Whether it’s missed shots, the inability to slide on defense or the running dialogue with referees that cost him a technical foul Wednesday, Raja Bell’s frustrations know no bounds right now.
When a sprained ankle forced him to alter his gait and led to back spasms, Bell was hoping it would be a short-term problem. But the back is still hurting, and Bell’s game is still showing the effects — based on the seven points and 22 minutes he was able to contribute in a 100-94 loss to the Rockets.
Asked how he felt after the game, Bell said: “I don’t know how to respond. It is what it is, I’m playing. If I can help, I’ll play. That’s what I told (coach) Mike (D’Antoni) . ... If what I have right now is helping, then I’ll go out and play.”
Bell won’t take himself out of the lineup but indicated he might be doing more harm than good right now.
“I don’t feel healthy right now,” he said. “I know that’s to be expected coming off the spasms. But I don’t want to play this way all year. There are things I know I can do on the court that I just can’t do right now because … because I just can’t, and it’s frustrating. But if they feel like I’m helping, I’ll go out and do my job.”
NO HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Leandro Barbosa turned 25 Wednesday, but he wasn’t in a celebratory mood after missing 9 of 11 shots from the field and all three of his 3-point attempts.
With Bell hurting, D’Antoni went with Barbosa down the stretch, but he was having his own problems.
After starting the season in a shooting slump, Barbosa caught fire during Phoenix’s eight-game winning streak but is now struggling again. He’s missed 23 of 33 shots in the last three games and is just 2-for-13 from 3-point range.
“I had a bad game, I was really slow. I couldn’t feel my legs all night and I was a reason why we didn’t run the way we like to do,” he said. “I’ve felt this way for a few games now, and I have to get back to helping the team more. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I know I have to be patient and I have to stay aggressive.”
TUCKER GOES TO NBADL
The Suns assigned rookie forward Alando Tucker, their first-round pick from the June draft, to the Albuquerque Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League.
Tucker appeared in only two of Phoenix’s first 14 games, both late-game, blowout situations. D’Antoni said he wants the Wisconsin forward to get more playing time. Tucker averaged six points and one rebound in eight minutes.
“We’re entering a stretch where we aren’t going to have a lot of practice days and Alando probably wouldn’t have much chance to improve,” D’Antoni said. “This way, he’s playing every day. And he’s proven to be more of a gamer than a practice player, so this should help him along even more.”
Phoenix’s active roster now stands at 12, although Tucker could and would be recalled in the event of a long-term injury to another player.
Amaré Stoudemire, on the first losing streak of the season: “There is no need to panic. The Spurs were world champions last year, and I’m pretty sure they lost back-to-back games. We’re still in good shape and we’re still confident. ...”
The Suns came into the game with the best fast-break point differential in the league (plus-7.5 points), averaging 19.6 points a game on the break while allowing 12.1. But the Suns were outscored 11-10 Wednesday by a Houston team led by a 7-6 center.
The Suns are now 0-3 when failing to reach 100 points in a game.
Steve Nash hit all three of his free throws Wednesday and is now perfect in all 44 tries — the longest streak in the league to start a year since Nash hit 41 straight to begin the 2005-06 season. Nash still isn’t halfway to the NBA record for free throws made (97 by Minnesota’s Michael Williams in 1993.
Did you see that? After averaging 19 points on 56.5 percent shooting over the last seven games, Grant Hill tweaked his back in the first half and never got on track, missing six of eight shots and scoring only seven points in 29 minutes
Player of the game: Yao Ming was the easy choice with 31 points and 13 rebounds, although the Suns allowed him to be more effective by playing the game as his desired pace.
Unsung hero: Rafer Alston, a 25 percent 3-point shooter this season, made three of five Wednesday and his 15 points hurt when the Suns tried to collapse on Yao inside.
Thumbs up: Shawn Marion not only had 18 points and nine rebounds, but was one of the only active Suns on both ends of the floor (five steals, four blocked shots).
Thumbs down: Where have the shooters gone? With Leandro Barbosa again slumping and Raja Bell ineffective while working through a back injury, the targets for Steve Nash assist passes becomes limited.