The Rockets Thursday night picked up a road win over the Suns ,111-105. Early on, it looked like the Rockets could be in for a really rough night but the bench was able to take over till the first unit was able to get going. While it got a little hairy down the stretch this was a fairly easy win.
The Rockets are now winners of back-to-back games and don't look now. If not for those two crazy Dwight Howard ejection games, they could be 7-1 since the return of Josh Smith.
Dare I say, watch out NBA? (Ed. Note: Don't you dare)
Below are three takeaways from the Rockets road win over the Suns.
What was that?
Four minutes into the game, the Rockets were down 15-5 and looking awful. You name it, and it was bad. On offense the Rockets had turnovers, bad shots, missed easy shots and on defense they were allowing the Suns open layups.
J.B. Bickerstaff pretty much saw enough of that and sent all five starters to the bench.
"We didn't come out with a lot of energy," Corey Brewer told Root Sports postgame. "They were making shots, coach took us all out, I think that sent a message to us."
And Brewer was right, after the benching, when the starters did start getting mixed back in, they were all making contributions.
Before the benching, the starters were -10 when on the floor, after the benching they were on average +9.8 when on the floor.
The Rockets bench did come in and do a good job chipping away at the lead the Suns had built. But it would take all the way until two minutes left in the second quarter for the Rockets to come all the way back and retake the lead.
Corey Brewer + Trevor Ariza = MVP
The Rockets didn't beat the Suns because James Harden had a monster game, Dwight Howard didn't have a monster game either. But Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza filled the gap. Combined they finished with 46 points (8-13 from 3), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 8 steals.
After the poor start and parking themselves on the bench, they came back out the court and went bananas. They played the lanes, caused turnovers, ran out on fast breaks and knocked down shots.
"That's the way we have to be," Brewer said about the steals he and Ariza had. "If we're active, were flying around and getting steals we're going to win a lot of games."
One of the big pillars of "Rockets basketball" is playing with energy. When you get turnovers that lead to easy quick baskets, it gives them energy and the team feeds off of it.
Not sure if anyone else was watching the game the same way I was. But when a team fires their coach right before the trade deadline, I tend to wonder: who is on that team that the Rockets just might be able to use?
So I spent the game really looking at Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker.
Morris is the name that has been mentioned with the Rockets for-seemingly-ever. In the offseason, he was training with the whole entire team, and it began to leak that he'd like to play with the Rockets.
Morris Thursday night was just all right. Nothing amazing jumped out at me, he is pretty much the same player he always has been. Shoots the three at a decent clip, has a little bit of a mid-range game, average rebounder, and an average defender. Would I be OK if the Rockets traded for him? Yes and no. He is an upgrade over Terrence Jones, but in my opinion not over Josh Smith.
Tucker is a name you haven't really heard mentioned by anyone when rumors are flying around. Mainly because a P.J. Tucker going to the Rockets story probably wouldn't get people very excited. But it should, Tucker most of the time spends his nights checking the opponent's best players. While he is no Tony Allen, just ask James Harden how easy it was to separate against Tucker.
Ariza will always get the toughest assignment from the Rockets, but what if they had another guy like Tucker who could pick up the second best guy. The defense would have to improve, right?
By no means am I saying Tucker is a perfect fit, but you can never have too many tough and gritty players on your team.