After an easy schedule to start the season, the Phoenix Suns face a daunting slate of games through early January. By January 11, the Suns will have played 24 road games versus only 16 home games. That kind of scheduling makes you think the Grinch himself made the Suns schedule.

The good news is that the Suns can get those roadies out of the way earlier in the year, leaving the second half of the season's slate full of home games when the pressure ratchets up a few notches.

But for now, the road is the Suns' path to contention. Or, at least, the relevancy.

Coach Hornacek explained last week that the Suns have split their schedule into 4-game sets - home vs. away. If the Suns can win 3 out of each 4 home games and split each 4-game set of roadies, they would have 50 wins at the end of the year and would likely make the playoffs.

So far, the Suns are behind the bar at home (6-4) and slightly ahead of the bar on the road (6-5). Unfortunately, the team failed to capitalize on an opening schedule that put 7 of the first 9 games at home. But two of their early games were back-to-back sets, with the Suns dropping both of them in ignominious fashion.

After that, the Suns have spent a lot of time on the road, with 10 of 14 away from Phoenix including four back-to-back sets culminating in Tuesday's home game against scrappy Miami. The Miami game looks winnable, except that it will be the Suns' fourth game in five days, a night after trying not to be embarrassed by the Clippers in LA.

So while the schedule has looked quite manageable so far in terms of opponent winning percentage, the devil is in the road games. Those are notoriously difficult to win, no matter how easy the opponent.

And the Suns aren't done on the road yet. Including Monday's Clipper game (above), the Suns still have 9 road games coming (versus 4 home games) between now and January 11. These upcoming games including four more back-to-backs where the Suns are 1-4 already in second game of those sets.

Making matters worse, there's only a couple of winnable games based on how well these teams are playing. The Suns face a daunting task of staying afloat between now and January 11.

Let's hope Isaiah Thomas comes back soon to add a little more firepower to the offense, which has sputtered in three of the past six games without him.

Rate the players' performances versus the Houston Rockets on Saturday, December 6, 2014.

The Suns lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, dropping to 1-4 on the second game of back-to-back sets this year.

Rate each player's performance on that game alone.

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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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