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Rockets get dominated inside, lose to Suns

A down game from Harden spelled doom against Phoenix

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets continue to feel the loss of Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones, getting pounded on the boards while not being able to withstand a low-scoring game from James Harden.

The Rockets fell, 117-102 in a game that was closer that the score entails. Harden had just 16 points on 19 shots, and P.J. Tucker has another game on his "Harden-stopper" résumé. He shot 1-8 from three-point territory, he only shot five free throws and he was a minus-27 on the game, by far the worst number of anyone on the team.

Trying to step up in Harden's absence from productivity were Trevor Ariza and Josh Smith. Ariza scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 5 assists, while J-Smoove had 17 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. The two put pressure on the Suns defense and did their part on both ends of the floor. They simply didn't have enough.

The biggest factor in this one was the Rockets' interior disadvantage. Donatas Motiejunas didn't have a bad offensive game -- he made some pretty passes and led the team with 6 assists -- but he grabbed just three rebounds and was majorly responsible for the Rockets getting out-rebounded 49-36 and gave up 14 offensive boards. He shouldn't have seven fewer rebounds than Marcus Morris. Rockets fans know what a subpar rebounder the inferior Morii is.

Eric Bledsoe was a terror again, dropping a 34-8-4 and being a physical menace. Patrick Beverley hit some open shots, but he's just not capable of containing Bledsoe. Four games against the Suns has made that painfully obvious.

This could have been another season sweep. Instead, it was just another painful reminder of how desperately this team needs Dwight Howard back as soon as possible, especially with Terrence Jones trying to get his lung un-collapsed.