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April 16, 2013

Suns snap record home skid with win over Rockets

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns finally got another victory at home — in their last chance of the season.

Luis Scola had 26 points and 15 rebounds, Goran Dragic added 21 points and 14 assists and Phoenix snapped a franchise-record seven-game home losing streak with a 119-112 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday night in the Suns' final home game.

Markieff Morris had 20 points and had career highs of six blocked shots and five steals for the Suns, who despite the victory finished with the second-worst home record in club history. P.J. Tucker added 21 points for the balanced Phoenix offense, which went small without a true center all night.

Dragic, who played part of the third and all of the fourth quarter with a bandage over his left eye after a cut that required three stitches, called it his team's most complete game of the season.

"Everybody was involved, everybody was making shots," Dragic said. "(Markieff), he was amazing. He was blocking every shot almost. On defense, we were talking and we played well. If we would play like this earlier, for sure we would be close to the playoffs."

Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter, who doesn't know if he'll be back next season, liked the effort for the home finale.

"Hopefully these list couple of games is an indication of some things that we got better at," he said. "We didn't get to where we wanted to, but I think that we got better in a lot of different ways."

Carlos Delfino points scored 22, including 6 of 9 3-pointers, and Jeremy Lin 20 for the Rockets, who fell a game behind Golden State for the No. 6 playoff spot in the West. The Rockets are a game ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 7 spot. Houston finishes its regular season at the Lakers on Wednesday night.

"We never had any kind of control of this game at all," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. " They had control of it all night. We made a couple of runs where we thought we would be OK. In the second quarter, we had a couple of things where I thought we could back in the game. We played very poorly. We had bad shot selection, we missed some shots, they posted us up, they got everything they wanted and we couldn't stop them defensively.

"We are going to play a very determined L.A. team. We have to play well."

James Harden managed just 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting, 0 for 7 from 3-point range. That's 10.5 points below his season average.

"I think that has been one of our problems all season — focus," Lin said. "It usually comes with a younger team. At this point of the season, it is really not an excuse. Every game means so much. We are talking about playoff seeding. We are talking about matchups and things that are more important than anything we played for all season."

Despite the victory, Phoenix finished with its second-worst home record in franchise history at 17-24. With one game to go, the Suns are 25-56 and guaranteed the second-worst record in team history. Only the 16-66 inaugural season of 1968-69 was worse.

"We all know it was a rough year," Scola said, "but I wish the year would have 100 games left so we could turn this around. The day we finish the year we can start thinking about next season and I'm looking forward to that."

Houston never caught the Suns in the second half, cutting it to 75-71 on Omer Asik's dunk with 8:03 left in the third.

Phoenix had its highest-scoring quarter of a season with 39 in the first and their highest-scoring half in building a 67-61 lead at the break. The Suns stretched it to as much as a 12-point lead late in the third and were up 90-83 entering the fourth.

Houston kept it to single-digits most of the fourth with Patrick Beverley's 3-pointer cutting the lead to 103-101 with 6:20 to go. But two baskets by Morris and a driving layup by Dragic made it 109-101.

The Rockets never got closer than five again.

Dragic scored six and Wesley Johnson five in a 13-2 run that put the Suns up 35-23 with 1:47 left in the first.

But with Harden on the bench, the Rockets rallied in the second quarter with a 7-0 spurt. Delfino sank a 3, then James Anderson dunked and Greg Smith scored inside, putting Houston up 52-50 with 6:05 left in the half.

Phoenix regained the lead 56-55 on a fastbreak basket by Jared Dudley, after a behind-the-back assist from Dragic, 2:51 before halftime. It was part of a 15-2 outburst that made it 65-57 on Tucker's layup.

Notes: There was a moment of silence before the games in honor of the victims of Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon. The Suns had announced there would be an increased security presence, but it wasn't noticeable. ... Phoenix shot 62 percent in the first quarter (16 for 26). ... Phoenix's previous highest-scoring half was 64, first against Charlotte and matched against Golden State.

 

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