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Preview: Shorthanded Suns face off against Rockets

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The Suns will be down two starters (Bledsoe, Chandler) in their matchup against the Houston Rockets and MVP candidate James Harden.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When: Saturday, February 11th, 2017, 7:00 local time (9:00 EST)

Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

Watch/Listen: TV: Fox Sports Arizona Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM

Last Meeting:

The Phoenix Suns (17-37 ) faced off against the Houston Rockets (39-17) the day after Christmas at the Toyota Center in what turned out to be a complete laugher. Houston scored 39 points in the first quarter and led 69-43 at halftime en route to a 131-115 pasting.

Harden led the way for the Rockets with 32 points and 12 assists in just 30 minutes.

Houston pulverized the Suns in FG% (50%-42.6%), 3-point FG made (15-7) and assists (28-17). The final score wasn’t really representative of how badly the Suns lost, as the team trailed by 27 entering the fourth quarter after falling behind by as many as 34 points.

Eric Bledsoe led the Suns with 24 points and Brandon Knight chipped in 21 off the bench. Dragan Bender recorded his first (and only) career double double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Bender, of course, just had ankle surgery and will not be playing for at least 4-6 weeks.

The Suns and Rockets played 5 days earlier (12/21) at Talking Stick Arena and Houston, who leads the season series 2-0, pulled away late for a 125-111 victory.

Scouting Report:

The Suns are coming off a 115-97 drubbing of the Bulls to snap a three game losing streak. Before Friday night’s win the Suns had lost eight of their previous nine games.

Devin Booker led all scorers with 27 points, while Bledsoe shook off a few subpar performances with 23 points and eight assists.

Alex Len missed the game due to a suspension for leaving the vicinity of the scorer’s table during a scuffle late in Wednesday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. In his absence, Alan Williams basically played as well as Len has in any game this season... going for 14 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks in 24 minutes.

That sure makes me salivate at the prospect of the Suns throwing $15-$20 million a year at Len this summer.

In addition to Len’s absence, Williams was given extra burn due to Tyson Chandler leaving the game with a sprained ankle after playing only 12 minutes.

The Suns decided to keep Chandler home on the back end of the second game in two nights, but interestingly enough the team will also be without Bledsoe.

It appears that the 27 year old, who is nowhere near the league leaders in minutes played, is suffering from fatigue.

The Houston Rockets, of course, are led by James Harden... who is averaging 28.9 points, 11.3 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Harden is first in the league in minutes played, free throws made and attempted, total assists and assists per game, win shares and turnovers.

Harden, despite also being 27 years old like Bledsoe and leading the league in minutes played, is expected to appear in tonight’s game.

Houston is second in the league in scoring (114.2 ppg) and #1 in 3-point attempts and makes. The Rockets are basically playing the same free-flying style that Phoenix fans enjoyed back in the 7SOL days of yonder. Mike D’Antoni has finally landed on his feet after a few failed experiments and is a leading candidate for coach of the year.

Eric Gordon, the Rockets second leading scorer, missed the Rockets last game with back soreness and is questionable to play tonight.

While the Suns are playing on a back-to-back, this is only the third game in eight days for the Rockets, who beat the Charlotte Hornets 107-95 on Thursday night.

What To Watch For:

The shorthanded Suns are playing on a back-to-back against the rested Rockets.

The Rockets are third in the league in pace, while the Suns come in at #4.

The Rockets have hung up 131 and 125 points in the first two games against the Suns this season.

Don’t be surprised if the Rockets top those totals tonight and be prepared for the potential of another blowout.

The Rockets have the third best record in the league... and the Suns are a very bad team.