Suns-Rockets Game Preview
Aaron Brooks played a limited role the first time he faced his former team. With Steve Nash out, he'll likely be counted on heavily to help lead Phoenix to another victory over Houston.
The visiting Suns look for their eighth straight win against the Rockets on Monday night with their star point guard expected to miss his second consecutive game.
Nash missed Phoenix's 111-88 loss to Orlando on Sunday with what's been diagnosed as "pelvic instability." Brooks got his first start with the Suns since being acquired in a deadline trade with Houston, scoring a team-high 19 points and adding 10 assists.
"I'm still feeling it out," Brooks said, "finding out everybody, where they want the ball at, different spots, trying to figure out the offense, trying to watch Steve, see what he does and implement that, since this offense has been so successful."
Though Brooks proved he can be a suitable replacement for Nash, the Suns (33-31) hope the two-time MVP can return quickly as they battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Phoenix has lost two straight and is 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Memphis.
The Suns haven't lost three consecutive games since Jan. 22-26.
"Steve is the backbone of our team," coach Alvin Gentry said. "I mean, obviously, he gets guys good looks and he creates situations where we have pace and rhythm and things like that. But we don't have Steve, so we have to create that some other way."
Phoenix has won both matchups against the Rockets this season, including a 113-110 victory Tuesday. Vince Carter and Hakim Warrick each scored 32 points, while Brooks went scoreless in 12 minutes as Nash dished out 14 assists.
Brooks became expendable in Houston due to the emergence of Kyle Lowry, who had 32 points in the loss Tuesday.
However, Lowry was held to 13 points Saturday in a 115-107 loss to San Antonio - the second straight defeat for the Rockets (33-34).
Leading scorer Kevin Martin, who had averaged just 16.0 points over his last four, scored 28 and inspired a second-half comeback which fell short.
Houston, which played without Luis Scola because of a sore left knee, is 11th in the West and three games out of the final playoff spot. It's unclear if Scola will be ready to go Monday.
"I'm very disappointed for our team," coach Rick Adelman said. "They played really hard after the first quarter. We picked it up defensively and played better, but they made plays down the stretch where we were trying to play with a team that hasn't been on the court very much."
The Rockets are in the midst of a season-high six-game homestand, but they've lost their last three and 10 of the last 13 home matchups against the Suns. Phoenix won in Houston 123-116 on Nov. 22.
Martin is averaging just 13.4 points in his career against Phoenix, his second-lowest total against any opponent behind his 13.3 versus Miami.
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