Heading into the Suns’ 55th game of the season, especially going against James Harden and the Houston Rockets, not much was to be expected from the Phoenix Suns. Currently on a 10-game losing streak, Phoenix is in the thick of the Zion Williamson sweepstakes while LaVar Ball tries to sway his son, Lonzo Ball, to end up in a Suns uniform by Thursday’s trade deadline if Los Angeles trades for Anthony Davis.
By the way, Lonzo’s father will be on 98.7 FM twice tomorrow (9:15 a.m. AZ; 12:30 p.m. AZ) to talk more about why he wants him to be on the Suns. And why he will “speak it into existence” this week.
Anyways, let’s turn our attention back to the Suns-Rockets game as Phoenix tried to avoid extending their skid to 11. They kept it close through the first 30 minutes before Houston really turned up the jets extending their lead between 15-20 points the rest of the time their starters were on the floor.
When it’s my turn to do game recaps, you know the drill by now, Bright Side readers. I’ll relay you my biggest positives (Thumbs Up) and negatives (Thumbs Down) in quick bite-sized blurbs to digest tonight’s action.
Thumbs Down: Containing James Harden
This is of course a tough task for any team this season as Harden just capped off a month where he averaged over 43 points, so he’s well on his way to consecutive MVP awards. Even though the Suns threw multiple coverages at Harden, it didn’t really matter much as he went on to collect 22 points 7-for-12 shooting by halftime.
Following a few possessions where the Suns’ defense seemed to confuse The Beard, he quickly figured things out as his aggressiveness driving to the rim really started paying dividends as defenders began to fatigue.
And in the second half, Harden started to asset his dominance hitting crazy shots while controlling the pace of play. It was another easy night at the office for Harden while stacking up gaudy numbers along the way.
In the end, Harden finished with 44 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals on 15-for-25 shooting (9-11 FTA) in 37 minutes. Harden put on a masterful showing where 30-7-6 was achieved when barely breaking a sweat. Speaks to the track record for Suns opponents who tend to go off against them, like Jamal Murray’s 46-point explosion back in early January.
Thumbs Down: Elie Okobo
It was a rough going early for Okobo after one of his best game of the season on Saturday against Atlanta. In the first three minutes, Okobo had three turnovers.
Even after this rough patch, Okobo added another turnover finishing with more of these than assists.
The 21-year-old guard out of France was never able to establish a rhythm while also seemingly second-guessing many of his reads. With the hesitation, head coach Igor Kokoskov implemented more minutes for Jamal Crawford after his benching on Saturday.
Thumbs Up: Deandre Ayton assertive early
Possessing a gigantic size advantage over the likes of Kenneth Faried and P.J. Tucker, Ayton was primed for a big night if he was fed the ball consistently.
Whenever he was put on the block guarded by either one of these players, Phoenix should’ve went to him more often than they ended up doing. At halftime, Ayton only missed one shot but faded away later on as the Rockets’ lead expanded.
Motor has been something to watch with Ayton this season, so to see him come out and bring the energy was a pleasant sight.
Unfortunately for the Suns, Ayton’s flashes of dominance showed through during another blowout defeat.
Thumbs Up: Josh Jackson
Speaking of assertiveness, you never have to worry about that with Jackson. In the first quarter, Jackson had already attempted eight shots. At this point, we know how Jackson operates offensively, so him taking step-back jumpers and pushing the pace are his staples.
When Houston sagged off with lax coverage, Jackson made sure to attack. That’s one area that Jackson continues to improve in is his instincts. It’s hit and miss at points, but with the Suns’ No. 4 pick from the 2017 draft, you have an energizer bunny who isn’t worried about trying to find his rhythm.
For Jackson, his efficiency nosedived in the second half as he tried to do force things in order to get Phoenix back from another huge hole. He lands in the ‘Thumbs Up’ category because he was one of the main catalysts to them only trailing 63-57 at halftime before it was quickly no longer.
Trust me, Kelly Oubre Jr. had a solid game but most of his damage happened when the game was clearly out of hand. That leans back toward Jackson’s favor for him earning the ‘Thumbs Up’ tag tonight.
Jackson finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal on 11-for-23 shooting in 36 minutes.
Phoenix will be back in action on Wednesday versus the Utah Jazz, which will be the last game before the Feb. 7 trade deadline.