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.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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