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Preview: Suns face league-best Houston Rockets at the exact wrong time

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The teams’ trajectories could not be more opposite at this point in the season, and it may be a bloodbath.

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets

When: 5:00 PM AZ Time

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Suns go into a matchup with the league’s best team having lost 28 of their last 30 games. Nothing can go wrong here, right?

Like most teams in the league this year, the Suns have had a particularly difficult time against Houston this year. You may remember the last Rockets-Suns matchup for Devin Booker’s 31 points and 10 assists, as well as some fun Josh Jackson moments against James Harden. But Booker will not be around to lead the offense this time.

The Rockets’ switching defense makes it difficult to create open shots, so Booker’s dynamic shooting and driving in isolation were actually a better offense against Houston than most teams in the league. If a 30-10 from Booker couldn’t get it done, it’s tough to imagine there’s anything Jackson or anyone else can do tonight to turn the tide against this champion contender.

Phoenix Suns

The injury report is basically locked in for Phoenix for the remainder of the season. Booker, T.J. Warren, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight will all be inactive for the final nine games of the season, leaving plenty of time open for youngsters like Shaquille Harrison and Alec Peters down the stretch.

That means more playing time and offensive responsibility for Jackson, who will be tested defending the Rockets’ prolific backcourt and trying to score against Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Over his last nine games, without Booker in the lineup, Jackson is shooting 52 percent from the field as well as 55 percent inside of five feet, both slight ticks up from his season-long numbers. If he can continue to build up his finishing and shooting over the last couple weeks, it will represent solid progress heading into Jackson’s first offseason.

Really, though, the biggest story is the tank race. Memphis plays Utah tonight, while Atlanta plays Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia.

Probable Starters: Tyler Ulis, Troy Daniels, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender

Houston Rockets

Houston has won its last 10 games, finally capitalizing on a healthy roster and an easy schedule. The story all season has been how well the Rockets play when Chris Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela are all healthy, and they head into the postseason as at least co-favorites with a wounded Golden State squad. Capela will return from a thumb injury to play against the Suns tonight.

Another big story to watch for the Rockets is Eric Gordon’s shooting from deep. After shooting poorly to start the season, Gordon has come out of the All-Star break shooting 46 percent from behind the arc. Starting in place of James Harden, who was out resting against the Bulls on Tuesday, Gordon shot 8-13 to lead the Rockets to victory.

Probable Starters: Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela

Prediction

The Suns will lose this game. They would probably lose this game if neither Paul nor Harden lost. Gerald Green would get his revenge, or else Eric Gordon would do the same, remembering that one day in 2012 when he visited Phoenix and signed an offer sheet. The Suns cannot consistently play offense or defense. The Rockets are great at both.

Here comes loss No. 29 of 31.