James Harden Scores 48 in Chris Paul's Return as Rockets Destroy Suns 142-116

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2017

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 16:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Phoenix Suns on November 16, 2017 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
Michael Gonzales/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets didn't get the memo that the desert is conducive to droughts, because they made it rain Thursday night as they romped past the Phoenix Suns, 142-116, at Talking Stick Resort Arena. 

The win, which propelled the Rockets to a Western Conference-best 12-4, was anchored by 48 points from James Harden and a double-double from Chris Paul in his first appearance since the season opener. 

Paul, who missed a month while nursing a left knee bruise, finished with 11 points and 10 assists in a triumphant return that showcased his seamless schematic fit alongside last season's MVP runner-up—who was in a special zone all his own. 

Coming off a 38-point outing in Tuesday's 129-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Harden turned in an efficient gem as he tallied his 48 points on 12-of-22 shooting, including 6-of-11 from three. 

In fact, the Beard was so hot that he finished the first half with 33 points on 12 shots as the Rockets flirted with the century mark before the second-quarter buzzer sounded. 

Sportsnet Stats and ESPN Stats & Info put the Rockets' blistering first half in context: 

Harden also made all 18 of his free throws and is now a perfect 42-of-42 from the charity stripe over Houston's last three games. 

Thanks to that efficiency, the league's scoring leader became the first player to eclipse 500 total points this season. 

The Suns, it should be noted, weren't exactly quiet on offense. 

They dropped 65 points in the first half—a total that would have been good enough for the lead on seemingly any other night—shot 45.2 percent from the field and scored a whopping 64 points in the paint. 

Greg Monroe did his best to bolster that total in his Suns debut and registered 20 points (10-of-14 shooting) and 11 rebounds, but Phoenix was outscored 63-30 from beyond the arc and had no answer for Houston's impeccably spaced attack. 

Now 7-1 over their last eight games, the Rockets will aim for a second straight win Saturday at FedEx Forum against the Memphis Grizzlies

The Suns, who have lost seven of their last eight, return to the floor Friday at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers with their sights on revenge after the Purple and Gold bested them in Phoenix on Monday. 

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