A pair of Western Conference foes at opposite ends of the standings do battle in the Valley of the Sun. The Houston Rockets are on the road as they travel to face the Phoenix Suns Thursday night. Houston had their six game win streak snapped with a 129-113 home loss to the Raptors Tuesday night. Phoenix lost for the sixth time in seven games as they fell 100-93 at home to the Lakers Monday night. The Suns hold a 107-99 advantage in the all-time regular season series but the Rockets have won 11 of the last 13 matchups, including all four last season.
Houston Rockets Try to Get Back on Track
Houston had reeled off six straight wins but their defense, which has been good most of the year, sprung leaks against the Raptors. As a result, the Rockets dropped half a game behind the Warriors for the top record in the West. Houston led by two after the opening quarter before getting outscored 45-31 in the second and couldn’t recover. The Rockets allowed the Raptors to shoot 51.9 percent from the field and 14 of 30 from three point range. Meanwhile, Houston hit just 41.8 percent overall and 12 of 39 from three point range. James Harden led the Rockets with 38 points and 11 assists: he shot 8 of 25 from the floor and hit all 19 free throw attempts in the loss.
The Rockets are average offensively: they are 3rd in the league with 111.2 points per game. Houston is 15th in rebounding with 44.5 boards per game and 16th with 21.7 assists a night. The Rockets are 10th in scoring defense as they allow 104.6 points per game. James Harden leads the team with 30.7 points per game while grabbing 4.9 boards and dishing out 10.3 assists a night. Eric Gordon is putting up 22.1 points per contest while Clint Capela averages 13.1 points plus 11.5 rebounds a night. PJ Tucker and Ryan Anderson (11.2 points, 5.9 rebounds) each are key secondary options this season. Nene Hilario, Trevor Ariza (10.8 points, 5.2 boards, 1.46 steals), Chris Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute are key pieces in the rotation as well. Paul missed the last month with a bruised knee and is expected to rejoin the action roster Thursday. The Rockets are 14th in the league in field goal percentage, shooting 45.6 percent as a team. Houston is 1st in the league with 15.1 threes a night while the team is 26th by shooting 34 percent from long range this season.
Phoenix Suns Scuffling in Early Going
Phoenix has sputtered this season as it seems they likely will be on the outside looking in again when the postseason gets underway. The Suns have lost six of their last seven games as they were clipped by the Lakers at home. Phoenix held a one point edge at the half and trailed by just one after three quarters before getting outscored 26-20 in the fourth to go down in defeat. The Suns shot a dismal 38.9 percent from the floor in the contest and went 7 of 26 from beyond the arc while turning the ball over 15 times. Phoenix struggled to a 12 of 20 night at the line while the Lakers hit eight of 13. Devin Booker led the Suns with 36 points in the loss.
The Suns are 14th in the league in scoring with an average of 106.1 points per game. The Suns are 6th on the glass by collecting 46.3 boards per game. Phoenix stands last in the league in assists with 17.9 per contest. Phoenix is last in the league in scoring defense as they allow 115.1 points a night. TJ Warren chips in 18.7 points plus six boards a night from the small forward spot. Devin Booker puts up a team high 23.2 points plus 4.8 rebounds per game and will be the focal point of the offense for the foreseeable future. Big men Marquese Chriss, Alex Len, Greg Monroe and Alan Williams along with Tyler Ulis, Mike James (11.9 points, 3.7 assists), rookie Josh Jackson and Jared Dudley have to contribute for Phoenix to have any kind of success. The Suns are 24th in the league in field goal percentage at 43.6 percent so far. The Suns are tied for 26th in three pointers per game with 8.5 per contest. Phoenix is 28th in three point percentage as they splash only 33.2 percent of their chances from long range.
- Rockets are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games
- Rockets are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games playing on 1 day of rest
- Suns are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game
- Suns are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games overall
Phoenix has struggled this season, which is why they are in the basement of the Pacific Division. Houston has rolled along before getting shell-shocked by the Raptors’ blistering shooting. The Rockets though, are the second-best team in the Western Conference and with the impending return of Paul, have an embarrassment of riches in the backcourt. Houston shouldn’t have much problem getting back on track and picking up a win here over the struggling Suns.
Pick: Houston Rockets
This one seems poised for Houston to have another big offensive showing. The Rockets are 3rd in the league in scoring and they contend with a Phoenix team that is worst in the league as far as allowing points goes. Houston has Harden, Gordon and now Paul in the backcourt as a trio of guys that any team in the league would love to have in their arsenal. THe Rockets are a perimeter oriented team and when those shots are falling, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. Phoenix gets good production from Booker and Warren but other guys have to step up and contribute.
The over is 6-0 in the Rockets’ last 6 vs. a team with a losing straight up record, 5-0 in their last 5 when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game and 5-1 in their last six games on one day of rest. Phoenix has seen the over go 4-0 in their last 4 home games vs. a team with a winning road record, 4-0 in their last 4 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600 and 7-0 in their last 7 vs. a team with a winning straight up record. Given Houston’s good offense and Phoenix’s leaky defense, this one goes over the total.