Danuel House Jr. played his first game in a Rockets jersey in two months and came up clutch in the fourth quarter to help Houston defeat the Phoenix Suns.
After losing to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, the Phoenix Suns came into town on Friday, the perfect opponent to give the Rockets a good chance at getting back in the win column.
Chris Paul sat this one out for load management in an effort to keep his legs fresh for what Houston hopes will be a deep postseason run. With Houston playing the league’s second worst team and looking to rebound after a tough loss, this game had the makings of a blowout win for the Rockets. However, the Suns were ready to play.
The Rockets weren’t very engaged in the first quarter and Phoenix quickly opened up the game on a 10-2 run. Harden eventually started to score, finishing with 10 points in the first, but the Suns led 31-26 at the end of the opening period.
Houston’s offense picked up in the third quarter, as Harden led the team with 11 points in the period. However, Devin Booker added 12 points in the quarter as the Suns matched Houston’s 28 points in the third and carried a 85-83 lead into the fourth.
Harden, the league’s leading fourth quarter scorer, scored 14 points in the final quarter. However, it was Danuel House Jr. that really secured the win for Houston in the final seconds of the game.
With just 1:25 left in regulation, Devin Booker went on a 4-0 run to cut Houston’s lead to just two points. On the next possession, Eric Gordon missed a layup, but the Rockets secured the offensive rebound. James Harden took the ball to the top of the key, drawing a double team, he swung the ball to House, who nailed a huge 3-pointer, putting the Rockets ahead 105-100.
However, Booker quickly scored on the other end, slicing Houston’s lead to three points. On the next possession, Phoenix double-teamed Harden once again, but this time they poked the ball away from him and Josh Jackson thought he had an easy dunk in transition, but Danuel House hustled back and slapped the ball away, forcing Jackson to earn two points from the free throw line.
On the replay, it was clear that House got all-ball on the play, but the referees missed the call. Fortunately, Jackson missed both of his free throws and somewhere Rasheed Wallace was likely heard shouting “ball don’t lie.”
With just 24.6 seconds on the clock, the Suns were forced to put Harden on the free throw line. The Beard split the pair, putting Houston ahead 106-102, which practically ended the game.
With the Western Conference playoff standings between the third and fifth seeds so tight, matchups against lottery teams are must win games for the Rockets. Houston played their best defense when it mattered most, holding Phoenix to just 17 fourth quarter points.
James Harden stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 41 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists, 6 steals and 3 blocks. Danuel House, who started in his first game with the Rockets since Jan. 14, finished with 18 points and made four 3-pointers. Once again, House proved why he deserved a spot in Houston’s rotation.
Also, I can’t help but to say that the Rockets probably would have defeated the Warriors if House played in place of Iman Shumpert or Austin Rivers. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but Rockets fans everywhere are very happy to see Danuel House back in Houston.