Suns-Rockets Game Preview: March 18
Posted: March 18, 2012
After winning three games in three nights, the Phoenix Suns are in position to surpass the .500 mark for the first time this season.
The surging Suns can accomplish that feat Sunday night at home if they snap a three-game losing streak in the series against the Houston Rockets.
Phoenix (22-22) has won 10 of 13 overall and nine of 11 at home, surging from five games out of a playoff spot in mid-February to its current standing just outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. Jared Dudley scored 23 points, Channing Frye had 15 with 13 rebounds and Steve Nash added 17 assists Friday as the Suns beat Detroit 109-101 to join Chicago, Miami and Oklahoma City as the only NBA teams to sweep a back-to-back-to-back set this season.
The Suns also improved to .500 for the first time since they were 4-4 on Jan. 8.
"We want to create a rhythm each night, and need to be aggressive," said Frye, averaging 17.8 points in the last four contests. "Right now, it's about guys making big-time plays. We keep looking at that (playoff) board and we've just got to keep grinding. You see everybody's having a good time."
While the Suns have enjoyed themselves over the past month, coach Alvin Gentry wants his players to understand that work remains if they want to return to the postseason after missing out in 2010-11.
"At this point, we need to focus at the task at hand," Gentry said. "We know that we have very little margin for error. We know we are still going to have to put together some wins. Our goal right now is to focus on the immediate task."
The immediate task is to find a way to beat Houston (24-21), which has won both meetings this season by a combined 25 points. The Rockets snapped a four-game road skid in the series with a 96-89 victory at Phoenix on Feb. 9.
Frye had 21 points and 10 boards for the Suns in that contest.
The short-handed Rockets are among the top eight teams in the West, but they're trying to bounce back from a 95-91 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
Without starters Kevin Martin (shoulder) and Kyle Lowry (illness), Houston could not hold a six-point lead in the final minutes and lost for the seventh time in 10 games. Courtney Lee scored a season-high 25 points in the defeat.
"It was definitely a winnable game for us down the stretch," said forward Chase Budinger, who added 19 points. "Our main thing was that we couldn't get stops in the last three minutes.
While Martin and Lowry will likely remain out, it's uncertain when Marcus Camby will make his Rockets debut after being acquired from Portland on Thursday. The club also acquired veteran guard Derek Fisher from the Lakers on Thursday, but is expected to buy out his $3.4 million player option for next season.
With a thin roster, the Rockets could rely more on Lee. The fourth-year swingman has topped the 20-point mark in two of his last three games.
Teammate Luis Scola has averaged 20.3 points in his last four games, and totaled 30 in the two victories over the Suns this season.
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