Rockets Take Off While Suns Set in Houston

Feb 11, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots against Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 11, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots against Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Before the game even tipped-off, Suns fans knew that even while short-handed, if James Harden was playing in the fourth quarter the game was in reach.

With the Suns missing Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler, and Dragan Bender, as it happened, not only did Harden not play the fourth quarter, he probably could have sat out the entire second half, and the Rockets may very well have still won this game going away.

For the – who knows how many times this season – the Suns lost in a wire-to-wire fashion, never once carrying the lead. But even in a season as bad as this one is for Phoenix, even tonight might be about as bad as it can possibly get.

Houston broke out with a 13-0 lead before the Suns starters were even stretched, of which James Harden played a direct role in seven of those points. Following a driving layup that ended in a three-point play by an obviously already frustrated Devin Booker to end the shut out, Houston went on another 8-0 run to stretch their lead to 21-3 only 4:42 into the game. The Rockets had 30 points before the Suns even reached ten, and had it not been for a heroic first quarter performance by Jared Dudley who scored ten of the team’s final 16 points of the quarter coming off the bench, the lead would have been even wider. Dudley finished with 12 points on the night, tying his season-high. The Suns ended the first period with 24 points on 10-25 shooting.

The basketball carnage continued into the second quarter as Houston stretched their 14 point first quarter lead to 24 at half, scoring 77 points – the most they have scored and the Suns have allowed in any half this season.

The third quarter was more of the same as Houston stretched their lead to 40 points at it’s peak – Phoenix’s largest deficit at any point of the season.

Up 34 at the start of the 4th quarter, Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni sat James Harden, the very example of a game totally out of reach. On the night the former Arizona State Sun Devil fell a couple of stats shy of a triple-double, tying his longest streak of the season with seven consecutive games without one. However, finishing with 40 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds in only 29 minutes was still more than was necessary to hand the depleted, and at times mentally defeated Suns, their 37th loss on the season. Phoenix shot 39.4% for the game, the second time in three games they have shot below 40% and fourth time on the season.

Phoenix was short-handed, but regardless, over-matched. At no point was this game ever in jeopardy for the Houston Rockets, and at no point did the Suns look like a team that could ever compete with their opponent. On offense the Suns never found a rhythm but it was their defense that was abhorred. The Suns allow over 112 points per game and the Rockets score around 112, but the Rockets picked at and prodded the Phoenix defense to the point where at times a Houston shooter was so wide open following the extra pass, that there may not have even been a Sun in the same zip code. Houston’s 133 points was fifth time this season that the Suns had allowed 130+ points, and the second time to the Rockets.

2016-17 is the first season since 1990-91 that the Suns have allowed 130+ five times in a season.

Minus two starters one would have hoped that others would have expected other players to have stepped up. From those one might have particularly expected such an outcome from, fans were left wanting so much more. Devin Booker led the Suns in scoring with only 18 points on 6-18 shooting dishing out 2 assists and 1 rebound in 26 minutes.

Alex Len, Alan Williams, and Brandon Knight each too had prime opportunities to show what they can do in extended minutes, and each fell flat on their faces.

Len had a decent stat line with13 points and 8 boards in 19 minutes. However, he led the Suns with 4 turnovers and got into terrible foul trouble way too early and eventually fouled out preventing any extended minutes. Alan Williams too got in foul trouble by picking up five fouls in 10 minutes, managing only 2 points and 4 rebounds. Big Sauce was the only player on the entire active roster to not make a single basket, finishing 0-2. Brandon Knight, who started for the resting Bledsoe, ruined his prime opportunity to shine by scoring 3 points in 20 minutes on 1-8 shooting, and dishing out a miserable zero assists.

Tyler Ulis was the only player who truly took advantage of his playing time and was rewarded with a career-high 27:59 of playing time and scored a career-high 13 points and tied his personal best with 6 assists – which led all Suns tonight.

For the Rockets, Trevor Ariza had an insane +45 +/- in only 30 minutes while scoring 9 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. Patrick Beverly had a similarly astounding +7 +/- and recorded a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds – Beverly is listed at 6’1″. James Harden made 8-17 from beyond the arc, finishing one shy of his career-high last set on New Years Eve against New York. He converted 14-16 from the free throw stripe, which has come to be expected.

More from Valley of the Suns

Thoughts from the Valley of the Suns.

I’m going to be dramatic with this one:

I have no additional thoughts about tonight’s game. None. I am thought-less. Without thought. This game is not worth thinking about.

Only two more games before the All-Star Break and the trade deadline.