NBA Basketball

102
Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Phoenix 31 26 28 17 102
Houston 26 29 28 25 108
108
5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)01:0020:00 ET6:00 PM CT23:00 , March 15, 2019
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 18,055

Rockets look to shore up rebounding against Suns

According to STATS
According to STATS

Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets

  1. Houston has won nine straight games against Phoenix, its longest active win streak against any opponent. The Rockets' last streak of 10+ games was 2011-15 against the Hornets (10 straight).
  2. The Suns have won two of their last three road games after losing their previous 13. Their last road game was a 115-111 win at Golden State that snapped an 18-game losing streak to the Warriors.
  3. The Rockets lost at home to the Warriors on Wednesday, 106-104, snapping a season-long nine-game winning streak. Even with the loss, Houston is 40-20 (.667) in games decided by five points or fewer under Mike D'Antoni, the best such record in the NBA over the last three seasons.
  4. Devin Booker has had at least 20 points and four assists in 10 straight games, the longest streak by a Suns player since Kevin Johnson had 11 straight from March 2-21, 1990.
  5. Chris Paul went 7-for-12 (58.3 percent) from the floor on Wednesday after going 8-for-37 (21.6 percent) over his previous four games. The only game all season in which Paul has had more turnovers than assists was his only game against the Suns: February 4 at Phoenix (six turnovers, four assists).
  6. James Harden has had 25+ points, 10+ assists and 3+ steals in back-to-back games -- the only other time anyone has done that this season was also by Harden on November 26-28. The last player to have three straight such games was Denver's Michael Adams from January 29 to February 2, 1991.

Even considering their elevated play of late and the fact that their opponent on Wednesday night participated without a key cog, the Houston Rockets grasped that a continuation of their season-best winning streak would require far more than the pedestrian effort they put forth.

In falling 106-104 to the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center, Houston suffered its first loss after nine successive wins and failed to complete a four-game sweep of the season series against the two-time defending champions. Even though the Warriors were without All-Star forward Kevin Durant (ankle), the Rockets failed to take advantage of that circumstance combined with their stacked roster, one that welcomed back swingman Danuel House Jr.

On Friday, when the Rockets host the Phoenix Suns at Toyota Center in the third game of their four-game homestand, they must correct the problem that undermined their effort against the Warriors, a flaw that has been a season-long issue despite their rapid climb up the standings.

The Rockets allowed a 44-31 edge on the glass against Golden State, marking the 21st time this season they have surrendered a double-digit rebounding advantage. Houston posted six such games last season, and entered Thursday 29th in defensive rebounding rate, ahead of only the Suns. On Wednesday, the Warriors turned 12 offensive boards into 15 second-chance points.

"As a team, we've got to rebound the basketball," Rockets guard James Harden said. "We're so good once we rebound the basketball and get out in transition, but it makes it difficult no matter who we're playing if we give (opponents) 10 second-chance opportunities."

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni can afford to play bigger lineups now that he has a full complement of players. However, a frontline featuring center Clint Capela plus P.J. Tucker and Kenneth Faried at forward inhibits the Rockets' volume 3-point shooting, and while Faried offers rebounding punch, his defense remains erratic. When the Rockets play small, they are often victimized on the boards, leaving Capela alone to shoulder a disproportionate load.

How the Rockets address that issue could shape their stretch run and postseason aspirations.

Given the Suns' placement in the defensive rebounding rate rankings, the Rockets shouldn't encounter a distinct disadvantage on the boards on Friday. But Phoenix has been feisty of late, winning five of seven games before suffering a 114-97 home setback to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

That unexpected string of success featured wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Warriors, the respective top seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference. And while the Suns are mired in the West cellar, there was hope that their collection of young talent would at some point coalesce. After winning three consecutive games at home, progress appeared to be afoot.

Against Utah, the Suns took a step back, showcasing many of the problems that yielded their place in the standings. These are the inconsistencies suffered by youthful rosters.

"We didn't have discipline and the focus to execute a game plan," Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said. "I know offensively I think ... our defense affects our offense in terms of the confidence and rhythm.

"Our offense, our defense when it comes to the discipline wasn't there."

Rookie center Deandre Ayton scored just two points on 1-of-9 shooting against the Jazz.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 14, 2019

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