Gortat, Nash lead Suns to key win in Houston
By CHRIS DUNCAN
HOUSTON (AP) Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry had a pretty simple solution for kick-starting Marcin Gortat in the second half of Friday's game in Houston.
Gortat finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds, Steve Nash had 18 points and 10 assists and the Suns boosted their playoff hopes with a 112-105 win over the Rockets.
The Suns came into the game holding the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference, and little margin for error with only two weeks left in the regular season.
Phoenix trailed by four at halftime, largely because Houston center Marcus Camby grabbed 18 rebounds in the first half. Gentry stormed into the locker room and aimed most of his frustration at the 6-foot-11 Gortat.
"If a guy grabs 18 rebounds in one half, then somebody is not doing his job," Gortat said with a wry smile. "Someone's got to get yelled at. Unfortunately, it was me."
Gortat and the Suns played with more energy after halftime, and Phoenix outscored Houston 30-14 in the third quarter to take control of the game.
"We were pretty disappointed with the first half, we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds," Nash said. "We definitely wanted to make that right in the second half and give ourselves a chance to win."
Houston's late rally fell short, and the Suns moved into the ninth spot in the Western Conference. Phoenix also closed to within one game of the Rockets, who came in holding the No. 7 seed in the West.
After winning four straight road games, the Rockets have dropped two at home to teams right behind them in the standings - Utah and Phoenix. Houston has a pivotal home-and-home set with Denver on Sunday and Monday.
"These games are coming up, and each one has more importance right now," Rockets forward Chase Budinger said.
Grant Hill had four points and six rebounds in his first game back following March 30 surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. Hill played 25 minutes and said the knee held up fine.
"It was good to be out there competing," Hill said. "It was good to get that first one out of the way."
Camby had 14 points and 18 rebounds and Luis Scola scored 21 for the Rockets.
Houston led 55-51 at the break, then started 2-for-8 from the field out of halftime. Camby was whistled for a technical foul after snapping at referee Brent Barnaky, and the Suns added to the lead.
Redd's 3-pointer pushed the lead to 10, as the Rockets continued to misfire. Houston went 6-for-23 from the field in the third quarter and trailed 81-69. Rookie Markieff Morris then opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play, and Telfair sank two free throws to finish a 17-2 Phoenix run.
"We just came out with a sense of urgency in the third quarter," Hill said.
The Rockets missed five straight shots before Scola's baseline jumper with 8:45 remaining. But that only cut the Suns' lead to 88-75, and Telfair answered with a 3-pointer.
Phoenix led 95-81 with 5:58 to go when Nash returned from a long break. Gortat scored inside seconds later, and the Suns matched their biggest lead.
"We just played a real bad second half," Camby said.
Chandler Parsons broke free for a two-handed dunk to cap a quick 10-2 Houston run. But Parsons fouled Nash on a drive, and the two-time MVP sank both free throws for a 101-91 lead.
Goran Dragic sank two free throws and swished a straight-on 3-pointer to start Houston's last-ditch rally. The Suns led only 105-100 after Scola scored inside with 1:52 remaining. But Courtney Lee missed a 3, and Dudley hit one at the other end with 36 seconds left to put it away for the Suns.
NOTES: The Suns have won nine of their last 12 meetings with Houston, and 11 of the last 16 games in Houston. ... The Suns have won eight of their last 13 games when they trail at halftime. ... Gortat has 14 games this season with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. ... Camby is the first Rocket to grab 10 rebounds in a quarter since Chuck Hayes pulled down 12 in the first quarter against Cleveland in February 2011. ... The Rockets went 4-for-19 from 3-point range.
Updated April 14, 2012