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Takeaways: Jabari Smith Jr., Amen Thompson show grit as Rockets rally past Suns

HOUSTON — One night after the Rockets were bullied inside in a blowout loss, second-year forward Jabari Smith Jr. responded with one of the strongest games of his career in Friday’s 114-110 win (box score) over the visiting Phoenix Suns (33-24). Houston (25-31) is now 20-9 in home games at Toyota Center this season.

Smith finished with 22 points, 16 rebounds, and 2 steals, representing the first 20-15 game of his young career. Houston, which entered with six losses in its last seven games, recovered from a 22-6 deficit in the game’s early minutes to dramatically turn the tables.

The Rockets connected on 15-of-45 shots from 3-point range (33.3%) on Friday, which proved decisive on a night in which the visiting Suns shot only 7-of-31 from distance (22.6%). Smith (3), Jalen Green (3), and Fred VanVleet (6) led Houston in 3-point makes.

Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore each scored 15 points off Houston’s bench, while Thompson added 10 rebounds in his 33 minutes. The rookie duo combined to shoot 11-of-22 overall (50.0%).

Beyond Smith and the rookies, who all contributed on both ends of the court, other standout statistical lines for the Rockets included:

  • VanVleet: 23 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds; 6-of-14 on 3-pointers (42.9%)

  • Alperen Sengun: 17 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists; 6-of-15 shooting (40.0%)

  • Green: 14 points, 4 assists; 5-of-13 shooting (38.5%), 3-of-6 on 3-pointers (50.0%)

Sengun hit 5-of-6 last-minute free throws (83.3%) to secure the win.

On defense, Thompson was a big factor in limiting Suns star Devin Booker to an inefficient 25 points on 7-of-24 shooting (29.2%), including 0-of-4 on 3-pointers. Kevin Durant, also an All-Star, led the visitors with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists while shooting 10-of-22 (45.5%) — though he hit just 1-of-7 from 3-point range (14.3%).

Bol Bol, a sparingly used 7-foot-3 forward, had the best game of his young career off the Phoenix bench, finishing with 25 points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes while making 11-of-17 shots (64.7%).

Here’s our look at Friday’s highlights and postgame interviews, along with reaction by media members and fans. Next up for the Rockets is a home-and-home pair of games with Oklahoma City (38-17), with the first coming Sunday in Houston. Tipoff is at 6:00 p.m. Central.

Feb. 23 Rockets-Suns reaction

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire