The Phoenix Suns have extended their winning streak to four, outlasting a plucky Houston Rockets outfit by 15 points in a free-flowing game at Footprint Center.
The Suns entered heavy favourites against the rebuilding Rockets, but a talented young offense made Phoenix work hard for their fifth win in six games this season.
The Phoenix Suns proved too good, too experienced in a 124-109 win over the exciting Houston Rockets on Sunday night.
If you were to picture how this game would eventuate prior to tip-off, then the reality may not have been far off. Houston entered 25th in the league in defense, and they were always going to struggle against the methodical precision of the Phoenix offense.
The Suns came out firing, building a lead thanks to their All-Star backcourt who sought to take control early. Houston’s young, talented offense responded to tie the game at 21, before Phoenix closed the period on a 9-3 run.
The sides went back-and-forth in a 68-point second quarter. Jock Landale made the most of some extra opportunity in the absence of Ayton, feeding off the playmaking of Paul and Booker with 16 points and six rebounds in the first half.
The Rockets, sitting with a dismal but not unexpected 1-5 record, weren’t about to go away meekly into the night. Whenever Phoenix threatened to make a decisive move past double-digits, Houston would respond with a run of their own. By the closing minutes of the third, an Usman Garuba corner three had tied the game at 86.
The fourth-quarter begun with a Kenyon Martin Jr. dunk to reduce the Suns lead to two, before a scuffle between Damion Lee, Kevin Porter Jr. and Garrison Matthews gifted Phoenix three points — Lee was initially fouled by Porter prior to an inbounds, gifting one free-throw before both Rockets players picked up technicals.
It begun a small stretch where Phoenix struggled offensively but were aided by a few Houston mistakes — Josh Christopher dribbled the ball off his foot which led to a Cameron Payne layup, before Landry Shamet was fouled on a three-point attempt.
It was really the story of the night. Houston continued to push Phoenix but the lack of experience showed with crucial mistakes, while the Suns always found a way to answer. By late in the fourth the young Rockets had nothing left to give, and the Suns poured it on to create a margin not really befitting the contest throughout.
Johnson hit three fourth-quarter triples to finish with five on the night, while his fellow wing forward Mikal Bridges finished with 15. Booker led scoring once again with 30 points to go with six assists, while Paul controlled proceedings with a 10-point, 15-assist double-double.
Phoenix kept Houston to 43.7% from the field and shot 53.6% themselves, proving the difference in the contest as the turnover, offensive rebounding and free-throw battle really cancelled themselves out.
This a Suns team that keeps on rolling, now sitting equal-top the Western Conference alongside the Portland Trail Blazers, a team they’ll face twice over the next week. Before that, they’ll face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.