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HOUSTON – The Houston Rockets have the NBA's second-best record, and don't even have All-Star Dwight Howard and several key pieces.
"Once we get our full team back and ready to go, we're going to be a problem," James Harden said.
Trevor Ariza and Pat Beverley each scored 19 points to lead the Rockets to their fourth straight victory, 100-95 over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.
Houston improved to 16-4 by winning for the seventh time in the nine games Howard (knee strain) has been out.
The Rockets got a boost off the bench with the return of Beverley, who had missed the last six games with a hamstring injury.
"We don't win that game unless Pat plays," coach Kevin McHale said. "He made some big 3s and got some huge offensive rebounds. We were really struggling. We were running out of gas."
The Rockets never trailed and led by as many as 22 points. The Suns used an 8-2 run, capped by a tip-in by PJ Tucker, to cut the lead to 97-93 with 21 seconds remaining.
But Beverley made three free throws after that to make it 100-93 and Houston held on for the win.
Eric Bledsoe led the Suns with 23 points.
"We outplayed them in the second half, but you can't get down 20 at the half," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said.
Donatas Motiejunas continued his recent strong play with 16 points and 11 rebounds for his career-best fourth straight game scoring at least 10. Harden had 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Gerald Green added 16 points for the Suns and Tucker had 15.
Phoenix used an 11-2 run get within 92-85 with about 3 ½ minutes remaining. Beverley scored Houston's first field goal in more than 7 minutes with a 3-pointer about a minute later.
The Suns cut the lead to nine points early in the fourth quarter before Houston scored six straight points, powered by a 3-pointer by Beverley, to make it 86-71. Harden sat out for the first five minutes of the quarter to stretch his back after falling hard to the court on a 3-point attempt at the end of the third.
He said his motion was limited late by tightness in his back, but that he'd be OK.
Jason Terry gave Houston its first points in almost five minutes with a jump shot midway through the third quarter and Beverley made a 3-pointer after a tip-in by Tucker to make it 68-51.
A 3-pointer by Alex Len cut the lead to 80-67 at the end of the period.
The Rockets got off to a hot start, shooting 63.6 percent in the first quarter to just under 29 percent for Phoenix, to take a 35-18 lead. Markieff Morris had the toughest time in that period, going 0 for 7.
Green scored four quick points to start an 11-2 spurt which got the Suns within 43-31 midway through the quarter. The Rockets scored seven straight points soon after that to pad the lead and were up 60-41 at halftime.
"When we struggle to maintain one-on-one defense early and give up easy baskets ... we're just not going to win most of those," Tucker said.
Suns: G Isaiah Thomas missed his sixth straight game with a right ankle injury. Hornacek said he's feeling better and that he could return on Monday. ... Saturday was the first time in four games that Goran Dragic hasn't led the team in scoring. He had 13 points on Saturday.
Rockets: McHale said that Howard along with G Isaiah Canaan (ankle sprain), F Terrence Jones (left leg nerve inflammation) and F Kostas Papanikolaou (knee strain) won't be coming back "anytime soon."... Francisco Garcia left the game in the first half with a sore right leg and didn't return.
NO REST FOR ARIZA: McHale hoped to rest Ariza a bit on Saturday, but ended up playing him more than 43 minutes. The outing came a night after he played almost 44 minutes in an overtime win against Minnesota.
McHale said he's done a "terrible job" and finding spots to rest Ariza because he relies on him so much as the team's best defender.
Suns: At Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
Rockets: At Golden State on Wednesday.