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Stephen’s Takeaways — Suns vs. Rockets: Durant moves to 9th all-time in scoring, Bol seizes opportunity, but Suns can’t sustain in loss



On a night that felt somewhat similar to the script of the one that preceded it, the Suns found themselves, again, working to come back late.


Down both Nurkic and Beal on the second night of an all-important road back-to-back, the Suns compiled more spells of lackluster and seemingly uninspired minutes, after setting a solid two-way tone.


The result? A 114-110 loss to the Houston Rockets. Tough open to the final third of the season.


What are the takeaways from a disappointing L?


1.) Durant continues to climb historical ladders

Kevin Durant passed Carmelo Anthony for 9th on the NBA’s all-time scoring ranks.


He’d finish this one with 28 points, and it’s the ease at which he scores that continues to impress.


Angles taken, absorbing contact, shooting through well-contested defense, dictating, counterpunching, the efficiency while still garnering all the attention — he’s an All-Time great


In this day and age where it’s always “what have you done lately,” many can often take for granted sustained successes. He’s 35 years old averaging 28.1 PPG on a 64,1 true shooting percentage.


The Suns need him (and Booker) to regain their dominant and efficient forms as soon, but enjoying these moments compiled by Durant serves as a constant reminder of how unique of a talent he is.


To have been this great, in a sustained manner, for this long, speaks volumes to his prolificity. His game has aged so gracefully.


2.) Bol Bol says “Don’t forget about me.”

After not seeing minutes against the Dallas Mavericks, Bol made sure to leave a lasting impression with a highly active, season-high 26 minutes played — his first game north of 20. Additionally, he compiled a season-high in points (25), field goal attempts (17), and rebounds (14).


The boxscore was loud, but he had many other moments in help that stifled attempts near the basket for the Rockets. He was ever-present, and that translated well to the offensive side, where he showcased s lot of his skill in addition to being tall.


He’s carved out a niche as a spark plug in the frontcourt and suggests he needs to be given more of a leash against playoff-caliber teams, to gauge where (and how much he can) he can pitch in when games grow more meaningful.


His play today, in general, was as great as can be asked, and it’s something to continue tracking.


3.) Setting a tone, and then what?

Following another solid two-way tone set, going up 28-20 through the first frame, and seeing their lead reach as much as 16, the Suns would struggle with ball security and lose defensive flow.


Through the second frame, Houston would compile a game-changing 24-6 run that saw the Suns breathe life into the Rockets, by way of 10 first-half turnovers, including eight of the live ball variety.


Closing quarters is taking the main stage in the Suns’ game-long process. They do solid work, typically, early on, then are seeing the flow established, undone by controllable entities of the game — they have to be sharper in ball security.


It then becomes entirely too tough and the margin for error becomes taxing to tend to, in comeback efforts. A Suns 16-point lead ultimately swinging into a Rockets 14-point lead, especially in how it came about, is ugly.


They’ve now dropped to 8th place in the Western Conference and, though they do have some cushion from the Lakers (3 games back) and Warriors 3.5 games back), a matchup with the Lakers awaits for Sunday, on ABC.


4.) Zero turnovers in 2nd half

In contrast to the self-induced chaos that persisted in the 2nd quarter, their being able to tighten up on security and see the benefits that were reaped from it, is the clear template.


This game was theirs when they extended their lead in the first and carried it and then some in the first half of the second.


Not turning the ball for even a five-minute stretch in an NBA game is nearly impossible.


To do so, as a team, for an entire half, while Houston is sending double teams galore at Booker and Durant from multiple spots on the floor, speaks to where this team can be in terms of ball security — they have to get there and sustain it.


Even with other flaws considered, the best version of themselves resides on the other side of ball security


5.) Thaddeus Youngs Debut

Young was +6 in 10:58 of play in his debut. Without scoring he was able to stamp an impact almost immediately. He’d snag multiple offensive rebounds in his first few minutes, then chip in on the defensive boards as well.


Where my eye went to was the lineups he was featured in, however. The lineup most used that featured him, was the Suns most productive lineup on the night (Allen/Okogie/Bol/Durant/Young) — +9 in 9:08 of play. He’d also be featured in a lineup with Booker/Allen/O’Neale/Bol that was +2 in 5:48.


Insulating him with the length that Bol and Durant can provide should bode well for him and the Suns going forward. The more activity they can get out of Young, especially aided by the length around him, should ultimately optimize what he has in the tank.


It’s clear there’s certainly a role for him, and this game shows so in a few moments where his activity was of good help.


Peeled in early at the nail at times, physical to the legal limit whenever the opportunity presented itself, constantly in the gaps with the presentation to deter, and highly communicative as well — a veteran presence.