There was talk when he arrived as a free agent last summer than Hakim Warrick could provide some of the firepower that left when Amar'e Stoudemire headed for New York. At least for one night, Warrick did.
Playing for the injured Channing Frye, Warrick had a career-high 32 points, 20 of them in the first half, and the Suns rallied from an 11-point hole to beat the Rockets 113-110 and stay in the playoff race with another new set of characters playing key roles.
No Frye? Scoreless nights from Jared Dudley and Mickael Pietrus off the bench? No worries. Warrick and Vince Carter combined for 64 points -- that's not a misprint -- and the Suns found another way.
"Hakim's had good games for us. He had a game where he had 26 points in the first half," said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, neglecting to mention Warrick went scoreless the rest of the way that night. "I think he's one of those guys who, the longer he's out there, the more comfortable he gets. He got some early baskets that settled him down; he got some baskets from the perimeter."
Warrick realizes the Suns need him with Frye out 2-3 weeks -- minimum -- with a separated shoulder and guard Steve Nash made sure Warrick got some good chances early to gain some confidence.
"I know, collectively, everyone is going to have step up their game," Warrick said. (Frye) is a big part of this team, this organization and he's been playing so well for us, so I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive and just do my part.
"This game is mostly confidence, so you see the ball go in the basket and you're going to continue to be aggressive. Once you get some early buckets it really helps you out."
The Suns have won 13 of their last 18, but they need the win to keep the pressure on Memphis and the rest of the teams fighting for playoff position. And they will need Warrick to shoulder some of the scoring load and to provide an offensive threat. After relying on the bench to score big on the recent 4-2 road trip, the Suns got 98 of their 113 points from the starters against Houston.
The Suns have a big game against Denver Thursday before a nationally televised game with Orlando on Sunday afternoon. If remains to be seen if the Magic will recognize Carter, who has scored 61 points in his last two games.
SUNS 113, ROCKETS 110: Hakim Warrick stepped in for the injured Channing Frye in a big way with a career-high 32 points and Vince Carter added 32 of his own as the Suns beat the Rockets for the seventh straight time to keep pace in the playoffs race.
Marcin Gortat added 13 points and 16 rebounds off the bench for the Suns, who are 1-1/2 games behind Memphis for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Kyle Lowry had 32 points for the Rockets, who lost for the second time in two nights and slipped back to .500 at 33-33.
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