In a thriller, James Harden came through all game long and when it mattered most. He made the jumper as the clock expired to give the Houston Rockets the win over the Phoenix Suns, 113-111.
The game didn't look the same in person, but the results were the same. The Houston Rockets took a strong lead and led for most of the game by double digits before the Suns mounted a big comeback at the end, just to come up short.
The game got real interesting late, as the Suns made big shot after big shot to close the gap. But the Rockets kept scoring too, which isn't a good thing in a comeback.
A Marcus Morris three pointer pulled the Suns to 104-100 with 2:16 left. But a bad possession (Mook TO) led to a Rockets fast break to make it a 6-point lead again with 1:25 left.
Then Markieff Morris made a huge three-point play to pull within three before Patrick Beverley took and scored his first non-three ball of the game, a layup to make it in a 5-point game.
Then Isaiah Thomas made a three to pull the Suns within 2 before James Harden made it a 3-point game on a free throw (is there any other kind for him?) with 31.9 seconds left.
Then Markieff made a putback layup to make it a 1-point game with 27.2 seconds left (109-108) before James Harden got a couple of free throws to make it three-point game again.
Then Markieff made another old fashioned three-point play to TIE THE GAME with 16.6 seconds left.
And then James Harden happened. He made the shot with no time left on the clock.
I'm really sick of other teams making game winners on the Suns court.
Eric Bledsoe was the Suns' biggest bright spot with a near triple double to carry the Suns to the close finish. Markieff Morris scored 11 of his 21 points in the final minutes to pull the Suns into an improbable tie with seconds left. Goran Dragic had a really bad game. He scored only 2 points on 1-for-5 shooting in 18 minutes, generally being "hugged" by Rockets defenders until drawing technical arguing a no-call and missing the rest of the game as punishment.
The game started with me wondering where all the fans are. Maybe saving up their discretionary income for the big golf tournament and Super Bowl next week? Or the NFL experience, NFL Central or the flea market, maybe? The arena was maybe half full at tipoff after being 90% full (or so) on Wednesday night.
Alex Len started real strong, with two blocks, three rebounds and a couple of altered shots on the Rockets first few possessions. He even scored the Suns first two points with a nice midrange jumper.
Then Dwight Howard bounced in a three pointer. Dwight freaking Howard.
Josh Smith came after D-Mo's second foul and immediately put up a 20-footer which missed badly. That's a good sign.
But then with Smith in the game, along with Corey Brewer in place of Howard and Motejiunas, the Rockets long, active lineup went on a 14-2 run to take a 30-18 lead before the Suns could settle back down.
The first quarter ended on a Suns 6-2 run, but 32-24 is not a good first quarter score.
The second quarter started like the first, with the Rockets playing a long, quick lineup to counter the Suns speed effectively. The lead vacillated between 6-8 points for the Rockets as the teams traded baskets. The Rockets made two more threes, making it 6-for-10 in the game.
The Suns got a bit closer, but every time they got within a possession the Rockets would get an easy basket off nice ball movement and bad Suns D.
The Suns were just not playing spirited or clinical defense. I mean, you kinda have to do one of those things to be effective. Doing both is a plus.
Phoenix got within 52-50 with some quality offense and a little lull from Rockets, but then shat on the bed giving up a bad-looking 8-2 run to the Rockets.
Not a good look.
The Suns started the third on a good run, pulling to within 61-58 out of the gate before the Rockets got into rhythm and scored the next 8 points to open up their first double digit lead (69-58).
From that point on, the Suns just couldn't close the gap and the quarter ended with a 10-point Rockets lead.
Eric Bledsoe kept the Suns in the game, scoring 11 of their 25 points. The rest of the team went 6-for-18 in the period, basically stinking up the joint.
The Rockets won the quarter by playing harder than the Suns, and getting into the Suns heads. P.J. Tucker and Goran Dragic each drew a technical foul complaining about calls, getting themselves put on the bench for the rest of the quarter.
The fourth opened with P.J. Tucker coming back on the court, showing that Hornacek is relenting a bit on his 'get a T, miss the rest of the game' mantra.
But the Suns were out of it by now. They couldn't buy a bucket to open the quarter, missing four or five straight open shots while the Rockets bench players kept the lead.
The only player playing well, and consistently, in this game is Eric Bledsoe. He's on track for a triple-double. 23, 9 and 7 with 4 minutes left as the Suns pull to within 7.
It got crazy from there. See the recap at the top.
Damn you, James Harden.