Well, that put a dent in the Houston Rockets’ playoff hopes. After losing a crucial game against the Dallas Mavericks, the now seventh ranked team in the Western Conference, the Rockets needed an easy win to put them back on the track. A match against the third worst team in the league, the Phoenix Suns, was supposed to do just that. But, in typical Rockets’ fashion, they blew a huge 39-27 lead that they built in the first quarter.
A Collapse Is Imminent
Afterwards, everything went downhill. Mirza Teletovic came off the bench and became the unlikely hero, scoring 17 of his 26 points to bring the Suns back in the game. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff also got a technical. It would have been better if he received a second one and got kicked out of the game because having no coach is better than having him. The guy played Josh Smith, someone who’s played once in the past 16 games, more than Michael Beasley, a late addition in the season who seems to be the only source of consistent offensive output outside of James Harden. By the end of the second quarter, a 12 point lead had dwindled down to a mere three; and don’t worry, the Rockets were not done disappointing.
Houston seemed to have regained composure by starting the second half with a 10-0 run. But P.J. Tucker just had to go ruin it, responding by scoring Phoenix’s first 12 points of the half. The Suns slowly chipped their way back in, taking a four-point lead late in the third before Harden took the lead back himself by adding five quick points.
Behold, The 2016 Houston Rockets
It was way too close for comfort at the start of the fourth quarter, the score being 90-89. At this point, the Rockets had two paths they could take: either (a) grind it out and get a hard-fought win against one of the worst teams in the league or (b) somehow reach new levels of incompetence by blowing yet another game against one of the worst teams in the league. Guess which one they picked? The answer will be revealed later as to not spoil the ending (as if it weren’t spoiled already).
With four minutes left in the game, the Rockets held a slim lead at 110-107. Maybe, just maybe, the Rockets could pull this off. But alas, that was not meant to be. The Suns proceeded to go on a 12-0 run to put the game permanently out of reach. The end score would be 124-115. You were right, the answer was (b). Harden could not have put it better when he said, “It’s frustrating. Sums up our season.”
Yao Ming, Please Come Back
Yao Ming was awarded for being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The team played a clip full of his highlights on the jumbo screen, reminding all fans that even through the constant fear of him injuring his feet, he was still much more trusted than Dwight Howard. He was unable to attend because he is in China currently, but even then he could probably hear the desperate cries from Rocket fans begging him to come back, even in his old, injury-filled state. As for whether he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame; that is something that yours truly will explore later this week. Get excited.
For the Rockets, Harden and Trevor Ariza led the way in terms of points with 30 and 22 respectively. The only other player to reach double digits was Howard with 10. He also had seven rebounds and four blocks. Patrick Beverley led the team in assists with nine while Beasley scored the most points off the bench with nine in twelve minutes.
As for the Suns, Teletovic, Tucker, and Tyson Chandler all scored more than 20 points. Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker contributed with 16 and 15, respectively. Tucker led the way with 12 rebounds and center Alex Len had a team high seven assists.
If you look at some of the team stats, it is mind-boggling that the Rockets ended up losing. They shot 56.8% from the field, while the Suns only made 46.8% of their shots. They also had a better three-point percentage, many more fast break points and a ton of blocks. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. They were outrebounded 60-38, most notably losing the offensive rebounding battle 20-5. They also shot abysmally from the free throw line, making only 60.7% of their free throws compared to the Suns’ 82.8%. The latter stats proved to be the difference, as they help explain how Houston collapsed that badly.