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Preview: Suns vs Rockets

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According to 82game.com the Rockets most frequently used line-up is Brooks-Ariza-Battier-Scola-Hayes. They are +24 and account for bulk of the team's minutes. Five solid role players and no all-stars is generally not a winning combination in the NBA and yet the Rockets are 6-4 having beat the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Jazz. Of course they also lost to the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Kings so it's not as if this team can't be beat.

With no Yao and no T-Mac they are said to be getting it done with heart and hustle but I recently heard Rockets GM Daryl Morey explain that just maybe those nobodies everyone is discounting are actually better players then people give them credit for. I buy that.

In what is starting to become the most surprising trend of the season, the Suns enter this game as the better rebounding team. The Rockets are a -3.77 while the Suns at +2.10 has the 10th best rebounding differential in the league. That tells you our team might just have a little heart and hustle as well.

If both teams bring it tonight it should be a fun match-up but one the Suns should win.

Match-ups

Guards

Aaron Brooks gave the Suns fits last season putting up 19.3 ppg which was his highest against any team in 08/09. Who can forget his 30 point, 55% FG effort against a lethargic Suns team in early March. While Aaron is a nice player who is certainly one of the quickest guys in the game with the ball he's also streaky over the past 5 games with 33 points against the Lakers coming on the heals of a combined 18 points against the Kings and Grizzlies.

Brooks might be able to beat Nash around screens and get himself open shots or into the lane but the Suns bigs have done a much better job this season helping and Steve Nash is quietly having himself a better defensive season holding opponents to an eFG% of .477 compared to .485 for last season. And since this is the Suns it's worth pointing out that his best defense remains his offense where his own eFG% is a whooping .626 (up from .566 last season).

Brooks is a nice young player but I think we can all agree that the Suns have the edge here.

Some people might be surprised that Trevor Ariza is leading the Rockets in scoring with 18.4 points per game but having watched him in LA the last couple of years the talent was always there. As Channing Frye shows, this league is all about opportunity which is why you can't only look at a guy's past numbers to predict his future value. Trevor had shown the ability to both put the ball on the floor and finish and to hit the three but in the Kobe offense he was never going to get enough touches to put up decent point totals.

Of course, he's not exactly the most efficient scorer either which has to be a concern for the Rockets. When your team's point leader is shooting 40% and taking 16 FGA's to score 18 points....not good.

Where Trevor really excels is on the defensive end which is a shame because Jason Richardson needs to have a good game coming off his sub-par shooting night against the Raptors.

The only other guard on the roster is the bowling ball shaped Kyle Lowry. I'm a fan of Lowry's game but if Barbosa has got anything going at all (his wrist was still sore after Sunday's game) he will struggle keeping up. Goran had probably the worst game of his season facing Jarret Jack's intense ball pressure. Dragic needs to be aggressive when guys get right up on him and make them pay with his size and speed.

Forwards / Centers

Lets face it. Neither of these two teams have a true Center right now but at least the Suns two bigs are much bigger than the Rockets front court.

The Scola - Amare match-up is the most interesting.

Scola is a very skilled player who defends well, leads his team in rebounding and can score the ball in multiple ways. It will be up to Amare to pay attention on both ends of the floor and try and get Scola into foul trouble. The Rockets have very little depth at any position so taking Louis out of the game would spell instant trouble.

We might also see Amare try and get into the low post against the Spaniard Argentinian which should draw double teams. Amare has a lot of work to do on his passing out of those traps.

Against the Raptors he didn't do a good job handling the constant doubles that came when he caught the ball after Calderon switched on him. While Frye would calmly turn and hold the ball high and find the open man, Amare danced around and ended up trying to work against two players only to fire out a sloppy pace which gave the defense time to recover. I hope he watches film on this.

I am very curious if the Suns will try and post up Frye against Chuck Hayes. Hayes is a great post defender but at only 6'6" is the smallest Center in the league by a long short shot. Frye does have a post game and we might see it tonight but at the same time when the Suns get out of their normal offense to take advantage of these kinds of mismatches they can get stagnant. I would rather see Phoenix run their normal pick and roll sets with Nash and then try and post up Frye with the second unit. It's not as if Frye can shoot over him from behind the arc on the pick and pop.

Amundson can handle his own in this game against Hayes or Landry so perhaps have him sub in early for Frye and then bring back Channing when Nash rests.

We can't overlook Grant Hill and Shane Battier. Two great players who really understand the game and do what their teams need. Hill after a smoking start to the season hasn't been shooting the ball all that well but he's still grabbing rebounds and facilitating. In this game these two basically cancel each other out.

And Jared Dudley...that's all that needs to be said.

 

Unless the Suns come out flat, this is a very winnable game given the match-ups. I do worry about the Suns getting a bit complacent with their record which I think we saw in the middle quarters of the Raptors game on Sunday. Hopefully, they will have that edge and passion that has been the hallmark of the team so far and they can get a comfortable win on the road and be the first team in the L with 10 W's.

 

Game Links

  • Suns vs Rockets coverage
  • The Dream Shake - SBN Blog
  • TSN Suns vs Rockets preview
  • Suns wings hauling in rebounds
    Suns swingmen Grant Hill and Jason Richardson lead NBA wing tandems in total rebounds. (Great article from Coro. Anyone else notice his game stepping up this year?)

  • azcentral.com - Coro preview
    Just like we all predicted, Atlanta and Phoenix are sitting atop the NBA. The Suns can reclaim the best record in the NBA tonight if they win and go to 10-2. If they do so, they would be the third Suns team to have a 10-2 start since Steve Nash returned in 2004.

[Note by Phoenix Stan, 11/17/09 12:29 PM MST ]

If you are feeling in anyway bitter towards Sarver and Kerr read these two articles to remind yourself how much worse it can get...