Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Phoenix Suns

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The Rockets are coming off of a nice win over the Charlotte Hornets, moving to 39-17 on the season and building on their cushion as the 3rd seed in the West. The Rockets have now lost only two of their last seven games and maintain a shot at a 60 win season, more than the Rockets have ever had in a season. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists, and rebounds by MVP candidate James Harden, at 28.9 points, 11.3 assists, and  8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 3rd in offensive rating, 14th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating.

The Suns sit at the bottom of the Western Conference, at 16-37 going into their back to back against the Bulls then Rockets. Having won just one of their last 10 games, and losing both of their two previous match ups with the Rockets, the Suns will be desperate for a win. The Suns are led in scoring and assists by Eric Bledsoe, at 21.2 points and 6.1 assists, and in rebounds by Tyson Chandler at 11.8 rebounds per game. The Suns rank in the bottom third of each rating, 23rd in offensive rating, 28th in defensive rating, and 26th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

The Rockets may be without Eric Gordon, who missed Thursday's game and Wednesday's practice with back tightness. The Rockets will likely start James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes as the sixth man - if he is able to play.

The Suns will be without 4th overall pick Dragan Bender on Saturday, who is out for up to six weeks following an ankle surgery. The Suns will likely start with Eric Bledsoe at point guard, Devin Booker at shooting guard, T.J. Warren at small forward, Marquese Chriss at power forward, and Tyson Chandler at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Don't Let Up – The Rockets have gotten into a bad habit of giving up big leads and allowing games to get closer than they have to be. Watch to see if they can keep a bad team at bay, force a blowout win, and reduce the starters' minutes load.

  • Third Times the Charm – The Rockets have played against the Suns twice this season - both easy victories, winning by an average of 15 points. In the third face-off of the four these teams will play, watch to see if the Rockets continue dominate this young Suns team.

  • No Second Chances – The Suns have the 6th highest offensive rebound rate in the league, while the Rockets are just an average defensive rebounding team. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to keep the Suns, namely Tyson Chandler and his 3.5 offensive boards per game, off of the boards, limiting the Suns to single shot possessions.

Prediction and Tip-Off

This Rockets are back on their game, and have dominated the Suns in their previous match ups, so I expect nothing to change between the two teams on Saturday.

Tip-off will be at 8:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Saturday, February 11th. The game will be televised on ROOT SPORTS, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.
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