Well, the glee from last night’s big win over the Los Angeles Lakers quickly dissipated, as the Houston Rockets came out sluggish tonight and were blown out by the middling Phoenix Suns, suffering their worst lost of the season so far in a 127-91 defeat.
The Rockets let the Suns jump out to a 46-26 first-quarter lead behind 85 percent (not a misprint) shooting, and they looked as if they had tired legs on the second night of a back-to-back.
They also greatly missed Russell Westbrook, who was out for his normal load management, and without Russ, they had no real plan B with Houston’s three-ball not falling. The Rockets were just 11-48 from deep for the night, while the Suns shot 15-31.
James Harden almost single-handedly got them back in the game in the second period, leading the Rockets on a huge 20-7 run that got them to within 5 points. He finished the night with 32 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, and a block on 9-19 shooting, including 5-10 from deep.
He played just 30 minutes, because after heading into the break down 65-55, the Rockets pretty much imploded in the third quarter, and Mike D’Antoni cleared his bench when it became apparent Houston just didn’t have it tonight.
In addition to Harden, the Rockets got 14 from Austin Rivers and 13 from Ben McLemore, and they were the only other Houston players in double figures. Newcomer Robert Covington came back to earth a bit, finishing with just 9 points and 5 rebounds and shot just 1-7 from three.
The Suns were led by Kelly Oubre Jr., who was dominant. He finished with 39 points and 9 boards while shooting a ridiculous 14-19 from the field and 7-9 from three. They also got 33 points and 9 boards from Devin Booker, 14 points and 8 rebounds from Cheik Diallo, 13 from Mikal Bridges, and 12 from Deandre Ayton.
This was an ugly loss for the Rockets, but I don’t think you can take much from this. As I mentioned in the game thread, Houston was prime for an emotional letdown game after their big win over the Lakers, and they just didn’t have it tonight. If you’re chomping at the bit to knock the small ball philosophy down a peg after tonight’s defeat, you’d be jumping the gun.
This felt more like a schedule loss than anything, and even though the Rockets were dominated on the boards 51-29, they were even with the Suns on second-chance points with 11 apiece. The game also highlights the importance of Westbrook to small ball, especially when the threes aren’t falling, as he gives Houston a back-up plan to lean on when the shooting goes cold.
Letting the Suns shoot 55 percent on the night while hitting just 34 percent overall for themselves screams tired legs, and they thankfully have the day off tomorrow to rest before matching up with the Utah Jazz on Sunday at the Toyota Center.
They might have to do it without Eric Gordon, however, who exited the game with a knee injury (not the same knee that was bothering him earlier this year), and his current status is unknown.
See you on Sunday, when the Rockets hope to rebound.