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Game Preview: Rockets visit West-leading Suns, matchups, game time, odds

Rockets try to upset the high-flying Suns

Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Houston Rockets (5-16, last in West) at Phoenix Suns (15-6, first in West)

When: 7:00PM AZ time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Odds: Suns favored by 11.5 points, over/under is 230 total points


If there ever was an easy game to bet on with your Harden-fan buddy who’s no longer paying attention to the NBA, this one’s it.

The Suns have already beaten the Rockets this year by 15 points, 124-109, and have won 9 straight in the series over the last three seasons just as the Rockets and Suns switched places in the West standings.

While the Rockets go to bed at night dreaming of a top pick in a potentially historic 2023 Draft, the Suns are atop the West and finding new storage space in their state-of-the-art practice facility for a bunch of new hardware. All in the last three days, Deandre Ayton won Player of the Week, Devin Booker won Player of the Month, and coach Monty Williams won Coach of the Month. Boom.

All the markings of a trap game, huh...


Probable Starting Lineups

***UPDATE at 10:30am — Torrey Craig (groin) is OUT, day-to-day

Injuries/Out

  • Suns — Add Torrey Craig (groin) to the OUT list, along with Chris Paul (heel), Cameron Johnson (knee) and Jae Crowder (lifting at home)
  • Rockets — JaeSean Tate (ankle) is OUT

Rockets Update

  • Offensive Rating: 109.0 (27th)
  • Defensive Rating: 115.7 (28th)
  • Net Rating: -6.7 (28th)

Houston might have the worst record in the West, and one of the worst net ratings in the league, but they are at least competitive. They got that earlier meeting, with the Suns fully healthy by the way, down to a 5-point difference just outside crunch time before the Suns closed it out with a clean final five minutes, outscoring the Rockets 21-11 after the 5:41 mark.

Leading the Rockets this year are last year’s #2 overall pick, Jalen Green, and triple-double threat Kevin Porter Jr., with scoring averages of 21.3 and 19.0 points per game, respectively. Do-everything young big man Alperen Sengun comes in third at 15.5 points per game, along with 9.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1 block per game.

All of these three are 22 years old or younger. Add in this year’s top pick, 19-year old Jabari Smith Jr., and you’ve got four starters averaging just 20 years old. Then you look at the bench, only to see FIVE players age 20 or 21 coming off the bench for the Rockets these days. In total, eight of their top ten players in minutes-per-game are age 22 or younger.

And then there’s venerable, grizzled 34-year old Eric Gordon. He’s fourth in scoring (12.3 points in 29.6 minutes per game), How that man is still in Houston during year THREE of their long, long rebuild, I don’t know. Word is the Rockets, who again already have 8 of 10 rotation players age 22 or younger, are still looking for a first round pick in return for Gordon. Gordon is making 36% of his threes this year.

One of those other young guys, 22-year old Kenyon Martin Jr., is 6th in minutes (24.8) and scoring (11.0) per game. He’s a versatile wing who pulls down 5.3 rebounds and makes 33% of his threes.

The Phoenix Suns have had rumored interest in both Gordon and Martin, and nearly pulled off a trade a couple weeks ago that would have netted those two in exchange for Jae Crowder and someone else who adds up to Gordon’s $19 million contract (Dario? Landry?). But the deal never went through. My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that the Rockets still want a draft pick in any deal, and the Suns either wouldn’t do it or insisted on Martin being part of the return. Anyway, the deal fell through but clearly both teams had some level of interest.


Suns Update

  • Offensive Rating: 116.5 (2nd)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.1 (6th)
  • Net Rating: +7.4 (2nd)

The Suns are doing well, thankyouverymuch, despite all the injuries and distractions. Let’s talk about the Suns upcoming schedule. After two winnable games against the bottom of the West — Houston (5-16) today, then the Spurs (6-16) — they’ve got a tough four-game stretch: at Mavericks, home vs. East-leading Celtics, then a back-to-back AT the Pelicans. Oof.

Chris Paul has already been ruled out again vs. Houston, but it would be nice to see him back when the schedule gets tougher. Cameron Johnson won’t be back for at least another month.

UPDATE: Torrey Craig was just added as OUT to the injured list. Now the Suns will be down to their 4th string power wing, with Jae Crowder, Cameron Johnson and now Torrey all out. My guess is that Damion Lee will start in Craig’s spot, since he’s been the most common any-wing-position guy this year off the bench. This also means we probably see some Dario (yay!) at backup forward, and will continue to get some Ish Wainright time.


Prediction

Could be a trap game, but likely not enough of one for the Suns to lose at home.

I’d say, 130-110, or so.

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