As much as we want to say that the Houston Rockets are in disarray and that the front office needs to do something, there's always something humbling about another team's struggles. Not in the "Ha ha you're struggling," way but in the "Man at least we don't have all that going on."
In the offseason, it looked like Sacramento would be that team. Remember, their owner wanted to play 4-on-5 and they were trading everyone and Boogie hated George Karl and Rajon Rondo was going to kill the team. But they've survived into a solid group with no rumblings from the inside.
The Phoenix Suns are a different beast. They were a team that faded late in the regular season last year but were always in the race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. In the offseason they brought in Tyson Chandler and were close to signing LaMarcus Aldridge. Expectations were high and the team got off to a 7-5 start, including two wins over Portland and a big win against the Clippers.
Alas, things change quickly in the NBA. Since the 7-5 start, the Suns are 7-31. They have won 2 of their last 21 games. They fired Jeff Hornacek and have dealt with internal issues with Markieff Morris and a huge injury to Eric Bledsoe.
When you look at Phoenix's recent run of games, it's pretty evenly spread between good and bad opponents. But the overwhelming result from each game has been "blowout."
Sure, they barely lost to Cleveland and in Oklahoma City. But the vast majority of the results are cringe-worthy. The Suns haven't won a road game since December 7. They've lost to the Sixers twice. They lost by 30 in Minnesota. The Kings dropped 142 on them. The Lakers whipped them by 20.
How can this game not terrify the pants off of a Rockets fan? On paper, the Rockets should decimate this team. Sure, Phoenix put up a good fight against the Raptors and teams that fire their coaches always play hard for a bit (as we've seen first-hand this season). But the Rockets are the better team here, top to bottom. Not to mention that the Suns are without Bledsoe, Ronnie Price, T.J. Warren, and possibly Brandon Knight.
The Suns have the ability to stick with Houston. Devin Booker is averaging 19 points per game over his last 5 games. Archie Goodwin has scored 18 or more in 4 of his last 8. P.J. Tucker is given the Tony Allen treatment whenever he guards James Harden and is allowed to be physical with the Rockets' star. Tyson Chandler is still Tyson Chandler, if a bit older. And Morris has killed Houston with his midrange game.
Am I grasping at straws here? Probably. But this young Suns team is reminiscent of the young Philly team that came into Houston earlier this year and hung around and hung around until late. On the road, I still haven't seen definitive proof that the Rockets can close out an inferior team consistently.
So while the line in Vegas is Houston by 8.5, I expect a closer game.
Tip-off is at 8pm CST.
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