Saturday, November 26, 2022

Preview: Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns

Chris Paul now stands third on the NBA’s all-time assists list, but next on the agenda is helping the Phoenix Suns move above .500 for the first time this season.

Last season’s Western Conference champions have gotten off to an uninspiring 3-3 start, but the Suns will look to register their third straight victory when they host the Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Paul was the star Tuesday in Phoenix’s 112-100 comeback victory over the visiting New Orleans Pelicans when he handed out a season-best 18 assists and passed Mark Jackson (10,334) and Suns icon Steve Nash (10,335) on the all-time list.

Paul’s total sits at 10,346. John Stockton is the all-time leader with 15,806 and Jason Kidd stands second with 12,091.

“I say it all the time, (I appreciate) not only to be on the team and still be in the league but just to be playing,” the 36-year-old Paul said after scoring 14 points in the victory. “You know you don’t take that for granted.

“But to be third, man, and still be playing, I’m grateful for it and still have a ways to go.”

Paul leads the NBA in assists at 11.8 per game and has notched at least 10 in five of Phoenix’s six games.

Backcourt partner Devin Booker said he draws motivation from Paul’s accomplishments.

“I’m just inspired by it honestly,” Booker said. “Been a fan for a really long time. It’s really fun to see, it’s really fun to be a part of it. A long time from now, I’ll be able to say I got to play with Chris Paul.”

The contest with the Pelicans marked the second straight game in which Phoenix overcame a large deficit.

The Suns trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers by 14 points before rallying for a 101-92 victory on Saturday and were 20 points behind New Orleans before pouring it on and outscoring the Pelicans 36-18 in the final quarter.

Mikal Bridges scored 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting as one of six Phoenix players in double digits. Booker had 18 but shot just 7 of 20 from the field.

The Rockets have lost five straight games while starting 1-6 as they head into the third contest of a five-game road trip.

Houston played one of its best games of the season on Tuesday night but dropped a 119-117 decision to the host Los Angeles Lakers. Two nights earlier, the Rockets notched a season low for points while falling 95-85 to the Lakers.

“I didn’t like how we played the first game, but we for sure grew up a lot,” Houston rookie guard Jalen Green said after Tuesday’s setback. “I think today showed that we grew and started playing as a team and trusting each other.”

Green scored 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting on Tuesday for his second highest-scoring output of the season. The second overall draft pick, who is averaging 14.6 points, had 30 points against the Boston Celtics on Oct. 24.

Big man Christian Wood leads the Rockets in both scoring (20.1 points per game) and rebounding (12.1 per game). Wood had 26 points and 16 boards on Tuesday, with both outputs being his second best of the campaign.

Forward Jae’Sean Tate, who added a season-high 20 points, said he likes the way the team is coming together.

“We’re seeing us get more comfortable with each other,” Tate said. “You’re seeing us get more comfortable in the system, and I think it’s going to get even better as the season progresses. … As long as we continue to learn from game to game, we’re going to see results.”

Houston is expected to get veteran guard Eric Gordon back after a one-game absence caused by nausea. Suns center Deandre Ayton (leg) also sat out Tuesday and is listed as questionable for Thursday.


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