The Houston Rockets recently ripped off a six-game winning streak and own the second-best record in the Western Conference, and they are about to get better. The Rockets are expected to welcome point guard Chris Paul back to the lineup when they visit the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.
Paul started the season opener but left in the second half and missed the next 13 games while recovering from a bone bruise in his knee originally suffered during the preseason. “He’s ready to go,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters of Paul before practice on Wednesday. “I think he’s playing tomorrow, so we’ll see.” While Houston has two solid options at point guard with Paul returning, the Suns are having trouble finding one. Phoenix traded away disgruntled former starter Eric Bledsoe and watched Tyler Ulis total four points on 2-of-12 shooting in two games as a starter after taking over for Mike James, who averaged 13 points on 38.9 percent shooting and 4.2 assists in 10 games as the starter.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (11-4): Houston is adding a future Hall of Fame point guard to a lineup that already includes the NBA’s leader in assists in James Harden, who is averaging 10.3 assists and got used to playing point guard in D’Antoni’s offense while thriving in the role last season. “What we’ve done up to now doesn’t count,” D’Antoni told reporters. “We’ve got a new team (Thursday). When you put that big of a rock into a pond, there’s big waves. ... We have to endure the next two or three games and smooth it out as we go along.” Harden is also second in the NBA in scoring (30.7 points) and is coming off a 38-point effort in a loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday in which he went 19-of-19 from the free-throw line.
ABOUT THE SUNS (5-10): Phoenix shooting guard Devin Booker leads the team in assists (3.9) and is getting more responsibility within the offense. Booker, 21, is averaging 23.2 points and combined for 71 points on 27-of-49 shooting in the last two games - a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers that dropped the Suns to 1-4 on a six-game homestand that ends Thursday. “He’s shown the ability to make plays for others when two guys guard him, and when he’s got it going offensively he’s not afraid to be generous with who he gives it up to,” Phoenix interim head coach Jay Triano told the Arizona Republic of Booker. “He’s done a good job that way.”
1. Suns C Greg Monroe (calf) is coming close to making his team debut after arriving in a trade from the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this month.
2. Rockets SG Eric Gordon is 3-of-18 from 3-point range in the last two games.
3. Houston swept the four-game series last season, winning by an average of 17 points.
PREDICTION: Rockets 120, Suns 111