SCOLA MUST BE STOPPED! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
It is a Story of contrast between the Houston Rockets and the Phoenix Suns. The Rockets are in the top 8 of the west - while the Suns look on (with blazing fury and determination) from the outside. The Rockets are injury-stricken for the moment with two of their best players Kyle Lowry (illness) and Kevin Martin (Shoulder) out, the Suns are all healthy and ready to go. The Rockets made moves at the trade deadline trading Jordan Hill to the Lakers for Derek Fisher (who has yet to report to the team), acquiring Marcus Camby (who also has yet to suit up for the Rockets - though he could tonight), and most recently signing Courtney Fortson to a 10-day contract in an attempt to find a backup PG with Lowry out... the Suns did nothing at the deadline - keeping their roster in tact.
And now most importantly - the Suns are riding a hot shooting streak and massive momentum after having just won all 3 games in a back-to-back-to-back set (a feat only accomplished by 3 other teams in the league - Chicago, Miami and OKC) and overall are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Rockets are struggling with their thin line-up and are only 3-7 in that same stretch.
Can the Suns make it 4 in a row for the first time this season? Can the Suns also break a 4 game losing streak to this Rockets team? Can the Suns break the .500 hump? A win tonight and the Suns could pull to within a half-game of a playoff position. A little more after the jump.
Over at he Dreamshake our friends wonder what will become of the former Laker. They shipped former UofA standout Jordan Hill for him, but he has yet to report to the team. Earlier this week it was reported that the Rockets intended to buy out the veteran PG and were in hot pursuit of Patty Mills who had been playing in China for a year and was just cleared to return to the NBA - but Coach Pop and the Spurs won the bidding war for him and now the Rockets find themselves in a difficult spot at the PG position with Lowry out and no backup.
Goran Dragic has averaged 15.7 points and 9.4 assists and is shooting 52% in 7 games started this season and Houston is 3-2 since Dragic moved to the starting PG spot in the lineup in place of Lowry - so that's nice for them (AND I WON'T HIDE IT - I'm happy for Goran as well. I would really like to see him continue to develop and improve, still one of my favorite players to watch in the NBA). So now with this backup PG problems it seems the Rockets might be rethinking their Derek Fisher buyout - but as insurance they signed former Clipper rookie Courtney Fortson to a 10-day contract.
We'll wait and see what happens to Kobe's best bud.
[Note by Eutychus, 03/18/12 2:11 PM PDT ]
Looks like we have a verdict
Y! Sources: Derek Fisher has reached a buyout agreement with the Houston Rockets. tinyurl.com/7fecwjf— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) March 18, 2012
Beware of the Bench
Last month when these two teams met it was the Houston bench that won the game for the Rockets outscoring the Phoenix bench 57-13 - the team looks a little different after the trade deadline, but Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger and company are still a very real threat though they are probably going to be starting tonight. Despite being thin the Rockets have a lot of firepower and our bench is going to need to come in tonight and continue their hot shooting and good chemistry - but also they need to improve their defense.
The Polish Slump
Don't think I need to go into detail with this one - even the though the Suns conquered the back-to-back-to-back they did it largely in part without the regular contributions of Marcin Gortat. It seems like ever since his Polish Heritage night when Robin Lopez played extended minutes for him at the end of the game Marc hasn't quite been himself. Is it mental? More than likely just going through a slump - we saw Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill and heck even Steve Nash work through rough slumps earlier this year. It's about that time for Marcin to hit the slump bug and smash it as well. It's almost like we just took him for granted - that he'll always provide a double-double, but luckily for us Robin Lopez has answered the call and played extremely well both defensively and offensively during Gortat's slump.
Let's hope his troubles don't last too long and he can get his head back on straight ASAP.
PG: Steve Nash - Goran Dragic
SG: Jared Dudley - Courtney Lee
SF: Grant Hill - Chase Budinger
PF: Channing Frye - Luis Scola
C: Marcin Gortat - Samuel Dalembert
The Suns are in the midst of an amazing season turnaround - This game is a crucial one in the playoff hunt since the Rockets are one of the teams in the top 8 that Phoenix is chasing. The players know the importance of this game and they also understand their opponent and what they have been able to do against them. It's time to see what kind of hot-streak this really is, especially in the coming weeks like Alex has pointed out!
LET'S GET IT ON!