The Houston Rockets read the Phoenix Suns scouting report and decided to take the game into their own hands. The Suns are good at defending the three-point line but give up a lot of paint points. So, the Rockets spent the entire first quarter passing into the paint, to the tune of 20 of their first 26 points.
But then the Suns second unit, along with ironman Goran Dragic, went on an answering 29-8 run in the second quarter to take the lead back at 48-45 and the game was ON despite the Rockets taking back a 4-point lead into halftime. Goran Dragic had 25 point in that first half, along with 2 assists and 3 steals.
In the third quarter, the Suns ran roughshod over the Rockets 37-23 on an onslaught of forced turnovers and Gerald Green (18 points in the third). Green ended the Q with a banked in three pointer to give the Suns a 10-point lead.
After that first quarter, I would have never thought the Suns would come back. Even in the third, I had a strong feeling that the Suns would be clawing back all night only to come up short, much like they did in Houston before the All-Star Break.
But happily, I was wrong. The Suns took a 10-point lead in the fourth (93-83).
The fourth quarter was an exercise in staying in front, and hoping that Goran Dragic didn't run out of steam before the Rockets found their range.
And then there was that "clear path foul" where Chandler Parsons tripped himself on the way to the basket and the Suns Rockets got 4 points out of it. Suddenly, the Suns lead was down to 2.
From there, the game was back and forth to the end. Heavy weight hits vs. heavy weight hits. Crazy stuff.
The refs really made the whole last few minutes tough to swallow, with bad call after bad call - even after giving themselves a chance to review it.
Patrick Beverley came up really big in the fourth quarter for the Rockets, with 12 points in the fourth quarter (20 for the game) and hounding defense on Goran Dragic.
Dragic got a career high 35 points in the game, but only 6 in the fourth as he was gassed himself and dogged by Beverley.
First half notes:
The game started with the Houston Rockets shooting short, while the Suns were shooting long. Quickly, Houston got three point-blank shots for Terrence Jones while the Suns just tried to keep pace. The Suns didn't help themselves by missing three free throws in the opening three minutes. The Rockets just kept coming, with scoring from secondary scoring options Patrick Beverly and Terrence Jones (10 of Rockets 18 points).
Overall, it was a first quarter to forget. Everyone trying too hard, but playing terrible. Making awful passes and generally failing to look cohesive at all on offense.
That it was only a 14-point Rocket lead at the end of one was... oh screw it, that was terrible. Terrible basketball. After a 20 point blowout last time, the Suns are playing like they have no idea how to beat this Rockets team.
It took a little into the second quarter before the Suns began to show some life against the Rockets second unit. The Suns went on a 29-8 to take the lead back with a back court of Goran Dragic (13 of those 29 points) and Ish Smith leading the way, and the Morris brothers doing work down low.
But then the Rockets righted their ship, going on an 11-0 run before Dragic sank another pair of threes and Gerald Green sunk a couple of free throws to cut the Rockets halftime lead to a manageable 4 points.
Dwight Howard said during the halftime interview that Dragic had been playing at an All-Star level all year.
Dragic scored 25 points in the first half alone. But the half really belonged to the Rockets and the Suns were just trying to stay close.