While no one was able to keep up with a fantastic Eric Bledsoe, the Houston Rockets failed to supply the offensive support on a day James Harden struggled finding the basket in, leading to a 117-102 win for the Phoenix Suns.
Contrary to the common belief, the Suns haven’t given up on the season. They’re simply not good enough on most nights to keep up with the Pelicans and Thunder, but they’re still in the playoff picture for the 8th and final spot in the Western conference. Unlike last season, their decline began a lot earlier and has been a lot more dramatic, although there’s still plenty of talent on the team, like Bledsoe with his 34 points.
The Rockets have other worries on their mind, involving seeding and their battle with the Portland Trail Blazers for third in the West, although it’s not quite clear what is the best place to finish in considering the teams they have to play in the next round. Clippers, Spurs, Mavericks, maybe the Thunder; not too enticing.
Harden shot just 5-of-19 from the field, finishing with 16 points and a -27 during his minutes on the floor. Is it all about how many free throws he gets? Harden kept shooting from long range, including 1-of-8 from beyond the arc, and was able to take just five trips to the line. On a bad shooting day, that’s a recipe for disaster despite playing on a home court with what should favorable refereeing.
The Rockets can absorb a bad day from Harden, but it takes a big day from someone else. Now Howard (still) and Terrence Jones (again), the options were limited. Corey Brewer didn’t do badly (14 points) and Josh Smith added 17 from the bench. Donatas Motiejunas score 18 points to lead the team, but Harden looked bad, almost tired, dragging the team down with him.
And that’s something we haven’t seen a lot from Harden this season; the old him. A more responsible players, he usually turns his bad shooting days into nights of great point guarding, passing and going to the line. Not this time. Frustration led to stubbornness and bad shot led to bad shot, with selfishness that we thought had gone out of him a bit, and is more fitting of a former Thunder teammate than the leading MVP candidate right now.