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