EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns waste Bol Bol outburst, squander opportunity in loss to Rockets

Feb 23, 2024, 9:09 PM | Updated: Feb 26, 2024, 7:29 am

Bol Bol #11 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half of the NBA game against the Miami Heat...

Bol Bol #11 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Footprint Center on January 05, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Heat 113-97. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

If the Phoenix Suns wind up a play-in team, something that is legitimately a possibility for them with how the standings are shaping up, losses like Friday’s 114-110 final against the Houston Rockets will come to mind.

Phoenix had a golden opportunity in the first half to blow a slumping Houston team and got an incredible Bol Bol performance in the second half to potentially come out with a win despite how the first two quarters went. Neither was enough.

The Suns (33-24) have a tendency this season to incite a snowball effect on themselves, when games spiral because they are allowing them to. They were up 16 points in the first half before concerning 3-point shooting and turnover numbers confirmed the eye test telling the viewer that Phoenix was playing sloppy basketball.

Houston (25-31) looked like a young team thinking about its weekend plans already in the first quarter before its confidence grew as it realized how vulnerable the Suns were. A predictable 18-2 Rockets run ensued in the mid-second quarter and Phoenix was down five at halftime.

It was an unacceptable turn of events, especially with context. The Suns were without Bradley Beal (left hamstring tightness) and Jusuf Nurkic (right ankle sprain) on the second game of a back-to-back. The timing of the opportunity was perfect and they squandered it.

Phoenix played through its visible frustration in the third quarter, which was a theme of the first 30 games of the season, only for that to not yield positive results and see possessions end with not many Suns bodies moving. Houston continued to get far too many good looks off either Phoenix’s inability to finish a defensive possession or defend high-caliber athletes in transition. It led by 13 heading into the final frame.

What transpired was a fourth quarter so tight with back-and-forth basketball that it hammered home even more how badly the Suns had messed up.

That is when the MonStars lineup featuring Kevin Durant and Bol with a center checked back in after a rough stint in the first half. The center was Thaddeus Young this go-around, and he and Bol made a handful of key energy plays on both ends while Durant found a rhythm for the first time all night.

Bol, after an effective first half, proceeded to go nuts. His 25-point, 14-rebound stat line made the defeat hurt even more for the Suns, as they might not get a better performance from a reserve the rest of the season.

The unit cut the deficit to six before a Bol 3 got Phoenix within one at 7:42 remaining. He then knocked down another triple, scored on a driving layup and made a one-legged running touch shot on the baseline from 14 feet to give the Suns a two-point lead.

Devin Booker then missed three straight shots that were all answered by the Rockets for a 7-0 run to put Houston back in control. Bol was absolutely exhausted and required a brief breather, but when he returned, he converted an and-one. Grayson Allen was fouled on a loose ball to earn free throws, only to miss one of two at a chance to tie the game.

Phoenix got a stop, only to run a poor offensive possession that nearly ended in a turnover multiple times. Houston drew a foul with its possession, made two free throws and a free Bol finish off a two-man game with Durant countering back to make it 107-106 Rockets with 37 seconds to go.

Several possessions of free throws later ended the game. That got started by a terrible break for the Suns, a brutal off-ball foul on Durant, which replays sure indicated came as a result of some flopping from Alperen Sengun. It was the type of break like a few others Houston got in the second half the Suns only have themselves to blame for.

Booker struggled all night, unable to get rolling off an aggressive start of 12 shot attempts in the first quarter. He finished 7-of-24 for 25 points and two assists. Durant’s strong fourth quarter evened out his performance to 28 points (10-for-22), 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Allen bounced back after an empty showing in Dallas with 15 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.

Durant played the entire fourth quarter for 38 minutes after 40 the night prior.

Houston had a 15-7 edge on the 3-point line.

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