The Game of the Night is the Phoenix Suns against the Houston Rockets, in a matchup of two Western Conference teams with the playoffs on their minds. Both Houston and Phoenix rank fifth and sixth respectively in the conference, and with Portland’s current free fall, both teams would like to make up ground, in effort to claim home court advantage in round one of the playoffs.
The Rockets are led by Dwight Howard and James Harden. Harden operates the offense with his ability to score and get to the line, while Howard adds his own offensive input, as well as leading the charge on defense. Surrounding both Howard and Harden are a talented bunch of skill players that fit their roles. The duo of Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley provides Houston with a offense-defense combination at their point guard position, while Chandler Parsons gives Houston a versatile wing with the ability to play both forward positions. Terrence Jones has emerged in his third year in the league, averaging 11.9 points and providing solid defense and his rebounding (7.5 per game), which allows Houston to keep a productive rebounder on the floor when Howard goes to the bench.
At 29-19, the Suns have kept their run as one of the biggest surprises in the league. Goran Dragic has developed into one of the better point guards in the league in the midst of a down season for point guards. The injury to Eric Bledsoe was believed to damper Phoenix’s playoff chances, but Channing Frye and the Morris twins give Phoenix an interesting look in terms of shooting while Miles Plumlee protects the rim. With rumors of the Suns being interesting in Pau Gasol, the Suns have their eye on rising up the conference standings, and a win over Houston could help with those endeavors.
If Houston vs. Phoenix doesn’t tickle your fancy, we have some other interesting games. The Portland Trail Blazers vs. the New York Knicks matchup offers LaMarcus Aldridge, Damien Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and Carmelo Anthony on a big stage, the Dallas Mavericks at the Memphis Grizzlies contest consists of two teams fighting for one of the lower seeds in the Western Conference, and the Miami Heat against the Los Angeles Clippers game gives us LeBron James vs. Blake Griffin. Two of the three are ESPN games, so eat them up.
The Call: Rockets 104, Suns 97. The Suns defend the three-point line really well, allowing 31.4 percent, per NBA.com’s Media Stats. The issue? The Rockets allow just 30.9 percent from beyond the arc. The key here will be who hits their threes and who defends them better. If those numbers register as even for both teams, then I expect either Dwight Howard or James Harden to take over the game, pulling Houston to victory.