On the heels of the devastating loss in Dallas the Houston Rockets still sit outside the playoffs and look to rebound vs the Suns.
As discussed on the site this morning the Rockets have the easiest schedule remaining of the 5 teams playing for seeds 5 through 8 while many of those opponents play each other. For the tie break situation or an outright entry to occur however the Rockets need to take care of business by beating the 4 lottery teams on tap.
Lets talk a look at the match-up in our game day countdown:
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT
TV: Root and FSAZ+
Radio: 790 AM and ESPN 620 AM /Sirius:81(Internet H:890/A:903)
Last season the Rockets took 3 of 4 meetings, and they’ve taken the first two meetings this season.
Feb 4: HOU 111 – 104 PHO
Feb 19: HOU 116 – 100 PHO
I think this might be the longest cumulative injury list of the season as both squads have multiple players out hurt or nursing injuries:
- T.J. Warren – ankle, out for season
- Brandon Knight –groin, out for season
- Eric Bledsoe – knee, out for season
- Jon Leuer – ankle, missed Tuesday, game time decision
Notes: the Suns are depleted at the point especially if Knight can’t go again.
Assuming Bickerstaff decides to stick with the line-up that offered more athleticism, defense and versatility which means he’ll keep McDaniels in the starting line-up. Let’s assume he’s done with the Corey Brewer experiment and if he doesn’t stick with K.J. perhaps we’ll see someone else inserted like Beasley or a return to Capela. At this point I think it’s safe to assume Brewer hasn’t given the squad the jump they need since his insertion led to copious first quarter blow-outs.
Ironically a return to Terrence Jones could also occur tonight which would be interesting. The last time Jones played was the game prior to Phoenix game as he was in a car accident on route to the airport. Once he recovered from concussion after effects he’s been a healthy scratch ever since.
Player to watch:
Devin Booker: He still sports the baby face we witnessed in summer league, but his growth and comfort in the Association is palpable. Sure he still has a long way to go, but there is reason to believe this kid is going to be something special. His shot is so pure he takes on comparisons to two young guards over in Golden State. Yet unlike those All-Stars something Booker already seems to have developed as a rookie is a good feel for mixing up his offense and his defense is vastly improved since season start. Sure he still has a long way to go, but with Warren out he’s been starting and making steady improvements. Keep your eye on his shooting stroke and the ease with which he gets it off.
If the above chart doesn’t tell the story I’m not sure what will. Every statistical category other than defensive rebounding belongs to the Rockets and they are playing at home.
Avoid the urge to make this a track meet: The Rockets should be able to dominate the Suns offensively, yet they’ll need to resist the urge to get into a track meet with this young club. If the Rockets fall into playing a full out run and gun game they are asking for trouble as several Suns players like Booker, Goodwin and Teletovic could all get hot behind the line. Rather they should take a page from the game book they played in Dallas with emphasis on defense. This is a much less talented opponent, so the same game plan should result in an easy win.
Play the opponent, not the record: while the Suns are lottery bound and are injury depleted the Rockets need to be careful not to fall into the trap of playing the record. Although the team didn’t win in either of their first two meetings they kept the second game close.
Focus on fundamentals: build through the final four games via limiting turnovers, finishing plays, boxing out players, helping the helper… etc, etc. It’s time the Rockets got back to basics and made those fundamental items a priority.
The odds makers have the Rockets favored by a whopping 12.5 points with an over-under of 215 and heavy early action leaning toward Houston.
That’s an extremely high spread considering Houston just played last night while the Suns rested.
Prediction: Last month the zebras got cute helping out the Rockets with what I felt was heavy favoritism in both the Toronto and Cleveland games. In fact I predicted the latter would occur. Seeing such a large spread tonight scares me a little, especially when you factor in how strongly favored the Rockets are.
Still, having said that, post game interviews showcased the players demonstrating something I’ve noticed few times this season – anger. They know even if they win out the post season isn’t a guarantee. Moreover they must be reeling a bit, because I’m sure not one player would have predicted this season’s production or lack there of.
Not making it into the post season one year after they were a few games short of the final with an MVP candidate would be an embarrassment.
Therefore I’d look for Harden and company to win this one at all costs. Rockets by 8.
For more exciting news and stories on the Phoenix Suns visit our affiliate FanSided site: Valley Of The Suns Plus check our our Preseason Team Preview of the Suns :
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