Written Tim McMahon at ESPN.com
The “bumps” coach Mike D’Antoni said he expected while incorporating Chris Paul into his offense weren’t evident in the Houston Rockets’ record-setting 142-116 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
Paul, a nine-time All-Star point guard who pushed for a trade from the LA Clippers to the Rockets during the offseason, was spectacular in his return after missing almost a month because of a bruised left knee. He registered a double-double in 21 minutes, scoring 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting and dishing out 10 assists with only one turnover.
Harden, a perennial All-Star guard with whom Paul opted to form a partnership, padded his NBA scoring lead with 48 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the field and recorded seven assists.
“James knows that every night he’s not going to have 48 and stuff like that, but we just try to play the right way, make the right plays and move the ball,” said Paul, who had not played since the Rockets’ season-opening win over the Golden State Warriors. “It’s fun. It’s fun playing like that because of the energy with our team. We know it’s not going to be easy like this night in and night out, but we talk, we communicate and that’s what helps.”
Houston had the highest-scoring first quarter in franchise history with 45 points, 41 of which were generated by Paul and Harden, who combined for 18 points and eight assists in the period. The Rockets scored 45 again in the second quarter — 23 by Harden, all while Paul watched from the bench — to set a franchise record for points in a half with 90.
“I thought there was something wrong with the score,” Harden said of the Rockets’ halftime point total, which had been accomplished only twice before in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
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