The Phoenix Suns’ run through the Western Conference last postseason set the stage for great expectations in 2021-22, so when Phoenix lost three of four to open the season, eyebrows were raised.
It didn’t take long for the Suns to find their stride following and perform more like a title contender, and when Phoenix visits the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on Sunday, it will do so riding a seven-game winning streak that included a 123-111 home victory over the Rockets on Nov. 4.
In their 119-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, the Suns showcased their offensive might by shooting 48.9 percent while making 18 of 37 3-pointers. Yet, the Suns have built their win streak on the defensive end, ranking second in the league to the Golden State Warriors in defensive rating (100.8 points per 100 possessions allowed) over the past seven games.
That effectiveness has fueled an already stellar offense, with the Suns ranking third in the NBA in effective field goal percentage (56.1) during their streak. Phoenix has a clear understanding of how to play its best basketball and the healthy relationship between its defense and offense.
“That’s what we feel is our best basketball,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said. “Starting off on the defensive end and letting the offense take care of itself, feeding off the momentum from our defense. That’s one of our points of emphasis and we’re trying to bring it, especially on the road.”
The stop in Houston will be the second of a three-game road trip for the Suns. It will also mark the finale of a three-game homestand for the Rockets, who will embark on a four-game road trip following their matchup with Phoenix.
The Rockets’ losing skid reached 10 games with their 104-92 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Turnovers are usually the Rockets’ undoing but against Portland, Houston committed just 13 turnovers that the Trail Blazers converted into 11 points.
Instead, Houston shot just 40 percent and missed 25 of 32 3-pointers. Houston went seven-plus minutes without a field goal in the second quarter while surrendering control, and the Rockets’ woeful free-throw shooting continues to serve as an underlying issue hindering development.
Despite leading the league in free throw attempts (25) and fifth in free throws made (17.3) per game, the Rockets are last in the league, shooting 69 percent from the charity stripe.
“We were moving the ball and getting really quality looks, and we didn’t make them,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “We were climbing uphill most of the game because of that. We were creating good shots for our teammates, executing the way that we wanted to execute. We did a lot better.
“We had some layups that we missed. We again missed 10 free throws. I wasn’t at all disappointed in the way that we played and the way that we fought and the way that we executed. We just didn’t make enough shots.”
–Field Level Media