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Houston Rockets vs. Phoenix Suns: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Houston Rockets vs. Phoenix Suns: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

For the fourth and final time this season, the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns will meet. The Rockets have won two of the first three, although two games were decided by three points or less.

Expect this one to be a memorable conclusion.

Entering this game, the Rockets are 45-35 and in a tight race for the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoff structure. They're 16-23 on the road and own the tiebreaker over the Golden State Warriors.

As for Phoenix, they're 24-56 overall and 16-24 at home. They've been eliminated from postseason contention, but the Suns managed to take down the Dallas Mavericks earlier this week.

Can they make it two Texas teams in a row?

 

Time: Monday, Apr. 15 at 10:00 p.m. EDT

TV: CSN Houston & FAHD

Records: Houston Rockets (45-35, 16-23 road) at Phoenix Suns (24-56, 16-24 home)

Betting Line: Rockets (-7) via OddsShark.com

 

Houston Rockets Injury Report

N/A

 

Phoenix Suns Injury Report

Michael Beasley, Birth of Child, Questionable

Channing Frye, Enlarged Heart, Out

Marcin Gortat, Right Foot Sprain, Out

Jermaine O'Neal, Bruised Shin, Questionable

 

Key Storyline: Fighting for the Sixth Seed

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
The last time these two teams met, James Harden saved the day with a game-winning three.

When it comes to the Phoenix Suns, they have very little to play for in terms of team success. They own the third-worst record in the NBA and are far removed from postseason contention.

With that being established, the Houston Rockets have everything to gain and, perhaps, even more to lose.

The Rockets are currently 45-35, owning a tiebreaker over the Golden State Warriors for sixth in the Western Conference. Should they win the sixth seed, they'd be in line for a first-round series against either the Denver Nuggets or Los Angeles Clippers.

If Houston falls to seventh, however, they will play either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs.

In this instance, the Rockets are looking to pick the more favorable poison. The Thunder are a star-studded squad, while the Spurs are well-known as the class of the West.

How better for Phoenix to close out their season than to spoil Houston's postseason standing?

 

Key Matchup: Goran Dragic vs. Jeremy Lin

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

During the Phoenix Suns' Apr. 9 loss to the Houston Rockets, point guard Goran Dragic picked up 15 points, 10 assists and four steals in 38 minutes. Dragic made 6-of-10 from the field and even came up with four rebounds and a block.

He also forced Jeremy Lin to shoot 0-for-4 from beyond the arc.

This time around, don't expect Dragic to get so lucky while tasked with taking down the man who replaced him in Houston. After all, this is one of the best months of Lin's NBA career—including Linsanity.

Thus far in April, Lin is averaging 18.2 points and 8.0 assists per game.

If Lin is able to perform at that label against a defensively inept Phoenix team, he could help lead the Rockets to victory. If Dragic is able to counter with similar production his outing on Apr. 9, however, Houston is in trouble.

Get ready for a memorable point guard battle in Phoenix.

 

X-Factor: Luis Scola, Phoenix Suns

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The last time these two teams met, the Houston Rockets escaped by a score of 101-98. During that game, the Phoenix Suns received a flash back performance from an international star.

Former Rockets power forward Luis Scola.

After playing five seasons with the Rockets, Scola exacted a measure of revenge by scoring 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds. This wasn't just a fluke outing, as Scola has been red hot as of late.

During his past four games, the Argentinian big man is averaging 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest.

If the Suns are to win this game, they'll need Scola to produce at that rate. The Rockets are weak in terms of interior defense and Scola is the perfect player to expose that.

If he fails to, however, the Suns will find it difficult to maintain Houston's offensive pace.

 

Prediction:

When the Houston Rockets travel to play the Phoenix Suns, it's fair to assume that this game will be close. After all, two of their first three battles have been decided by three points or less.

Who will win?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Just don't expect James Harden to let this one slip away.

This is a must-win game for the Rockets, as they attempt to gain position in the Western Conference standings. With a loss, they would be forced to play either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs.

With a win, they would improve their chances of earning the sixth seed and drawing more favorable match ups against the Denver Nuggets or Los Angeles Clippers.

Luis Scola will make this one interesting with a quality performance on the glass, while Shannon Brown will step up as a scorer. With Goran Dragic facilitating at a high rate, the Suns will be in position for the upset.

Unfortunately, Harden is the X-Factor and Jeremy Lin is averaging 18.2 points and 8.0 assists in April—Houston has this one.

Houston Rockets 106, Phoenix Suns 103

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