The Rockets shot-making was incredible in this game, especially from James Harden and his 47 points. I don’t even know how to explain it except... wow.
Harden and Russell Westbrook combined for 77 points (also adding 17 assists), but that’s not even the biggest wow. You knew they were going to do well. Rockets not formerly winners of the NBA MVP trophy were 21-28 from the field in the middle of the fourth quarter before James initiated garbage time with some unbelievable threes.
The Suns were no offensive slouch in this game, shooting 54% from the field and had 7 players in double figures in scoring.
Ty Jerome had 15 points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds off the bench, though he was also a big negative on the scoreboard. Cameron Johnson and Ty often got switched onto Harden or Westbrook and were... not up to the task, let’s just say.
Devin Booker had 19 points (6/15 shooting) and 9 assists.
Kelly Oubre Jr. led the team with 26 points, plus 4 assists and 5 rebounds.
The Suns now have a six game losing streak, all by 14+ points. But at least in this one, the Suns played with heart and hustle. They just didn’t have the horses to keep up with a scorching hot-shooting Rockets team.
Out for Suns: Ricky Rubio (illness), Deandre Ayton (ankle)
Out for Rockets: Eric Gordon (knee), Gerald Green
Suns: Elie Okobo gets the start for Rubio, with Baynes starting for Ayton. Otherwise normal: Devin Booker, Dario Saric and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Rockets: the usual of the two MVPs, P.J. Tucker, the two former Suns and Clint Capela
The game started well for the Suns, making 8 of their first 12 shots for a 19-15 lead. All five starters scored for the Suns in those opening minutes in a well-balanced offense (Oubre and Saric with 6 each).
James Harden had all his mojo going, scoring 18 points on 6/7 shooting plus a trio of free throws to pull the Rockets back into the lead at 32-27 with just over twi minutes left in the opening frame.
When Harden finally rested, all we got was the 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to contend with. Annoying. I mean that in the most respectful way, of course.
Any Suns unit that wasn’t mostly starters had trouble keeping up with the Rockets, especially with Westbrook in there as the ball handler and Clint Capela having his way physically in the paint on both ends. Despite making all three of their shots (and all four free throws), the tandem of Ty Jerome and Frank Kaminsky were a collective minus-12. It didn’t help that Mikal Bridges was called for three fouls in six minutes, and that Cam Johnson only got one shot attempt in five minutes.
In Harden’s five minutes out of the game, the Suns were out by something like a billion points. Not good, Bob. At that point, the Rockets were 5-8 on threes while the Suns were only 1-7 from the same distance.
Then the Suns roared back even with Harden back in, mainly because the threes started going the other way.
By the end of the half, Harden Hardened and the Rockets still had a five-point lead, 70-65, on 61% shooting (Harden was 10-15) while the Suns were 58%.
James Harden had 32 points, while Devin Booker had only 6 points but dished 9 assists as the de facto point guard with Okobo playing more off-ball than on-ball.
The Suns did not start out the second half very well, though, as the Rockets quickly built a 87-75 lead. The Rockets were up to 63% shooting, including 8-20 on threes. The Suns just did not have answers for Harden and Westbrook.
By the 87-75 mark, Harden and Westbrook had combined for 52 points and 13 of their 15 assists.
The Suns just could not close the gap into the late third because the Rockets were simply making their shots. How else do you explain the Suns shooting 60% but being down 10+ on the scoreboard? The big difference is the Suns are only 4-15 on threes while the Rockets are 10-23 at this point, with the Rockets up 97-87 with still 2:45 left to go in the third.
After three quarters, the Rockets were up 106-95, still shooting an absurd 61% from the field. Harden and Westbrook have combined for 58 points and the rest of the Rockets are shooting 20-28 from the field.