What a day for the Phoenix Suns and the fanbase.
While there is plenty to absorb, interpret, and understand relative to the scathing Baxter Holmes ESPN story about Suns owner Robert Sarver, I’m here to discuss the game. Yes, there was a game tonight. I’m focusing on the drama on the court and leaving the turmoil beyond it for another day.
The Suns started strong and finished strong, closing out the feisty Rockets 123-111 to win their third game in a row. Your Suns are now 4-3 on the season.
Devin Booker scored 27 big points, plus 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Deandre Ayton returned from a knee bruise to tally 16 points and 11 rebounds. Landry Shamet had 19 big points off the bench. And the Suns finally won a 3-point shooting contest, 14 to 11.
—Deandre Ayton is back, Cameron Payne is still out
The Suns won the tip, but both of their first two shots fell well short of going in — by Ayton on a turnaround in the post, then Booker on a side-step three. The Rockets scored the game’s first bucket, by Christian Wood. Bridges followed with a three.
Then the Rockets scored another inside, followed by another Bridges three.
Then the Rockets failed to score, followed by a Jae three.
Okay, maybe the lid is off the top of that basket now?
The Suns pulled out to a 22-11 lead on 60% shooting including 80% on threes (4 of 5); the only danger sign being that both Jae Crowder and Chris Paul got 2 fouls apiece before 7 minutes were gone. Might be a bad sign if they miss a lot of time in the first half. And then Deandre Ayton gets his second with the Suns up 24-16.
Time for the second unit. Let’s see how they do tonight. JaVale in there with Elfrid Payton and Devin Booker... and nominally Landry Shamet and Cameron Johnson, but those last two aren’t going to touch it much.
Rockets are getting some life (down only 26-22), and now Downhill Doolie replaces Booker and... let’s see how this goes.
It got ragged for sure, but the Suns ended the first quarter up 36-30 with Landry Shamet scoring the last six points for the Suns in the quarter. The Rockets started making shots and got to the line, helping them hit 30 points after getting only 6 in the first four minutes. Christian Wood led the Rockets by a lot with 10 points and 8 rebounds in this quarter alone.
Then the Rockets took the lead, 37-36 as Cameron Johnson passed up a couple shots (with diminutive D.J. Augustin on him) in order to get Abdel Nader some chances to put his head down and miss badly. The Suns did not score their first points of the second quarter for three minutes.
The Suns got the lead back, but the Rockets took the lead again at 48-46 with some nice back-cuts behind Suns defenders for easy scores and a breakaway on a steal. The Suns are losing their focus and the Rockets are playing fast... bad combination. Their ball handlers are attacking the paint and either getting to the rim or dishing to cutters. All at pace.
The Suns were trying to punish the Rockets for putting a small on Ayton, and got the ball in to Ayton several times, but he missed the shots after turning them into complicated turnarounds without drawing contact. Ayton is 4 for 9 at this point.
The Rockets lead got up to 59-52 on a Kevin Porter Jr. and-one, and the building got a bit nervous.
The Suns made 4 of their first 5 threes but only 3 of their next 9. They just couldn’t hit shots once they went to bench in that first quarter. Even a late flurry at the rim on their final possession came up empty.
Suns are down 61-56 at halftime. After leading 22-11, the Suns were outscored 50-34 the rest of the half.
The Suns came out of the half slow again, and the Rockets maintained their lead at 76-70 with 5:16 left in the third quarter when the Suns finally awoke.
They went on a thrilling 23-10 run over the next five minutes to take a 93-83 lead and put themselves into commanding position for the game. The lead ballooned to 110-95 by mid-fourth quarter as Elfrid Payton and JaVale McGee had great stints on both end of the floor.
Devin Booker erupted during the second half, pushing his points up to 25 by the end of the third, including a pair of crowd-erupting threes during the 23-7 run.
Landry Shamet had 19 big points off the bench, including 4-8 on threes and 5-5 on free throws.
The Suns lost a bit of momentum after that — once again losing focus like they’ve so often done this year — allowing the Rockets to pull back within seven points at 110-103 with 5 minutes still remaining in the game.
But then the Suns went on an 8-0 run to ice the game, and won their third game in a row, 123-111.
Oh and they finally won the three-point contest in a game — 14 to 11.
Phoenix hosts Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night in downtown Phoenix.