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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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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