Phoenix continues its unusual road trip, stopping at one of Jim Rome’s favorite mentions, H-Town. Can the Suns handle Houston, the team James Harden felt he was too good to play for? The Phoenix Suns have mostly continued their “bubble experience” in Orlando last summer and gotten off to a good start this season. They are playing a wraparound road trip, which doesn’t make sense, unless you realize Phoenix came home after a trio of away games, only to see their three-game homestand wiped out by virus concerns. That forced the desert dwellers to venture again out on the road before returning home to play Denver Friday.
It would seem the remaining Houston Rockets players are pleased to have Victor Oladipo, who comes in having said all the right things about his new teammates, as compared to the plump fellow who just left. The NBA odds have Phoenix favored by -5.5 at BetMGM.
Phoenix Suns vs. Houston Rockets
Suns Window to Wins Not Large
Phoenix (7-5 SU & ATS) on Monday lost at Memphis 108-104, which was their third away defeat in four tries. It showed two ways the Suns can be beaten, with one easier than the other. Devin Booker had a rare poor game with only 12 points on 5-for-21 shooting. That was his first weak shooting performance in eight games when he scored eight against New Orleans, but his team won by 25 on Dec. 29 and that was overlooked. Booker has scored at least 20 points in his team’s other 10 contests.
What isn’t as easy to repair is the Phoenix bench which is not deep. In the loss to the Grizzlies, the Suns’ non-starters were outscored by 26 points. This doesn’t happen every night, nonetheless, that places head coach Monty Williams in a predicament trying to balance rest and on the floor execution. All coaches expect ebb and flow in every game but don’t want to see 10-point leads evaporate into deficits just because you sub out the starters. That might be less of a problem against Houston, who isn’t deep either, yet, you have to account for this when making NBA picks.
Houston Headed in the Wrong Direction (But Seems Fine with That)
After Monday’s five-point loss at Chicago, that left Houston 4-8 SU and ATS. More news has emerged on James Harden hardly being a model teammate and that goes back to comments from Russell Westbrook last season.
With that trade and the general direction of the franchise, a dismantling and rebuild seem inevitable now. Go back to last year and the table was set when the Houston front offense went all-in on small-ball under then-coach Mike D’Antoni and everyone was aware that was not sustainable long term. If you go back to that point and think about where we are today, the Rockets are in the process of a teardown.
For now, the core of the Rockets is Eric Gordon, Christian Wood, P.J Tucker, and Victor Oladipo. Other than Wood, all others appear to be chips that can be dealt for draft picks or younger players the Houston front office likes. As far as scoring, the Rockets are unlikely to match last year’s No. 2 offense that averaged better than 117 PPG without Harden. Head coach Stephen Silas will probably settle for the 110 PPG level his team is at and where he is looking for improvement is on the defensive end where his club permits 112 PPG. Not having Harden will help and Silas will have a chance to get his message across if the remaining veteran players’ buy-in. Still, no easy solution to fix Houston.
The Point Spread Winner
With the state of affairs changed greatly in Houston, the Rockets are decided home underdogs to Phoenix.
The Suns have enjoyed a great deal of success at Houston, sporting a 29-15-1 ATS since 1996. Those numbers came when Phoenix had superior teams and the Rockets did not and when Houston took for granted rotten Suns teams in the last five or six years. In fact, the last time Phoenix was anywhere near this large of a road favorite in southwest Texas was January of 2007, giving -8.5 points and winning 100-91.
In the home/road scenario for both teams, their scoring differential is less than one-point. Though the Rockets are 15-26 ATS after one or more losses, they have a +0.6 in point differential in those 41 encounters. With this in mind, Booker and the boys might emerge with a victory against the NBA lines, they just fail to cover the number.
NBA Picks: Rockets +5.5 at BetMGM