The gist: With seven players scoring in double figures, the Rockets easily dispatched a Suns squad that displayed no offensive firepower whatsoever. They take on the Timberwolves, who are coming off a 108-105 win despite allowing the Nets’ Anthony Morrow to run amok with 42 points.
Key matchup: Chandler Parsons vs Michael Beasley
Minnesota has been playing with a purpose ever since Beasley returned from his foot injury. Adelman has shuffled his lineup and now has Beasley in a sixth man role, a position Beasley relishes and maximizes. Parsons cannot allow another offensive explosion from the volatile forward similar to what happened in their last tiff.
X-factor: Kyle Lowry
Lowry is coming off a 5-8-9 night against Phoenix that left many scratching their heads. Lowry seems to be all over the court with his hustle but looks gassed when the Rockets set up their offense. Lowry will need help from the big men in terms of initiating the offense from the post for him to be at peak performance longer.
Code Red: Nikola Pekovic is coming off a career night, pouring 27 points and grabbing 11 boards in their win last night. Pekovic has been a revelation, providing significant contributions whenever he spells Darko Milicic. Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson cannot rest on their laurels against the up-and-coming big. In their last game, Kevin Love also got a lot of open looks from the perimeter. Someone (by someone, we all mean Luis Scola) has to keep the defense honest on him.
There’s been a lot of chatter of late about Marcus Morris and his relegation to the D-League. I’m not sure I understand it.
First, there’s the insinuation that because Morris has not yet contributed to the varsity, he’s a certified bust: this is beyond absurd. Morris is just 1/3 of the way into his rookie season on a team with playoff aspirations. NBA rookies rarely see significant time; don’t take the exceptional case of Chandler Parsons as the norm. Both Aaron Brooks and Patrick Patterson saw time in the NBDL before making major contributions to the Rockets. It’s just standard procedure. The Rockets want their freshmen to get reps in the minors, playing in controlled conditions, before they are thrown into the fire. Parsons was a player so polished that there wasn’t much to learn down there anyway.
The All-Star starters have just been announced. The Rockets are currently at 12-10 and would like to gain traction in an increasingly tight Southwest Division race. They are currently tied with the Grizzlies for the ninth seed and a game out of the playoffs behind the Lakers.
The gist: The Rockets suffered a second half meltdown in a 99-91 loss to the Spurs. Houston now plays host to the Suns before embarking on a six-game road swing. Steve Nash had a memorable evening in the Suns’ 120-103 victory over the Hornets. He scored a season-high 30 points and surpassed Kevin Johnson as the franchise’s all-time assists leader.
Key matchup: Samuel Dalembert vs Marcin Gortat
Dalembert did not see action in the closing minutes of the Spurs game. He will be raring to bring down the Suns’ double-double machine, but Gortat will not be boxed out easily. The last time the Polish Hammer had less than 10 rebounds was back in January 8 against the Bucks.
X-factor: Chandler Parsons
Parsons has looked completely out of sync in the past four games. It goes beyond his pedestrian stats. It’s the little things: shot selection, staying in front of his man, making scrappy plays. He looks lost on the basketball court. Against Grant Hill and Jared Dudley, Parsons won’t have any excuses.
Code Red: Nash’s 30-10 night makes him the oldest player to achieve such a feat at 37 (and 11 months). Lowry must not allow another point guard to blitz past him after he was abused by Tony Parker.