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Houston Rockets vs. Phoenix Suns game preview

The Rockets return to Phoenix to take on a desperate Suns team ready to redeem two losses to Houston this season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets played the Suns about 3 weeks ago, resulting in a buzzer-beating game winner by James Harden.

Since that game, the Suns have lost AGAIN at the buzzer, bringing their total of devastating losses in this manner to four. This time, it was DeMarcus Cousins two nights ago. To all Suns fans out there: I'm so sorry. We had some heartbreak in last year's playoff that I don't think will ever be topped (or bottomed), but losing 4 times like that? I can only imagine and attempt to empathize.

The Suns are desperately trying to hold off the Pelicans and Thunder for the eighth spot in the West. The Pelicans are a game-and-a-half behind the Suns and the Thunder are two games back. Houston fans remember the 3-year window of being too good to tank and not good enough to make the postseason. It's a limbo that's tough to navigate.

Tip off is at 7pm CST on TNT.


Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Goran Dragic

I know.

You want Dragic.

You don't want Beverley.

But please explain to me what Houston could give to Phoenix that would help Phoenix win THIS SEASON. Everyone wants to throw in the Pelicans' first round pick. Sweet.

Except Phoenix wants to make the playoffs, and the last time I checked, first round picks themselves don't help you make the playoffs. If I'm Phoenix and Houston calls, it's a pretty quick phone call. Houston has to get a third team involved.

Advantage: Suns

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Eric Bledsoe

Bledsoe missed the last game for personal reasons, but should be back tonight.

Anyway, Bledsoe is a monster and always knocking on the door of a triple double. His size and speed make him incredibly difficult to defend and it will likely fall to Trevor Ariza to slow him down tonight.

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. PJ Tucker

On this side, we know Tucker will guard Harden and try to make his life miserable. Harden had a couple of nice plays over Tucker, but mostly did his damage in transition against Phoenix in the last game. I don't think there's a better "Harden Stopper" in the league, as James has conquered most foes including Tony Allen and other defensive aces.

Tucker is the prototypical "3-and-D" player. He's shooting 41% from distance over his last five games so it will be imperative for Harden or whomever defends him to stay home.

Advantage: Rockets

Power Forward: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Markieff Morris

Kieff went 3-20 against the Kings. He probably won't do that again.

D-Mo went 1-7 from the line against Portland and missed his share of bunnies. He probably won't do that again.

I expect D-Mo to do work inside, and I expect the Morii to do work outside.

Advantage: Even

Center: Joey Dorsey vs. Miles Plumlee

With Dwight Howard and Alex Len out, this matchup loses a lot of luster.

Wright has given Houston a lot of problems over the years and Plumlee is big enough to do damage against a smaller Houston front line. So once again, Houston will have to attack the rebounds as a unit and figure out a defensive system that doesn't get the Rockets guards stuck on the Suns bigs.

Advantage: Suns


Rockets: Propeller Plane, Josh SmithCorey BrewerTerrence Jones

Suns: Isaiah Thomas, Brandan WrightGerald Green, Marcus Morris

Advantage: Even

Prediction: Harden doesn't get enough help and Phoenix just wants it more. Suns win 102-88.

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