Monday, February 4 at 9:00 PM ET
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Coverage: NBA League Pass
The Phoenix Suns try to at least have a decent showing when they host the inconsistent Houston Rockets.
Rockets get payback
The Rockets were able to avenge one of their most embarrassing losses of the season by crushing the Jazz 125-98 at Vivint Smart Home Arena, matching in margin a 27-point beating they took there on December 6. Chris Paul didn't play because he rested and center Clint Capela is still out with a right thumb injury but they were still able to end their two-game losing streak.
This will be the first of three meetings between the Rockets and Suns this season and Chris Paul is expected to play but the inconsistent Rockets will lean on James Harden, who extended his 30-point streak to 26 games after scoring 43 points with 12 rebounds, six steals, five assists and four blocks against the Jazz. Harden is averaging an NBA-best 36.3 points, 8.1 assists and 6.8 rebounds in 37.5 minutes over 49 games.
The Suns are a mess
Inexperience and injuries are hurting a Suns team that lost a season-high-tying 10 straight games, including last Saturday's 118-112 home setback against the Hawks. Their second-leading scorer T.J. Warren (18.0 points per game) has missed his last five games with right ankle soreness and rookie point guard De'Anthony Melton (right ankle sprain) was out for the fourth straight game but rookie center Deandre Ayton returned after missing six games with a sprained left ankle and finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Ayton (16.3 points and 10.6 rebounds) did his part on the glass and grabbed five offensive rebounds but the Hawks outrebounded the Suns 53-37, including a whopping 10 offensive rebounds from second-year forward John Collins. Star guard Devin Booker shined as usual with 32 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds but Kelly Oubre Jr. struggled with just 11 points on 5 of 16 shooting, including 1 of 7 from 3-point range.
The Houston Rockets are:
2-6 ATS in their last eight games after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game
2-7 ATS in their last nine games overall
1-5 ATS in their last six road games
1-6 ATS in their last seven games playing on 1 days rest
1-7 ATS in their last eight games following a straight up win
0-7 ATS in their last seven road games against a team with a home winning percentage below .400
0-6 ATS in their last six road games against a team with a losing home record
The Phoenix Suns are:
4-1 ATS in their last five games against Southwest Division opponents
James Harden is on fire and the Rockets played well against the Jazz but I can't trust them laying 8.5 points on the road, even against a struggling team like the Suns. Phoenix moves the ball well and they like to play at a fast pace but the biggest key for them to stay in this game will be stopping the Houston supporting cast.
The Rockets are vulnerable on defense and is hard to ask anyone to stop James Harden but the Suns have to contain Gerald Green, Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried. Green had 25 points against the Jazz, Rivers finished with 16 points and five assists and Faried added 16 points and 12 rebounds and the Suns won't be able to keep up with the Rockets if these three players have their way with them, especially Faried going up against Ayton.
The Suns also need Kelly Oubre Jr. to have better shot selection and if him and Ayton step up and Booker plays at his best they can at least be competitive against the Rockets.
NBA Pick: Suns +8.5 (-110) at Jazz Sports
Check odds here: http://bit.ly/jazzsportsON