It was not fun for large stretches tonight.
The Rockets came out red-hot and led 30-16 after the first quarter. The passing was crisp, the Rockets were getting into the paint at will, and the Suns weren't getting out to the break like they desired.
But that all changed in the second quarter. The Rockets built an 18-point lead, but the Suns decided that missing wasn't fun in the second quarter. Goran Dragic reminded the Rockets (once again) what they were missing by slicing them apart and hitting threes as if they were going out of style.
In fact, the Suns scored 40 points in the second quarter. They followed that up with a weak 37 point effort in the third quarter. With a Gerald Green banked three to end the third quarter, the Suns took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.
At that point, it was just a matter of sticking around. The Rockets stayed close and then were able to get Dwight Howard into the game. Donatas Motiejunas replaced Terrence Jones with the starters and held his own. The Rockets clawed back and tied the game at 100.
I felt throughout the game that it was only a matter of time before Phoenix finally started missing, and in the fourth quarter that's precisely what happened. The last five minutes were basically a see-saw battle. The Suns would score, and the Rockets would respond. It felt downright Spurs-ish.
When Markieff Morris hit a lay-up and got fouled with 47 seconds left to put the Suns up 2, it felt like the comeback was not to be. But Morris missed the free throw and then Kevin McHale drew up one hell of a play.
Well actually, it wasn't that special. The Rockets ran a pick-and-roll with Harden and Howard. And as Harden Euro-stepped by Channing Frye, it seemed like the Rockets would tie it up.
But no one noticed Patrick Beverley. He started in the corner for the play, but as Harden drove, Dragic came over to help. Bev moved from the corner to the win and Harden found him for the huge three.
The Suns honored the Kevin Johnson dunk over Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994, but it was the Rockets who reenacted history with Patrick Beverley hitting a "Kiss of Death" three to put the Rockets up 1 with 34 seconds left.
Then the Rockets made a defensive stop that they never could have made last year. Gerald Green had a good look, but Dwight Howard contested and the shot fell short. Beverley grabbed the rebound and hit a couple of free throws to give him a career-high 20 points on the night. Then Dragic made a lay-up with 14 seconds left.
I know this is sounding like a play-by-play, but the last offensive possession must be discussed. The Rockets called timeout to get the ball into the frontcourt. Phoenix had to steal or foul. McHale pulled Dwight, but left in Donatas Motiejunas and his 59% free throw shooting. And wouldn't you know it, the Suns let him catch the ball and fouled.
D-Mo hit the two biggest free throws of his life and Dragic's tying three fell short.
Like I mentioned earlier, this game felt a lot like the Warriors game. The Rockets built a lead early, let the Suns come back and take a lead of their own, then fought back to make the game close late. They say close games are essentially a coin-toss, and the Rockets are 1-1 in their last two. Tonight they had to hit some huge shots late, and that's what they did. Hard not to be proud of the good guys tonight.
TDS Self-Promotional Tweet of the Night:
Shot distribution among starters: 10, 12. 12, 12, 15.— The Dream Shake (@DreamShakeSBN) February 24, 2014
The Rockets will head to Sacramento face a Kings team that they have lost to twice this season. The only win for the Rockets over these Kings came in a game where Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins got injured in the first half. While those two will be healthy, Jason Terry will not be playing for the Kings.
For a Sun's perspective, head over to Bright Side Of The Sun.