There are two reasons the Houston Rockets were able to come away with the 118-110 win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night:
- James Harden is playing at an otherworldly level. Harden put up a monstrous 44 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals on the night. That stat-line doesn’t even feel noteworthy for the Beard, which just goes to show how amazing his recent stretch has been.
- They were playing the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are VERY bad.
Right out of the gate, Harden took control of the game. He scored eight of the Rockets’ first 12 points to give them the lead. Houston didn’t relinquish this lead for the rest of the game, but they could never quite shake the Suns.
Phoenix stuck within striking distance in the first half thanks to a barrage of paint points. The Rockets finally found a rhythm in the third quarter, bursting out to a 20 point lead.
Harden was the catalyst of this run, but he found help from his supporting cast. Kenneth Faried in particular has continued to impress in his short time as a Rocket. The Manimal notched his fifth double-double in the last six games with 17 points and 14 rebounds against the Suns… it probably didn’t hurt that he was going against the center duo of DeAndre Ayton and Richaun Holmes, whose combined defensive ability would still probably be subpar.
It wasn’t long before the young Suns found their way back into the game. Lead by Kelly Oubre Jr. (23 points) and Josh Jackson (25 points) the Suns ripped off 14-2 run.
It was clutch offense from James Harden and Chris Paul that sealed the deal late for Houston, but the blatant tanking from Phoenix played a part as well.
With the game on the line, Igor Kokoškov opted to keep Devin Booker on the bench, deciding that the corpse of Jamal Crawford was a better option. The Suns masterclass in tanking was completed when DeAndre Ayton was subbed out late for Holmes, who is essentially a K-Mart brand version of Ayton.
It would be hard to argue the Rockets eight point win in Phoenix was one of their most impressive of the season, but that doesn’t matter. Houston was missing Eric Gordon and Clint Capela and still found a way to get the win on a night when they weren’t at their best.
The Rockets played like they thought they didn’t have to try to beat the Suns on Monday night; but hey, they were right.