The Phoenix Suns were home at Footprint Center to face the Western Conference last-place Houston Rockets, coming off the amazing Devin Booker 51-point win Wednesday night and the team was on a high because the show was so spectacular.
The Suns beat up the Chicago Bulls with no problem, so tonight’s contest against the Rockets may have been one of those games where the Suns could get a break and get a win in the process.
Things did not exactly go that way as Phoenix allowed the Rockets to hang around in the fourth quarter, and they stayed in long enough to get the confidence to finish the job.
The Rockets have a team full of young energetic athletic players and one veteran Eric Gordon, in a season where most believe they are primed for a chance of snagging the number one pick with a record 5-16 coming in.
Respecting your opponent in the world of competitive sports is one of the first rules of competition, when that has not been adhered to, it leads to knights like we saw tonight.
This isn’t the first time the worst team has beaten the best team, in history, there are several examples, so the more superior team has more of a mind game to overcome than the inferior team does when they face off.
The Rockets after halftime fell behind by as many as 16 points and the Suns were coasting, foul trouble for both DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker, along with another great free-throw disparity helped the Rockets get back in the game.
The Rockets shot 43 free throws and the Suns only recorded 19.
It is amazing how this team continues to have this happen to seemingly only them, leaving the team and coaches frustrated and having to hold their tongues to avoid fines in the media room.
DeAndre Ayton picked up three fouls in the first half and along with how the Rockets pulled him away from the basket, Ayton lost that momentum he had built the last few games recording high double-doubles.
DA finished with only an underachieving stat line that looked like the guy that was disinterested in playing the game.
After an Ayton jump shot taken in the third quarter, Deandre got the ball on an offensive rebound and turned to shoot the shot did not draw iron and the Rockets snagged the rebound.
Ayton then complained to the referee and stood there with his hands in the air while the flow of the game had transitioned to the other end of the court, and the Rockets got an easy layup where Ayton should have been to prevent.
During that time Ayton instead of hustling back into the play, walked back slowly but while he was walking he caught the eye of Monty Williams staring at him and complaining, while not getting back on defense.
After the death-eye stare-down from Monty, it seemed like the energy level of Ayton picked up tremendously and he began to play with the engaging body language he’s had for the last few games when he won player of the week honors.
The Rockets did a good job at having DeAndre’s man play around the perimeter allowing him to be far from the defensive end rebounds and allowing Houston 13 offensive rebounds which also led to a beat down of great proportions in the paint 62-40.
Trash talk played a huge part in the game as Devin Booker and young Jalen Greene went at it in the second half, after several non-calls on possessions Booker got frustrated and picked up a technical foul for giving the refs dirty looks.
Knowing Booker’s technical fouls situation had him one away from being ejected, the young Greene began to chat at Booker and the back-and-forth trash talk was on.
The Suns all of a sudden looked like the team that had never been in that situation much, and the Rockets took on the form of the Suns finish-the-game mentality.
Under 2 minutes left in the contest, the lowly Rockets took a five-point lead after Mikal Bridges was called for a foul on a three-point shooter, all three free throws were made making the score at that time 118-113.
Booker got a big three on the next possession drawing within 2 points in under a minute and the pressure was on.
Then the Suns were able to get a few stops and got the game tied at 121 each, and the pressure moment did not make the Rockets fold up, instead, they continued to get to the free throw line with Bridges picking up another shooting foul.
Mikal Bridges in the process hyperextended his knee but stayed in the game, and Houston was only able to one of the two free throws and was up 122-121 with .14 left in the game.
The last possession was very intense as the first miss from the corner from Cam Payne was rebounded by Deandre Ayton in midst of many stretched-out arms, and instead of going right back up strong, Ayton turns and finds Booker to try and close out the game.
Booker’s shot went in-and-out then the mad scramble ensued with the ball heading out of bounds, but a Rockets player caught it and threw it back into the hands of Damion Lee, who did not even look to take that game wing shot, found Booker at the last second and he missed the jumper free throw extended.
Game over and the Suns lose to the worst team in the Western Conference, leaving the frustrated Suns looking around wondering what just happened,
It was said that both Booker and Ayton did not stick around for media availability after the game, leaving some of the media hanging around waiting for them to come into the conference room.
Cam Payne showed and admitted his turnovers are unacceptable for him “whether we win or lose it shouldn’t happen I can’t turn it over like that”
This game was the third straight 40-plus game for Devin Booker heading into the weekend to play the other two Texas teams before returning home Wednesday night to take on the best team in the league the Boston Celtics.
It sounded like Monty was giving his guys a pass after a 6 game-win streak and in tonight’s game, they got hosed in the free throw shooting department, and rather than getting a fine coach just backed up his guy’s effort and also acknowledged his guys did get outplayed in the paint.
The Suns are still the number one team in the Western Conference and it’s only one loss that will teach them, that you cannot overlook an opponent no matter who it may be, otherwise you find yourself with the most embarrassing loss in the NBA season this year.