HOUSTON — Rockets center Dwight Howard delivered a clinic in post scoring and paced a dominating interior performance in the Rockets’ 122-108 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
Howard recorded his 32nd double-double, with 34 points and 14 rebounds, and combined with forward Terrence Jones (19 points, nine rebounds) to shoot 19-for-29 from the floor. Houston (33-17) hit 11 of 16 3-pointers, but the overwhelming edge inside was crucial.
The Suns (29-20) erased a 12-point deficit in the first half and led by as many as six before succumbing to the Rockets’ interior tandem. After running the Rockets ragged in the first half, the Suns mustered just two fast-break points in the final two quarters.
Rockets guard James Harden added 23 points, hitting all 12 free throws, while forward Chandler Parsons added 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Houston hit 33 of 42 free throws (78.6 percent).
Guard Goran Dragic led six Suns in double figures, with 23 points, while adding eight assists and six rebounds. Twins Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench. Phoenix reserves combined for 46 points to outpace the Houston bench by 27.
Clearly intent to set a tempo that eluded them during their first meeting with Phoenix, the Rockets blitzed to a double-digit lead by the 9:38 mark of the first quarter. Guard Patrick Beverley drilled a 3-pointer for a 12-2 lead.
Jones provided his customary early burst, pairing nine points with six rebounds in just under eight minutes as Houston led by as many as 12 in the period.
But the Suns punished the Rockets in transition and turned to their bench in order to erase the deficit. While Harden and Howard sat early in the second quarter, Phoenix ran wild, closing the half with 17 fast-break points.
By the break four Phoenix reserves had scored at least six points while the Suns’ bench had outscored the Rockets 28-9. Thanks to Howard and his dominance inside, the Rockets held a 66-63 lead at the intermission.
NOTES: Suns G Goran Dragic might have taken some observers by surprise this season with averages of 20.1 points and 6.0 assists but Rockets coach Kevin McHale isn’t among that group. During his final season in Houston (2011-12), Dragic averaged 18.0 points and 8.4 assists while starting 28 games as G Kyle Lowry battled injury. “I saw Goran do the same thing — when Kyle was hurt here — with us about the same level,” McHale said. “It was very impressive. I’ve seen him do it before.” … The Rockets expect C Omer Asik to return to practice without restriction later this week. Asik missed his 33rd game Wednesday night and hasn’t played since Dec. 2 while battling right thigh/knee woes. … Phoenix entered Wednesday 10-8 without G Eric Bledsoe (right knee), another accomplishment in their resurgent season. “The chemistry is pretty good between our guys,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We play hard, for the most part, and during this stretch we’ve done a good job of taking care of the ball.”
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