The Phoenix Suns were faced with their first trap game of the season at home in Footprint Center on a Sunday evening, this could have been a time to let their foot off of the gas peddle and relax and end up getting beat by an overachieving Rockets team.
The Suns coasted for three and half quarters seeming like they were trying to take the knockout shot on key possessions to run away from the young Rockets, but Houston had other plans and hung around in this game until late in the fourth quarter when Monty put the starters back on the floor to finish the game.
The formula that kept the Rockets in the game for the 3 and half quarters was a combination of winning the turnover battle, the Suns missed free throws, shooting the three ball, and offensive rebounding which they are leading the league.
Phoenix knew coming in that they would get open shots but they just were not prepared to make them early, there was a moment they were 6 for 24 beyond the arch and shooting 68%from the free throw line through the first few quarters.
This game had the phrase “trap game” written all over it and the longer the Suns allowed the young Rockets to hang around the more confident they became and harder to wheel back in.
On a night that was Devin Booker’s 26th birthday, he held down the scoring early along with new fan favorite backup Center Jock Landale and Chris Paul’s dishing out of 15 assist also aided in keeping the Suns engaged in the game.
We ask Devin Booker in the press conference after the game if the teams shooting a season-high 40 three-ball attempts was a result of hero-ball and going for the early knockout.?
“No, we just took the shots that they gave us, we knew coming that we would have open looks all night” and they did but only made 12 of the 40 taken led by sharpshooter Cam Johnson who was 5/11 from behind the three-point line.
In the plus and minus department, only Torrey Craig and Cameron Payne were in the negative with a -4 for both guys, and the missed layups killed many runs that could have helped put the game away early.
This was a game that the Suns knew would be hard to keep focus and win, and the Rockets started to get a little feisty as two players were hit with technical fouls that were of a hostile act towards Damion Lee in the third quarter.
Rockets also outrebounded the Suns overall 49-36 and got 21 points on 12 Suns turnovers, and it was getting harder to cut off the momentum the Rockets had gained in the third quarter.
Houston won the 3rd quarter 30-25 and got the game to a 86-86 tie at one point and many were starting to wonder how they were able to stay in this game.
When you win in all categories in the stat sheet it will help keep a team with the hope they can beat a superior team, but the Suns bad night of shooting was able to be overcome by their star guard Devin Booker and calming point guard Chris Paul.
The 6:38 mark Monty put the starters back in the game and the score reflected the Suns clinging to a 3-point lead at the time. Then the starters did what they have done for the last two seasons and that is finish close games in the fourth quarter.
Young teams like the Rockets don’t understand the concept of not waking a sleeping giant, after the scuffle woke the Suns up, they got into finish mode and took care of the Rockets with a 34-23 fourth quarter that featured hot shooting from Cam Johnson and Devin Booker.
Backup Center Jock Landale had a great first half with 16 points, the only problem was that he also finished with that same point total because he could not stay out of foul trouble.
Landale had 4 fouls by the half and picked up his 5th late in the 3rd and sat down most of the second half.
The Phoenix bench outscored the Rockets 45-35 and have been the surprise this early on in the season when most thought they would be a struggling work in progress.
They have been a work in progress, but having success while going through the early stages of the regular season.
The final count was 124-109 in favor of the Phoenix Suns and they get ready for another Western Conference foe early next week during their current home six-game stand.