The Houston Rockets took on the Phoenix Suns Monday on the tail end of a back-to-back. The Rockets – still missing John Wall due to knee inflammation – entered on a 4-game skid, while Phoenix looked to continue extending their win streak.
Christian Wood wasted no time getting things started for the Rockets, draining a three in the first possession of the game. After an 11-3 Rockets run, Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges knocked down back-to-back triples to put the Suns right back in it. They continued shooting the lights out and snatched the lead midway through the first.
Came to play
The competitive quarter saw aggressive play from players on both ball clubs. All-star Devin Booker got off to another hot start to lead Phoenix with 11 points. The Suns made 8 triples as a team. However, Kevin Porter, Jr., dropped 9 points with help from Sterling Brown, who quickly scored 8 off the bench. At the end of the first, both teams were tied up at 34 apiece.
A second quarter that saw baskets being traded throughout the majority maintained the previous period’s competitive feel. Phoenix veteran point guard Chris Paul showed flashes of why he’s still making all-star teams at age 35. Despite fighting hard to hold their own all half, the Rockets went into the half trailing by 10.
Phoenix extended their lead to as much as 15 early in the second half. Big man De’Andre Ayton turned up the volume on his play, scoring 13 points in the third alone. Yet, the Rockets continued to make pushes that would keep them within striking distance. An acrobatic alley-oop throwdown by Kenyon Martin, Jr., in transition, helped spark a burst of energy for the Rockets.
No quit in Houston
A 9 to 0 Rockets run to start the final frame – 11 unanswered – tied the game at 101. However, Booker went on a run of his own to give his team control once more. The Rockets continued fighting and gave themselves a chance down the stretch, but their efforts landed them just short.
Booker scored 18 of a total 36 points in the fourth to propel Phoenix (35-14) to a 133-130 victory over the Rockets (13-37). The win was their sixth straight as they hold tight to the second-best record in the League.
“I was just taking what the defense gave me,” Booker said. “I got a couple of quick easy 3s and was just trying to win the game. That’s a hard-fighting team over there. A couple of times, we had the opportunity to put them away, but they didn’t go anywhere. We wanted to get this one bad.”
Balance on both sides
Phoenix received quality production from several players, with 6 scoring in double figures. Booker added 6 boards and 6 assists to his game-high scoring performance. Plus, Ayton finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Bridges scored 20 points, and Paul dropped 19 to go with 11 assists – the 500th game of his career with 10 or more.
The Rockets also spread the wealth, getting double-figure scoring from 7 players. Wood led the way for Houston with 23 points. After dropping 25 the night before, Kelly Olynyk added 21 against the Suns. Porter, Jr., ended with an all-around stat line of 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Up next for Phoenix is a battle of the top spots, as they take on the Utah Jazz Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. PST.