The Phoenix Suns stick with it to put away the pesky, young Houston Rockets
PHOENIX — Winning in the NBA is very hard to learn. The Phoenix Suns proved that to the Houston Rockets on Sunday in a 124-109 victory.
At the half, Houston was 8-for-16 (50%) from 3-point range and had 19 second-chance points. Even better, the Suns were 4-for-15 (26.7%) from deep.
But the Rockets’ defense has a ways to go, and without that solid backbone, the Suns were able to shoot an astounding 22-for-28 (78.6 percent) on two-pointers with the freedom to get to their spots as they please.
Beyond that, Houston (1-6) hasn’t been able to find a level of consistency to put together some great minutes and take the lead in a half that’s been mostly one or two possessions. Phoenix (5-1), which won more than three times as many games as the Rockets last year, can do it in its sleep right now.
“I’ve been on the other side, so I understand just young players trying to find their way in this league,” Suns guard Devin Booker said of the Rockets. “It’s a little more individual than a collective unit in your early years in the NBA until you figure it out. I think there’s a lot of that and we have a lot of experience together, we have playoff experience together. I don’t mean that we know when to turn it on, but we know how to win games.”
To the Rockets’ credit, they are a young group that is playing very hard through him. That’s why the Suns only led by nine at the half and couldn’t build a double-digit lead in the third quarter, when many of us watching assumed this was when we’d see that kind of game-tying run. .
“They’re a young team, but a team that you can see their potential,” head coach Monty Williams said of Houston. “You can see how they can win some games this year because they keep coming at you.”
In reality, the clock was the Rockets’ biggest enemy. The lack of that good stretch allowed Phoenix to stay in the driver’s seat, and a 7-0 run with just over two minutes left put the Suns up 15 in a game that saw no turnovers. lead and two draws.
This is one of those games where we’d see Chris Paul turn on his scoring a bit via his mid-range jumper, finding that pocket of time to turn the tide just within a couple of minutes to put the Suns in a position dominant rest of the way Paul, of course, also does it in clutch minutes when the game is really on the line, unleashing his mid-range killer.
We have yet to see that version of Paul this season, so until that guy shows up, the Suns will have to teach themselves to close out games that should never be in the cards with five minutes left.
With that in mind, don’t let that tone undermine how this was still a good win. It’s easy for big teams to sleepwalk through matchups like this and allow the young, hungry team to get one.
“Just staying the course against a team that keeps attacking,” Williams said. “Whether it’s off the dribble or the cut or his ability to get a 50/50 ball or an offensive rebound, that can be deflating, but I thought our guys handled it emotionally tonight.”
Devin Booker scored 30 points on his 26th birthday and was one of seven Suns players in double figures.
That included Jock Landale, who starred in a center rotation without Deandre Ayton (sprained left ankle).
Williams opted to start Bismack Biyombo, a smart move given how successful the second unit has been to start the year. Landale’s flow was undisturbed with 16 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes.
His constant energy and sprinting up and down the floor has been a huge positive.
“It’s very valuable,” said Paul de Landale who opened the floor. “The energy, the rhythm with which he plays. It delivers so much. There are so many plays that Jock, DA, Biz, a lot of the open 3s we get are because of their selflessness in the way they roll and the way they run the floor.
Cam Johnson hit five 3s for 15 of his 19 points, Mikal Bridges added 15 and it was 12 off the bench for Cam Payne and another 10 through Damion Lee. Payne also had four assists and four steals as her big start to the year has really helped the bench stay solid.
Paul was 3 of 7 from the field for 10 points with 15 assists and zero turnovers. It is the ninth time in his career that he has more than 15 assists with zero turnovers. by Stathead. That’s the second most in league history behind John Stockton’s 14.
This absurd number at 2 has stuck. The Suns went 33-for-44 (75%) with them.
Kevin Porter Jr. he was the Rockets’ only consistent source of offense on a team loaded with scoring talent. He dropped 26 points, plus eight rebounds and six assists. Soon-to-be star sophomore guard Jalen Green shot 5-for-18.
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