has been high all year. Everyone is frustrated, not just Luis Scola. Dragic has called out unnamed teammates for lack of effort. So has Marcin Gortat. Both head coaches have bemoaned lack of consistent effort as well.

It's been a bad, bad season. Luis Scola knew it from day one.

Let's not absolve Luis of all blame here. He has not been able to help lead a charge in the right direction. He says he's surprised the Suns haven't figure it out, yet part of that can be attributed to the leadership on the court.

But amid the turmoil, Scola has been a model of consistency. He has earned consistent minutes despite a youth movement because he exemplifies what the coaches have wanted all season: effort every second.

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