When: 6:00 PM AZ Time
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
Tonight the Suns take on the task of trying to un-beard the bearded lion in his own den... and this time the Rockets are going to be well rested instead of playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Not an easy task for any team but an exceptionally difficult one for the defensively challenged Suns.
The Suns surprised me the last time they played the Rockets by keeping the game close until the Rockets started to pull away in the fourth quarter. If the Rockets start out the game with their small front court of Ryan Anderson and Montrezl Harrell again, I hope that Earl Watson does something to adjust the Suns' lineup. Tyson Chandler was mostly ineffective (3 pts, 6 rebs) in the last game and it's a game they are unlikely to win anyway so why not try something different? Perhaps start Marquese Chriss at the 5 and put Dragan Bender on Anderson at the 4? Or maybe even start T.J. Warren at the 4 with Chriss in the middle?
I think that Watson has to try something different in this game. We've already seen the Rockets outplay the Suns on a night when they were tired and I shudder to think what might happen if the Suns try the same things again on a night when Houston is rested.
The Rockets (22-9)
James Harden. Need I say more? He's the engine that runs the Houston scoring machine that Mike D'Antoni built but they also have some other very good parts that keep it running smoothly. It seems as though everyone on this team can hit threes and will take them any chance they get. The Rockets lead the NBA in the percent of total points from three pointers (39.5%) and in their last game against the Suns they beat their average by scoring 46.4% of their points from three pointers.
The Rockets have way too many offensive weapons for the Suns to keep in check. Slow down Harden's scoring and Anderson will kill you by raining threes... or Gordon will... or guys like Beverly, Harrell and Ariza will score on you from inside and outside the three point line.
The Suns (9-21)
Having a sub-standard defense and not being a good three point shooting team - or a good shooting team at all for that matter - the Suns are just over-matched in this game. The only chance they have is if everyone brings their best games to the court all on one night. That's never happened before and I don't expect it tonight.
As I said above, perhaps the best thing for the Suns to do is just try something different from the start in this game. Start Bender or Warren on Anderson, tell whichever is in to stick tight on D and make him try to beat them off the dribble or with his passing instead of his three point shooting. Anderson hit 8 of 14 three point attempts against Memphis on Friday. You have to have a good perimeter defender on him which is why I suggest giving Bender a shot. But I'd also love to see Anderson try and defend Warren on the other end if TJ were to get the nod as the starting 4. Start Chriss opposite Harrell and tell him to go at him on both ends of the court. He might foul out in the first 15 minutes but he comes close to doing that fairly often in many games anyway.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The Suns are going to lose this game. I hate to put it so bluntly but the only chance the Suns have to win is if virtually everything goes right for them and the Rockets have a very bad off night.
If the game tonight gets too hard to watch, come back here and watch Devin Booker’s highlights from last weeks Suns/Rockets game.