I tried to do a Xiane alliteration thing, but I'm not as good as he is.
Hot Shooting Early...Again
The Rockets jumped out to a 16-4 lead with some hot shooting and Phoenix looking tired from their game the night before. Terrence Jones absolutely went beast mode in the quarter. He was dishing, rebounding, blocking, and scoring in a multitude of ways. Coming into the game, I thought he would have to spend a ton of energy defending Channing Frye. Instead, Frye was a non-factor partly because Jones played him well and because Frye couldn't stop Jones from eating him up inside. Jones went 19/9 with 3 blocks and his usual Energizer Bunny energy.
It was nice to see James Harden get a three on Houston's first possession. A lot was made of P.J. Tucker's shut-down defense on Harden in the previous matchup. Harden went 0-10 from 3 in that game, so seeing his first shot from behind the arc go in had to be a relief, even if Gerald Green was the one defending him. Harden finished with 23 points on 4-10 shooting, 3-5 from three, and 12-12 from the free throw line.
Phoenix Comes Back, Because It's Never Easy
I want to say that the Rockets always let teams back into games and that they could have put this one away early.
But that wouldn't be appreciative of the Suns, who absolutely worked their way back by killing the Rockets in transition. Goran Dragic was a mastermind and the Phoenix bench just had more energy than any other unit on the court tonight. A bevy of easy fast break layups and jumpers gave Phoenix a 6-point lead midway through the second quarter.
And to be fair to the Rockets, it seemed like the referees decided that they hated the Rockets for an 8 minute stretch. Phoenix was getting all the 50-50 calls and Donatas Motiejunas got clobbered without so much as a second look from the officials.
Dwight Howard Starting And Finishing The Offense
The Rockets did something very interesting tonight. Whenever Dwight Howard grabbed a board on defense and Phoenix retreated back, Howard would dribble the ball up the court a few times before passing the ball.
The first time it happened, I figured it was just Howard trying to touch the ball a few times to get a rhythm. I thought nothing of it. But when Howard kept doing it, I realized it was an attempt to jump-start the Rockets in semi-transition. A couple of times Howard made it to midcourt before dishing to one of the guards or Parsons.
Clearly, this was on purpose and implemented by the Rockets during their three days off. It's something to keep an eye on moving forward.
On the offensive end, Howard carried the Rockets through multiple stretches, especially when the Suns went on one of their many mini-runs. Howard absolutely dominated down low and finished with 34 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, and 12-18 from the free throw line. The Suns went to Hack-a-Howard late, adding Jeff Hornacek to the Retracted Testicles Club. To their dismay, Dwight went 5-6 from the line and the Suns actually abandoned the strategy when they still had 10 seconds before the 2-minute mark. The Rockets are now 8-1 when a team goes to this strategy.
Quick Roadie For The Rockets
The Rockets play in Milwaukee on Saturday, followed by a trip to Minnesota on Monday.
For a Phoenix perspective, visit Bright Side Of The Sun