March 9, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns point guard Kendall Marshall (12) in the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Phoenix Suns (22-42) Vs. Houston Rockets (34-30)

The Phoenix Suns square off against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night at the Toyota Center.

The Suns narrowly defeated the Rockets at home 107-105 on March 9. However, this matchup could be an entirely different ballgame considering Houston’s 20-9 home record.

Suns Keys to the Game:

  • Bench production. The Suns bench played exceptionally well in their previous meeting vs. the Rockets. Jared Dudley, in particular, led the entire roster with 22 points and seven assists. Don’t forget that Phoenix was able to defeat Houston without Marcin Gortat (foot) and Jermaine O’Neal (personal).
  • Pressure the shooters. Houston relies heavily on their perimeter shooting to control the tempo of the game. James Harden put up 38 points and eight assists against Phoenix last Saturday. The Suns must do a better job defending specifically the 3-point line, wherein Harden previously shot 7 of 10 vs. Phoenix.  

Rockets Keys to the Game:

  • Neutralize Goran Dragic. While Dragic only had one assist in the Rockets’ loss, he did direct the rest of the Suns’ starting lineup with 18 points. If Houston forces Phoenix to rely elsewhere, the Suns will likely have trouble finding any perceivable offensive rhythm throughout the game.
  • Dominate down low. Although Omer Asik has contributed nine-straight double digit rebounding performances, the Suns were able to control the boards 47 to 39 despite missing their top two centers. This must change if the Rockets are to have any hope for long-term success.

Matchup to Watch:

Omer Asik vs. Hamed Haddadi. In 28 minutes of playing time vs. Houston, Haddadi accounted for 11 rebounds off the bench. The only player from either team to outrebound him was Asik with 16 rebounds in 38 minutes.

X-Factor:

James Harden. The Rockets need Harden to be their impact player. Even against a struggling Suns organization, without Harden, Houston lacks the explosive presence that makes the team operate efficiently and effectively predominantly on the offensive end of the floor.

“We can’t look at the Phoenix Suns and their roster,” Harden said.  “We’ve got to go out there and compete and play hard every possession. Times like this, we need wins.”

Tags: Houston Rockets Phoenix Suns

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