Preview: Rockets (41-38) at Suns (51-28)

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Suns 116, Rockets 106

Rockets

Suns

During the last few weeks, the central thought amongst the Phoenix Suns has been this: “We control our own destiny.” As the NBA’s regular season winds down, that notion still holds true for the Suns when they host the Houston Rockets in US Airways Center tonight.

Everyone in Planet Orange is anticipating the ‘playoffs in the regular season,’ matchups against the Nuggets and Jazz, as the Suns still remain a half game back of Denver and Utah for third in the West.

But neither of those games mean anything if the Suns don’t take care of business against H-Town tonight. The Suns have taken the first three games from the Rockets so far this season, but none of the victories have come easily — with Phoenix winning by an average of just 6.0 points per game and with none being double-figure victories.

The Suns edged out the Rockets on Nov. 17 after they erased a 15-point deficit, which, at the time, improved them to a league best 10-2. Phoenix also bested the Rockets twice in January, including a Jan. 31 overtime win thanks to a 36-point, 11-rebound effort from Amare Stoudemire that came the game after his infamous fourth-quarter benching in Dallas.

But Houston is a different team than the one the Suns faced in January. Although they’ve lost Carl Landry, they’ve added another shooter in Kevin Martin, who has shown the scoring prowess to go for 20-plus night in and night out.

The Rockets also dealt for former New York Knick and Arizona Wildcat (had to mention it) Jordan Hill at the deadline. Although he isn’t exactly a guy that you mention on the pre-game whiteboard, Hill is finding a groove with the Rockets, as he’s averaged 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in his last five games.

As a team the Rockets have tailed off a bit since the All-Star break, but they are playing the part of playoff-seeding spoiler nicely, and Phoenix needs to play a complete game to keep the possibility of home-court advantage alive. Houston is 4-1 in its last five games, including an overtime victory over the Celtics in Boston and a 17-point walloping of the Jazz that Suns fans certainly loved to see.

To earn that crucial victory the Suns need to do their best to contain Martin and Aaron Brooks, who has averaged 24.7 points and 8.0 assists against Steve Nash this season.

Once again, the Suns control their own destiny. They missed an opportunity when they beat themselves in Oklahoma City, and they can’t let that happen again with Denver and Utah on deck.

Utah gets a gimme with the Warriors on Tuesday, and the Nuggets take on the Grizzlies before ending their regular season in Phoenix. So the Suns can’t afford a loss to the Rockets tonight, or the idea of home-court advantage likely goes out the window.

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