Houston Rockets

Rockets blow up the Suns for third straight win


Updated 12:14 am, Saturday, January 13, 2018


PHOENIX – Flyin’ Ryan Anderson dropped in a 3-pointer that he knew would fall and headed to the Rockets’ bench for the Phoenix Suns’ timeout that had to come with the Rockets up by 27 points. But before he got there, the Rockets who had been waiting for the next dead ball rushed toward him.

It was not about the 3-pointer.

Anderson had driven down the heart of the Suns’ defense, pulled the ball back and jack-hammered a dunk all over the Suns’ 7-1 center Alex Len.



The Rockets’ bench danced with joy and amazement for three consecutive possessions. Coach Mike D’Antoni turned away with a look of utter astonishment. Anderson, in an act as difficult as the slam, kept a straight face until that timeout. But by then, the Rockets had joyfully left behind recent struggles and their many injuries to take a 112-95 romp past the Suns on Friday night with a stunningly dominant performance.

The victory was the Rockets’ third straight, and fifth in seven games since their five-game losing streak last month.

Playing just seven players until the final six minutes, when D’Antoni cleared his bench by putting Brianté Weber into the game, the Rockets led by as much as 27 with a solid defensive effort after a shaky start and more than enough scoring to overcome the rough spots from the 3-point line.

With the Rockets down to eight healthy players, Chris Paul needed to play just 27 minutes to lead the Rockets with 25 points. Anderson and P.J. Tucker filled in at backup center with Nene, Tarik Black, Zhou Qi and Chinanu Onuaku out with injuries. Anderson’s 18 points were his most since scoring a season-high 23 in Utah Dec. 7 as the Rockets moved to 8-1 when he scores at least 15. Tucker added nine rebounds.

Once the Rockets took over with a 17-2 burst to close the first quarter, they were never threatened again. But until the second half, they struggled to get their offense going.

The Rockets had taken a 13-point lead into the second half, but had never really gotten their offense going with guards Paul and Eric Gordon a combined 5 of 19 in the first half. The Suns, however, began the second half as if determined to help the Rockets get going.

On the first four possessions of the second half, 7-1 Dragan Bender switched onto Paul on four consecutive possessions. Paul’s eyes lit up and then he took Bender one-on-one on each possession, taking three jumpers over Bender and hitting them all.

The Suns started quickly and ran out to an 11-point lead, but it did not seem built to last. It didn’t.

The Suns benefited greatly from nearly never taking the ball out of the basket in the first seven minutes when the Rockets made 3 of 12 shots with four turnovers. Once the Rockets could play in the halfcourt, where the young Suns could not run past them on the break, the Rockets defense arrived and took control.

Off since beating the Thunder on Sunday, the Suns opened the game making 3 of 4 3-pointers. It took 13 minutes and nine-consecutive misses to make another.

Down 11 nearly seven minutes into the game, the Rockets finished the first quarter on a 17-2 run. Though they were not shooting particularly well – Gordon and Paul went from scoring 37 points on Wednesday to an 0 for 9 first quarter – the Rockets had stopped the Suns long enough that by the time Phoenix made another 3-pointer, the Rockets had taken their lead to as much as 18.

The Rockets, however, were not shooting much better, keeping them from expanding the lead and opening the way for Booker to get on a roll to cut the lead to 10.

By halftime, the Rockets led 57-44, but were making just 38.3 percent of their shots, 33 percent of their 3s. The Rockets had won that way on Wednesday, again relying on defense and rebounding more than their usual scoring. But they needed a strong finish that night and did not seem likely on Friday to get on the offensive roll they did against the Blazers.

It did not take much, but when the Rockets rolled they blew the Suns out, with one play vividly representing how complete their dominance was.

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