The road trip from hell continues with a stop in Houston, as the Suns continue to distance themselves from the rest of the Western Conference pack, and not in a good way.
Phoenix enters play today 2 1/2 games behind the Mavericks for the final playoff spot and trails Houston and New Orleans by 4 1/2 for that fourth seed that looked so approachable a couple weeks ago.
The Rockets bullied the Suns in a testy 94-82 victory back in November that included some shoving and even a suspension, but both teams are missing a star for the season since that early contest, Phoenix with Amare and Houston with T-Mac.
What that game proved is that it’s no fluke that the Rockets rank fifth in defensive efficiency (101.8 points per 100) and field-goal percentage defense (44.9 percent).
The Suns managed just 82 points (second-worst of the season) on 37.6 percent shooting in that first meeting, and the Rockets didn’t even have Mr. Glue Guy Shane Battier to muck things up.
The one thing about all of these games Phoenix has been losing the past few months is the Suns have played just one game against a team currently seeded 4-8 in the West since Dec. 18, a dominating blowout win over Dallas back on Jan. 9. That changes in a big way starting with tonight’s tilt in Houston, where the Rockets have won 10 in a row.
Still, this game seems a bit more winnable than Sunday’s showdown in San Antonio, and if the Suns can pull out this one and Tuesday’s game against Dallas, even if they lose to the Spurs and Cavs they needn’t be too disappointed about this stretch, as tough as it was to drop a pair of winnable games in Florida.
What more could Shaq ask for as a 37th birthday present than a tough road win against a team ahead of the Suns in the West?