HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – The Rockets’ defense turned it up a notch in the fourth quarter, holding the Suns to six points in just under nine minutes to start the final stanza.
That intensity, however, was not sustained throughout the entire course of the game. The Suns already had 99 points by the end of the third, leading 99-86. Even though the Rockets pulled within five points at the 5:32 mark, Phoenix was able to finish the game out, 117-102. Houston did fade in the final five minutes of the game, but it was the first three quarters that had the team concerned.
“I didn’t think we had any intensity at all until the fourth quarter,” Kevin McHale said. “Earlier in the game, (Eric) Bledsoe was going wherever he wanted with the ball. He had no defensive pressure. We were scoring, but we couldn’t get any stops. (In the) third quarter, they just manhandled us.”
That third quarter saw Phoenix outscore Houston 37-25. For the game, Bledsoe led the Suns with 34 points, 32 of them coming in the opening three quarters. He needed only 18 shots to get the 34 points. The Suns point guard also had eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
“They let me get easy shots,” Bledsoe said. “I was taking them.
“You give any type of player easy baskets at the rim, it’s going to be a long night for them.”
In this case, it was a long night for the Rockets. And it wasn’t just coming from Bledsoe.
“(P.J.) Tucker got the ball two or three times in the post and just manhandled us,” McHale said. “Morris had two or three just right-handed, one-dribble drives and just laid it in down in the post. We had two or three where we switched, and the big just let Bledsoe go right by him and lay it in. We were not in tune tonight, defensively, at all.”
“We didn’t make them make the second or third pass offensively,” said James Harden, who shot 5-of-19 on his way to a 16-point night. “Defensively, we just kind of collapsed and they got into the paint, getting easy lay-ups, getting to the foul line. A team does that, it kind of destroys our defense, so we’ve got to do a better job for four quarters of just making sure that paint is packed and making them shoot contested jump shots.”
The Rockets had both Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones out with injuries. But McHale was not about to let that be an excuse.
“That was no personnel (issue),” McHale said. “That was their guys played better than our guys. Those guys played harder. They attacked us one-on-one pretty much steady and we didn’t do a very good job of handling our guy (defensively).
“It was basically a game where their guy got the ball in a spot and said, ‘I’m going to beat my guy,'” McHale said. “And they did (beat their guy) quite a bit.”