Ever see a team score 142 points in a game in which they stopped really trying after halftime? Rockets over Suns was a good, old-fashioned blowout, notable and enjoyable for the sheer ludicrousness of the thing.
Chris Paul made his return for the first time since hurting his knee on opening night, but James Harden ran the show. Harden, the NBA’s leading scorer, had 48 points in 35 minutes—23 in the second quarter—in Houston’s 142-116 win over Phoenix, and he did it efficiently. His 33 first-half points came on just 12 shots. On the night he was 6-of-11 from three, and a perfect 18-for-18 from the line. “I’ve never seen somebody score so effortlessly,” Paul said of Harden.
This was a dominant team effort, with Paul, on a minutes restriction, tallying 11 points and 10 assists in 21 minutes, Ryan Anderson throwing in a season-high 24 points, and seven different Rockets scoring in double figures. When Harden checked back into the game at the start of the second quarter, he had taken only three shots—and Houston was up 22 points. And that’s when Harden went off.
The Rockets became only the third team in the shot-clock era to have at least 90 points by halftime, and Harden said, when he looked at the scoreboard at the end of the half and saw it was 90 to freaking 65, “I thought there was something wrong with the score.”
Paul, in his return, said he was “gassed” but he still looked pretty damn good for a guy who missed 14 games. Mike D’Antoni is salivating over the thought of a full-strength Paul.
Asked if Paul looked rusty, D’Antoni grinned: “Nope. I hope there was a lot [of rust]. I don’t know if he can get any better than that, but if he does, it’ll be scary.”
The game, a laugher from the tip, did not go far in answering the question of how Harden and Paul are going to co-exist on the court, and it’s silly to try to glean anything from their stats with and without each other last night. But, in short, they were excellent while playing together and Harden was superhuman playing without Paul:
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Houston’s offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) was 118.0 with Harden and Paul playing together against the Suns, 121.8 when Paul played while Harden rested and 147.4 when Harden played without Paul.
The game was an aberration, but it was fun, and the Rockets are fun. What more could you want from November basketball?