Posted on March 16, 2019, by Travis Pulver

The Phoenix Suns are not a very good team. But lately, they seem to have a knack for playing some of their best basketball against the league’s toughest competition. If the competition isn’t ready for them, then the door to stealing a win opens nice and wide.

The Jazz were able to shut that door on the Suns earlier in the week. However, the Bucks and the Warriors were not so lucky in their recent games against the Suns. For much of Friday’s game against the Rockets, it looked like Houston was going to be their next victim.

Via @GreaterHou

Phoenix started the game on an 8-0 run and did their best to keep the gas pedal down. But the Rockets quickly closed the gap and kept the game close throughout the quarter. However, they were never able to take the lead and at the end of the quarter trailed the Suns, 31-26.

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Houston took the lead about midway through the quarter, but by the end of the half, Phoenix had regained it, 55-55.    

The game remained competitive throughout the third quarter and ended with the Suns still holding on to a two-point lead, 85-83, heading into the fourth. It remained tight until late in the game when James Harden went on a seven-point run to give Houston the lead, 102-96, with 2:11 left in the game.

Devin Booker got Phoenix within three following a layup with 46 seconds to go, but the Suns wouldn’t make another shot. Harden finished the scoring for the night with a pair of free throws in the final seconds to make the final 108-102, Rockets.

After the game, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni was critical of his team’s focus (ESPN):

“It’s been about five games now where our focus is not where it should be. And we need to start getting (focused) in so that one, we can finish well to give us a better chance in the playoffs. And then once the playoffs come, you can’t just … turn the switch on. … Right now, we’re not razor sharp.”

Part of the problem for Houston on this night was a dismal night from behind the three-point line (11-40). Harden was also critical of the team’s defensive efforts in his post-game comments:

“We’ve just got to be more consistent with demanding stops. We do it when we need to, but we need to do it throughout the course of a game. Then, that will take our game to another level.”

Hardin led the way for the Rockets with 41 points but did not have a good night from the floor hitting just 12 of 25 shots and only three of 11 from three-point range. Eric Gordon added 19 and Danuel House Jr. chipped in 18 points. Chris Paul had the night off (rest).

Devin Booker led the way for the Suns with 29 points followed by Kelly Oubre Jr. with 22.    

The Rockets will have Saturday night off before hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday night. Phoenix will try for win No. 17 Saturday night when they travel to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans.   

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