The Phoenix Suns have the Western Conference Player of the Week (Deandre Ayton), Western Conference Player of the Month (Devin Booker), and the Western Conference Coach of the Month (Monty Williams). They brought all of their early season accolades to Footprint Center against the Houston Rockets, put it didn’t matter as the team was outscored 36-25 in the 4th quarter, losing 122-121.
The Rockets fought, attacking the rim and forcing the issue consistently as night long. Second-year guard Jalen Green, who dropped 30 points, displayed his athletic abilities throughout the evening. He will be an issue in years to come.
You give a young team like the Rockets a chance, and it builds confidence. They become invincible. Shots that normally don’t start falling begin to fall. They felt that in the fourth quarter and downed the Suns.
Devin Booker had another 40+ point performance, scoring 41, and Mikal Bridges added 22. But the streak is over.
The Suns were extremely shallow at power forward depth as Torrey Craig was not available with a groin injury. No Cameron Johnson, No Jae Crowder. Therefore we received some Dario Saric in the starting lineup. It was his first start since the final regular season game of the 2020-21 season.
Torrey Craig is out tonight due to a right groin strain, per Suns— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) December 2, 2022
Devin Booker started where he left off, knocking down his first three shot attempts, forcing Stephen Silas to call his first timeout as the Suns opened the game 12-2.
Mikal Bridges, who was offensively absent in the win against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, contributed eight early points in the first quarter, ending with 11 in the quarter including three from beyond the arc.
Houston’s young guns looked aggressive, with Jabari Smith, Jr., the third overall pick in the draft, displaying his range and length through the first period. He had 10 points and 3 rebound in the first half, trailing only Alperen Segun, who had 13 and 4 in the first half.
With a short bench, Monty substituted Ish Wainright and Landry Shamet into the lineup with his first rotation. Ish, who has been putting in plenty of pre-game work from beyond the arc (footage of him at 4:25pm was shown on the Bally broadcast working on his craft), quickly deposited a super shot.
Devin Booker’s torrid runs of late cannot occur if you have a slow start. He dropped 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including two made three pointers.
Houston attacked the cylinder often, getting to the line for 12 free throw attempts in the first. Still, Phoenix ended the first period with a 36-27 lead.
The Rockets, who are number four in the league in rebounding, attacked the glass effectively which allowed them to stay in striking distance throughout the first half.
They pestered Deandre Ayton every time you touched the rock, clearly focused on doing what they could to negate the raining Western Conference Player of the Week. With 8:53 left in Q2, he was hit with his third foul and made his way to the bench.
Houston responded with a 9-0 run as the Suns rolled out a Biyombo/Saric lineup.
Houston clearly focused on negating DA in this game. Welcome to being the Western Conference Player of the Week.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) December 3, 2022
Suns’ turnovers, fouls, and lack of rebounding hurt in the second, and following a couple of Houston exaggerations, combined with non-whistles on contact heavy plays against Booker, the Western Conference Player of the Month received a technical foul.
Phoenix would play the final 3+ minutes without Ayton and Booker, both sitting with 3 fouls. Booker, who dropped 18 in Q2, was relegated to 2 points in Q2, for 20 halftime points. Ayton had 0 points and 2 boards.
The Rockets shot 25 free throws to Suns 6 as Phoenix was whistled for 17 fouls to Houston’s 8. But the Suns shot 54.5% in the first half, taking a 64-57 lead into the half.
Phoenix opened the second half with an increase in energy, which was expected for their first team unit. Houston continued to swat at any basketball Ayton brought low, he found his way into the scoring column with two nice plays; one on a quality entry pass from Cameron Payne, the other on a right-to-left handed take against the Rockets’ interior.
Suns went up 15 after an 8-0 run in the third, sparked by 9 of Devin Booker’s 13 points in the third. Deandre Ayton came to life, scoring 6 in the period.
Jalen Green was in attack mode for the Rockets, capitalizing on isolation basketball coupled with attacking the cylinder. Through three quarters, Green had 29 points, including 11-of-14 from the line. For those who are privy to the Rockets’ Sub-Reddit, they weren’t too happy, despite the offensive explosion. He doesn't distribute, he is too iso-heavy, and kills the rhythm of their offense.
A 10-3 run late in the third by Houston put them down by 9, but Devin Booker decided to score his 33rd point in a very Kobe/MJ fashion, doing all over a very vocal Jalen green.
33 points for Book through three quarters.— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) December 3, 2022
How many will he finish with tonight? pic.twitter.com/g6Z6mYnrFv
Suns up 10, 96-86, after three.
It was Cam Payne SZN to start Q4 as Payne, who had 20 points and 12 assists on the night, scored the first 8 points for the Suns. Houston would not go quietly into the night, however, as the Rockets closed the within 2 points on a Jabari Smith, Jr. three-pointer with 7:09 left. It was the exclamation point of a 12-2 Houston run.
Phoenix had a hard time simply holding the ball throughout the night. Credit Houston for constantly swatting at the ball, and recognize that the Suns were dribbling off of their feet all night. The Suns had 18 turnovers, which led to 14 Houston points.
Devin Booker hit a critical and-1 down 5 points, but missed the free throw attempt, putting the Suns down 3 with 1:50 to go left in the game. A Mikal; Bridges foul on a three-point shooting Kevin Porter, Jr., who hit the 41st free throw attempt.
Booker responded with a three. Christ, this guy is good.
Cameron Payne tied the game at 121 with a deep three-pointer with 45.4 seconds left. Green responded by drawing a foul on Bridges, who hit one of two free throws.
That set up a chance for the Suns to win it, and after three offensive rebounds and a steal — 4 missed shots — the Suns lose, 122-121. Phoenix was outscored 62-40 in the paint.
I’m now 1-5 covering the Suns this season. The Suns have lost 7 games. Clearly, I’m unlucky.
Who likes mid-afternoon Sunday basketball? The Cardinals are on a bye this week, and let’s be honest. They are not a fun watch anyways. Unless you want to sit around for three-and-a-half hours, getting frustrated at red zone play calling.
Watch Phoenix instead! The Suns play the Spurs for the first time this season, doing so in San Antonio at 2:00pm AZ time Sunday.
Until then Bright Siders, enjoy your weekend.