The predictability of the Rockets roller coaster ride continued tonight in Phoenix. With an opening gambit, Houston took a 30 to 16 lead after the first quarter. And then the wheels came off. With an 18 point lead early in the second, it all went downhill. 9:14 left in the game, and the Suns had a 10 point lead. The second and third quarters were disastrous defensively for the Rockets as they allowed the Suns to score 77 points. But, the Rockets closed with a 29 to 16 run to eke out a great win on the road against a potential playoff matchup.
With everyone on the Rockets struggling to hit a three (Houston ended up 5 of 16), it was a grind. They made up for their long game problem by hitting 52% from the field and 87% from the line. Had they shot 87% from the line in Oakland, that game would have been won. The free throws were in clutch time as well. Beverley hit two big ones with 20 seconds left and D Mo hit two giant shots with 14 seconds. With the Rockets out of timeouts and a lead of one, Parsons was inbounding from midcourt and passed it into D Mo! Lin was open in the backcourt, and Parsons made what seemed like a mistake getting it into D Mo. D Mo is shooting 59% from the line and Lin is at 80%. Inbounding the ball to our best free throw shooters late in the game is a continuing issue.
Tonight D Mo got all the crunch time minutes and McHale kept Jones on the bench. McHale’s decision to ride D Mo was affirmed as soon as he hit 2 of his biggest free throws as a Rocket. Jones had been 7 of 10 from the field with 15 points and had 7 boards, but he must have felt the intangibles were working for Donates. Both players got 24 minutes but D Mo ended up with a +/- of +9 and T Jones ended up with a -6.
With the Rockets continuing their patterns of giving up leads and turning the ball over, this game looked like a goner. Ever since the game in Oakland, the Rockets have looked a little slow and fatigued. The energy level was low and the defense was lackadaisical. In one of the timeouts, McHale was imploring Houston to battle. Something clicked in the fourth quarter, as some shots started falling and Beverley went for 12. With Lin struggling offensively (he ended up 1 for 6 from the field with 2 points), Beverley got the minutes in crunch time and played hard-nosed defense. He ended up with 20 points.
Howard bounced back from his tough night of shooting in Oakland and led the Rockets with 25 points on 10 for 12 from the field. He also went 5 for 7 from the line. Harden played a lot of minutes (42) and finished with 23. All the starters ended up in double-digit scoring again. It sure would be nice to win some games by a larger margin and give some of the starters a little more rest. One can only hope that Harden can hold up during the playoffs under all the minutes he’s been playing this season.
Goran Dragic almost beat the Rockets single handedly tonight. He ended up with a career high 35 points, scoring and shot 14 of 20 from the field. He was 5 for 7 from behind the arc and had a three point attempt to tie the game with the last shot. He pump faked Lin out of the way, reset, had a clean look and missed to end the game. With Dragic’s numbers all game, it seemed like that ball was destined to go in. But, the Rockets are starting to deposit some in their season destiny bank with wins like tonight. If the Rockets can keep up the end of game magic, they may go somewhere in the post season.