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Houston Rockets: Bledsoe and Suns Light It Up Saturday Night at Toyota Center

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Saturday night at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX, the Phoenix Suns came over to play the Houston Rockets in their final match-up of the season. Safe to say Eric Bledsoe strapped his shoes extra tight for Saturday’s game, but Trevor Ariza made sure it wasn’t too easy.

169. . 117. 66. 102

Rockets were coming off a 118-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets while the Suns were on a 2-game winning streak (NY, NO) and continued on to make it a 3-game streak after a career-high 34 points from guard Eric Bledsoe. Both Morris brothers dished out 17 points a piece while Trevor Ariza helped keep the Rockets competitive with a 15 point, 12 rebound outing.

Lineups

Rockets coach Kevin McHale started Patrick Beverly (PG), James Harden (SG), Trevor Ariza (SF), Donatas Motiejunas (PF) and Joey Dorsey (C).

In the first game since Terrence Jonescollapsed lung, the Rockets went with Joey Dorsey at the five-spot. Dorsey is a bit undersized a 6’9, 275lb. and was in a heap of trouble facing 7’1, 255lb. Alex Len (who was not expected to play).

Dorsey played 14 minutes while Josh Smith subbed in dropping 17 points and 5 boards in 24 minutes. Motiejunas was forced to play a game-high 38 minutes in Saturday’s loss.

Mar 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) drives the ball during the fourth quarter as Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) defends at Toyota Center. The Suns defeated the Rockets 117-102. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Suns  Coach Jeff Hornacek started Eric Bledsoe (PG), P.J. Tucker (SF), Markieff Morris (PF), Marcus Morris (PF) and Alex Len (C).

One person who has not been very high on Coach Hornacek’s “PT (Playing Time) List” is Gerald Green.  He has continuously received DNP’s, Coach’s Decision, and that did not change on Saturday as the Houston native tallied 0 minutes on the day.

Instead the Suns rolled with Bledsoe and Tucker so that Tucker could guard Harden which then put the Rockets at a disadvantage having to cover a PF with Trevor Ariza.

Ariza had the most rebounds in the game (12) when he was initially a game-time decision (illness), but it didn’t matter when the Rockets three big men only combined for 11 rebounds total.

What Changed?

Rockets had a 3-0 series lead on the Suns in their scheduled match-ups this season, so what changed? Lets jump back to the February 10th game between the two squads when Harden dropped 40 points, 12 boards and 9 dimes, including a 20 piece from Josh Smith along with solid games from Beverley and Motiejunas.

What remained the same was that Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard were not suited up for the game, but that didn’t matter much as nobody on the Rockets was coming through for 40 on Saturday against Phoenix.

Of course, there is also the monster career-high night for Eric Bledsoe. After arriving in Phoenix, and even in LA, Bledsoe hasn’t seen a game with this much scoring ever.

To go along with the most points in a game for Bledsoe (34), he had 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals, the Rockets couldn’t contain the 5th-year pro from Kentucky.

Lastly, even after shooting a lousy 29% (10-32) from beyond the arc, the Rockets were out-rebounded 49-36. Yes, Howard and Jones were out and Joey Dorsey is probably going to be starting a lot until one of them come back, but Dorsey can’t put up just 2 points and 3 rebounds per game, right?

Regardless, the Rockets schedule doesn’t get any easier with the next two opponents above them in RPG, Indiana (5th) and New Orleans (T-11th). Rockets are tied with Utah for 14th at 44.0 per game.

Stats for Saturday’s Suns @ Rockets:

Suns

49 rebounds – 20 assists – 5 blocks – 10 steals – 14 TO

Rockets

36 rebounds – 28 assists – 5 blocks – 7 steals – 18 TO

Super Smash Morris Bros.

After leaving Kansas University 4 years ago, the Morris twins decided to play basketball for a living and not only to be good professionals but to do it together. High School, AAU, College, drafted on back-to-back picks and eventually both end up on the same team, the bond the brothers share is closer than many understand.

Both are averaging double-digit points on the season and they have both earned a spot in the starting rotation, especially when Gerald Green isn’t playing (DNP Coach’s Decision), not as if they needed him on Saturday.

Mar 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) and forward Markieff Morris (11) and forward Marcus Morris (15) celebrate after a play during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. The Suns defeated the Rockets 117-102. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The twin brothers had matching 17 point games while Marcus racked up 10 boards/4 assists and Markieff notched 5 rebounds/6 assists. The 34-points from the twins, matched with the career-high night from Bledsoe already put the Rockets in a bad spot.

Motiejunas can most definitely guard either twin one-on-one and do a good job but when both are on the court and Joey Dorsey has to try to lock down the huge, 7-footer Alex Len in the paint, then things get complicated. The Rockets rebounding and lack of interior production were exposed on Saturday, but no doubt Coach McHale will have the team back and ready to go against the Pacers.

 Top Performers

Suns: Eric Bledsoe – 35pt, 8reb, 4ast & 3 stl

Rockets: Trevor Ariza – 15pts, 12reb & 5ast

Final Thoughts

The Rockets were exploited at their weakest link tonight and if they have to take a few of these L’s then so be it! No Rockets fans want to see them fall back in the playoff race, but we also want to make sure Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones are healthy for the future. In the meantime, Motiejunas will continue getting extremely high-quality minutes with Josh Smith coming in and consistently doing his part.

McHale did play Pablo Prigioni 12-minutes, however he still only played Nick Johnson and K.J. McDaniels for the final few seconds. I mean, why not get the guys 5 minutes? I understand the Rockets were fighting to win the game and had a furious run, but after being outscored by 12 in the 3rd quarter why not get them at least a little experience? I have as much faith in Coach McHale as anyone, but boy I would hate to see Harden get fatigued and end up on an injury list.

Here’s a video, via the NBA, that should cheer Rockets fans up a little bit as the team gets ready to face the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, March 23rd. The game will be tipping-off at 7pm/ET (6pm/CT) and will be hosted by the (30-39) Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana is also coming off high-scoring loss at home but are surging for a final spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, so look forward to it!

Next: Pivotal moment Harden became a leader

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