Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 2/3/12
HOUSTON This night was going to arrive eventually for Rockets second-year forward Patrick Patterson, but in many ways it could not arrive soon enough. By the close of his rookie season Patterson had become so integral to the success of the second unit that this season's struggles reclaiming form off offseason ankle surgery were obvious and protracted. He was inactive for only two games to open the season, but his energy and lateral quickness and exceptional burst remained absent. Through the grind of this compressed schedule, Patterson was advancing slowly. The Patterson of old reappeared on Friday night against the Suns, providing a second-quarter jolt that enabled the Rockets to continue pulling away for a surprisingly casual 99-81 victory at Toyota Center. "Earlier (Friday) just with the training staff (completing) my usual routine but my routine felt easy," Patterson said. "It felt like my legs were feeling a lot better. My quickness was there. I was telling my trainers I felt real good. Out there on the court I guess it showed." Almost immediately upon entering the game Patterson appeared spry. He nailed a jump hook during the final minute of the first quarter and remained active throughout the second. He had four rebounds in the period including two in succession on the offensive end that made him look as though he were bouncing on a pogo stick. He drilled a 20-footer, assisted on a Chase Budinger 3-pointer, and blocked a shot by Suns guard Shannon Brown. Patterson seemed to be everywhere all at once. His ability to sustain that energy and athleticism was a departure from performances past. Patterson reached double figures in points seven times before totaling 12 in 23 minutes off the bench against the Suns (8-14), but this time there was no hitch in his giddy up. He was fluid on defensive rotations and quick off the floor in pursuit of rebounds. And while his jumper remained reliable, Patterson showed no hesitancy taking smaller defenders to the block. He was reticent to do so in the early stages of his comeback, thus his aggression represented progress. "I'm still not entirely where I want to be," Patterson said after posting season-high-tying totals in rebounds (seven) and blocked shots (two). "But tonight was definitely a good step forward because I felt like I was more active, especially on the defensive end. Offensively I was moving better. It seemed like I was jumping a little bit better. I went down to the post rather than just shooting jump shots all the time." The recovery process has been arduous. With games often running in succession, whether home-road back-to-backs or stretches of six games in nine nights, Patterson couldn't get into a rhythm. As he worked on his conditioning and redeveloping strength in his legs during the day, duty called at night. It was a ceaseless cycle that prevented him from catching up and producing as he did last season when he averaged 6.3 points and 3.8 boards following an early-season stint in Rio Grande Valley. The Rockets (13-10) couldn't bide their time until Patterson resembled his old self. He played and labored. When the assets that made him valuable last season fell into place against the Suns, his teammates noticed. When he returned to the bench praised was heaped upon him. "He played great," Rockets guard Kyle Lowry said. "That's what we need. Once he gets his legs back ankle surgery definitely set him back a little bit and his wind back he'll be good. "It gives Luis (Scola) a little bit more rest. That definitely was a big part of us playing well last year." Bench production played a significant role in this easy victory. Lowry, Scola, guard Kevin Martin and center Samuel Dalembert sat and rested during the fourth quarter. The reserves outscored the starters 50-49 and combined for 23 rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots. In advance of a six-game road trip that opens Saturday night in Minnesota the Rockets needed a game like this to improve their odds for success. That Patterson, who finished with a game-high plus-13 plusminus rating, could carry the load represented as good a development as any. "Patrick looked good," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "Anytime Chase comes out and gets 10 rebounds in 27 minutes and Patrick goes out and gets seven rebounds in 23 minutes, your reserves are bouncy." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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