Rockets use 90-point half, Harden’s 48 to beat Suns
PHOENIX — When James Harden looked up at the Talking Stick Arena scoreboard at halftime and saw 33 points next to his name and 90 next to his Houston Rockets, what was his reaction?
“I thought there was something wrong with the score,” he said.
No such luck for the Phoenix Suns. Like the Rockets, everything was working perfectly.
Harden had 33 of his 48 points before intermission and the Houston welcomed Chris Paul back to the lineup with an epic first 24 minutes and a 142-116 rout of the Suns on Thursday.
“We were coming off a terrible loss at home (129-113 to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday) and we wanted to bounce back and did a really good job to start the game off,” said Harden, who scored 40 or more points for the 40th time in his career has at least 45 in three 15 games this season.
The 90 first-half points by Houston was the most in franchise history and the second most in NBA history. Phoenix still holds the league record, putting up 107 points in the first half of a 173-143 win against Paul Westhead’s run-and-gun Denver Nuggets on Nov. 10, 1990.
Houston had scored 45 points or more in a quarter 15 times in franchise history before doing in both the first and second quarters Thursday. The Suns came in allowing an NBA-worst 115.1 points a game, but Houston blew by that number late in the third quarter.
Paul, who returned to the lineup after missing 14 of the first 15 games with a left knee injury, was limited to 20 minutes but still had a double-double (11 points and 10 assists), much of it when the Rockets were flying early.
“We play with pace. I know I was gassed, especially early, but it was fun to be out there with them,” Paul said. “I may look young, but I’ve been playing for a while. It will take some games to get back to where they are. But the energy of this team is fun. To see 90 points (in a half), that’s wild.”
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t expecting to see the same thing every night, but a peek of Paul in the lineup was tantalizing.
“It’s like playing golf for the first time in a long time and you shoot a good score and the next three days you’re slicing all over the blacktop,” he said. “I don’t know if (Paul) can get any better than that, but if he does that’ll be scary.”
Harden was 12 for 22 from the field and 18 for 18 from the free-throw line after going 19 for 19 against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. He now has the most free throws without a miss (37) over a two-game span in NBA history.
Ryan Anderson had 24 points for the Rockets (12-4), who are 8-1 on the road this season. They have now beaten Phoenix five straight times, tying a franchise record.
“That’s a really good team over there,” said Phoenix guard Devin Booker, who scored 18 before sitting out all but eight minutes of the second half. “It’s good to see what a high-caliber team looks like up close and personal. But we were on the wrong end of that tonight.”
Phoenix reserve Troy Daniels had 18 of his 23 points in the second quarter and tied a franchise record with six 3-pointers. But the Suns (5-11) were still outscored 45-43 as the Rockets kept firing away.
Houston hit 28 of 46 shots and 12 of 20 3-pointers in the first half. Harden led the charge, hitting nine of 12 shots including all five 3-pointers and all 10 free throws. Anderson had 18 points and four 3-pointer.
The Rockets put the game away quickly. They hit seven of 11 3-pointers in the first quarter, three by Anderson. He had two during a 13-1 run to end the first quarter, with Paul’s 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left giving Houston a 45-23 lead after one.
Then in the second quarter, Houston did it again.
NOTES: Suns C Tyson Chandler sat out for Phoenix (illness). ... Greg Monroe, obtained from the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eric Bledsoe trade on Nov. 7, made his Suns debut. He started and had 20 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. ... Houston F Luc Mbah a Moute missed the game with an illness. ... The Rockets also beat the Suns five straight times from 1968-69 and 2014-15. ... Suns G TJ Warren came into the game with three straight 20-point plus games for the first time in his career. He had 14 on Thursday. ... Houston’s franchise record for points in a half was 87, against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 6, 1990.