Phoenix at Houston
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: HOU -16.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Houston Rockets are riding a three-game winning streak as it hosts the Western Conference’s worst team, the 17-37 Phoenix Suns. Phoenix is just 8-20 on the road this season and the Rockets are 20-6 at home where they will be 16.5 point favorites in action on NBA League pass at 8 PM Central. The over/under is set high at 233.5, a reflection not only of Houston’s high-octane offense but also the Suns abysmal team defense which surrenders 112.3 points per game on average.
Its defense really has been the primary issue in Phoenix, but the Suns’ offense is also inefficient and clogged due to a lack of outside shooting running throughout its entire backcourt. The premier player on Phoenix is still Eric Bledsoe, but neither he nor up and comer Devin Booker are elite shooters, which is compounded by the Suns’ premier wing players (T.J. Warren and P.J. Tucker) having the same exact inefficiencies. Phoenix shoots just 34.2 percent from three-point range as a team while connecting on only 8.0 per game.
Booker is a solid 36 percent, but he has been billed to be a much more volatile scorer than his 21 points per game on 17.8 field goals are dictating. Or perhaps it is a case of expecting too much too soon, with so many guards clogging the Suns rotation and taking up usage. Even so, Booker shoots the most on the team but rank No. 4 in points per possession behind Bledsoe and big men, Tyson Chandler and Alex Len. Chandler and Len are not even good offensive centers, but the Suns are relatively proficient at setting up their big men, including rookie Marquese Chriss, who has impressed in stints despite being mostly unready at just 19 years of age.
Maryland product Alex Len has been something of a disappointment and has fallen out of favor, seeing under 20 minutes a night and picking up 3.0 fouls in so little time. The Suns do suffer from a lack of depth and until the defense improves dramatically, teams like tonight’s opponent are just going to run them out of the gym. Houston should be able to exploit Phoenix’s look of confusion on the defensive end regularly, and for the Suns to even keep it close it is going to require an extra-human scoring effort from both Bledsoe and Booker.
That holds true even with Eric Gordon unlikely to play for the Rockets. Gordon is listed as questionable with a back problem, and he sat out the team’s 107-95 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. James Harden is already the focal point of the offense, but expect forward Ryan Anderson and swingman Trevor Ariza to see a significant uptick in usage. Both are good scorers when locked in, and Ariza impacts a lot of games even without shooting the ball a lot.
But with Gordon nursing the back, even if he does play it could be a much higher usage rate than typical from Ariza. Ariza’s career once included a stop in Houston as a max-contract No. 1 option player, but he never arrived into that role and is best suited as a role player. The Rockets seem to have surrounded Harden with just the right role players in fact, and Houston should be able to run away from a team clearly in tank mode like the Suns tonight.
The Suns will look to obtain some outside shooting in the draft, but something about the chemistry of its backcourt seems most off. Phoenix is in better shape rebuilding than several clubs with some nice moveable assets like Bledsoe, but it is clear this Suns team is doing little more but extending its season through the end to get to its inevitably high draft pick in the 2017 crop.