Game 44: Houston Rockets Vs. Phoenix Suns Preview

The Houston Rockets were manhandled Wednesday night.

They were immensely embarrassed on national television.

The team was a thin semblance of what I thought I was going to see.

The Golden State Warriors had their way with the Rockets, there’s no ifs, and’s, or but’s about that.

They were able to get what they wanted, when they wanted it and made them look like fools as a result.

The Warriors got in their heads, they relied heavily on calls on refs and seemed as if the point of trying to beat this team was effortless.

With the exception of James Harden and Corey Brewer — both did what they could to help their team win but it wasn’t enough.

They’ve got to find a way to beat this team or else we’re going to be on the outside looking in come June.

Anyway, it’s time to focus on their next opponent, the 26-18 Phoenix Suns, which is no walk-in-the-park either.

There’s only 3.5 games that separate these two teams — if the playoffs started today, the Rockets would have the 6th seed and the Suns would have the 8th.

They have a team that plays extremely hard and is quite uptempo under the tutelage of Jeff Hornacek, an darn good NBA player and quite refreshing as a basketball coach.  They’re are some former Rockets on this roster so it makes sense.

This Suns’ team reminds of how the Rockets were just a few seasons ago.

Dec 6, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) battle for a rebound during the third quarter at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Suns 100-95. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Competitive but not quite a contender yet.

Hell, I’m sure many of you would make that same case for the Rockets’ current roster.

But let’s talk about what the Suns do well.

They can definitely score — they’re No. 5 in offensive efficiency scoring 107.2 points per 100 possessions.  They’re No.2 in PACE factor averaging 99.2 possessions per game.

They like to move the ball up the court and fast!

That’s mainly because of the combo of Goran Dragic/Eric Bledsoe, the quick-witted, scoring-oriented back court that continues to be the engine to their offense.

I wish he was our point guard but I’ve already talked about that last year.

What they don’t do as well?

Play defense.

Their 19th in the league as far as defensive efficiency, allowing 103.8 points per 100 possessions.

Another characteristic of former Rockets’ teams.

Their last meeting was Dec. 6 where the Rockets were able to power their to a 100-95 win.

They held the Suns to 36.6 percent shooting and although the final score would indicate the game was close, it actually wasn’t until the end.

The Rockets were enjoying double-digit point leads exceeding over 20 points for most of the game.

So all of what the Suns have done so far may not matter to the Rockets as they know how to handle them.

But, this game is on the Suns’ home court so it will be interesting to see how the Rockets respond.

The Suns are 15-7 at home.

Dec 6, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) shoots during the fourth quarter as Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Dragic currently leads the team in scoring averaging 17.0 PPG.  Alex Len leads in rebounds (6.0 RPG) and blocks (1.50 BPG).

Bledsoe leads in assists (5.9 APG) and acts of larceny (1.60 SPG).

The match up to watch the closest is each of the team’s back courts.  Harden will be tasked to defend Bledsoe and Beverley will be working on Dragic, not an easy one to say the least.

They just have to stick with what worked for them last month and they should be fine.

Donatas Motiejunas will be matching up with Markieff Morris, one of their top post players.  Although D-Mo has slightly waned a bit in production, he still is playing better than ever and is up for the job.

And lastly, let’s keep an eye on Dwight Howard — he needs a good game in the worst way.

The was one of the most awful games I’ve seen him play in a long time against the Warriors Wednesday.  Although he had 11 easy rebounds, he scored only seven points along with five turnovers and five fouls to boot.

His match up with Len is a favorable one so he’s got to just pound that ball inside and stick it to him!

In fact, that’s the key of the game, dump the ball into Howard!

I project that this game will be a lot closer but the Rockets will still pull out a “W” against a team that’s just not quite there yet.

Three Things to Watch:

1.  Back court battle — Beverley/Harden vs. Dragic/Bledsoe

2. D-Mo vs. Markieff Morris

3. Will we see a re-emergence of D12?

Prediction:

108-100 in a Rockets’ win!

The Rockets take on the Suns in the Valley of the Sun tonight at U.S. Airways Center.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. CST.

The game will be televised on ROOT Sports Southwest and broadcast on 790 AM (KBME).

Go Rockets!