Slow start. Strong finish.
The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets beat Suns in Houston 115-109
This wasn't one of Houston's best wins nor was it necessarily an ugly victory.
"We weren't really sharp tonight," said head coach Mike D'Antoni after the game. "For whatever reason, we weren't real sharp."
This starts with Harden, who started the game really rough the first nine minutes. Harden had 4 points on 1 of 7 shooting from the field and 0 of 4 shooting from the three-point line. Where Harden slacked, however, Russell Westbrook shined, having one of his better games of the season after playing poorly coming into tonight (Westbrook was 7 for 27 from the field in Toronto and had 8 turnovers).
"He'll continue to get better," said Harden after the game. "Think about it - this is his first time away from Oklahoma City, so he's still trying to get adjusted. It's not going to take 20-25 games. It may take the course of the whole year."
With the win tonight, Houston extends their winning streak against Phoenix to 12 games and even the all-time series at 107. The Rockets have won four of its' past five games after losing three straight games prior.
The Rockets' reserves outscored the Suns' reserves 38 to 28. Houston's bench has outscored their opponents' bench two out of the last four games after doing so once over the first 18 games of the season. The team is undefeated (3-0) when their bench does this.
Star of the game: Russell Westbrook was due for a big game as he was struggling mightily coming into tonight. James Harden came out of the gates slow so Westbrook picked up the slack and had 12 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks by halftime alone. He ended the game with 24 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks on 10 of 18 shooting from the field and 3 of 4 shooting from the free throw line. Westbrook really shined tonight as a facilitator finding guys like Clint Capela and Ben McLemore for easy looks at the basket and in transition.
Honorable mention: Ben McLemore was terrific tonight and is really finding his rhythm with Houston these few games. This was McLemore's 2nd straight game with 27 or more points as he continued his hot shooting despite his new position in Houston's rotation off the bench. McLemore finished the game with 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field and 5 of 9 shooting from three-point range. There were questions as to whether McLemore could thrive as a bench player and while there's still plenty of time for him to prove that, tonight was a good start.
"It was only you guys who thought he had to start," laughed D'Antoni after the game. "He's fine. He might go back (to having bad games). He might start and not have a good game. He said it doesn't matter."
Key moment: The Suns had tied it up at 85-85 with 9:01 remaining in the 4th quarter and it looked like Houston was about to cough up this game up. However, James Harden came out of his slump and proceeded to score the Rockets' next 17 straight points, giving the Rockets a 7-point lead with 3:59 remaining. Harden got the the free throw line relentlessly in transition and gave Houston the extra jolt they needed to put the Suns away.
Up next: The Rockets play the Sacramento Kings in at 7:00 p.m. Houston on Monday.