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4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 PM MST6:00 PM EST3:00 UAE (+1)01:0019:00 ET6:00 PM CT22:00 , April 7, 2019
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 18,055

Rockets host Suns as playoffs loom

According to STATS
According to STATS

Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets

  1. Houston has won 10 straight meetings with Phoenix, its longest active streak against any opponent and the longest streak by either team in the history of the series, although the last three wins have been by single digits.

When the Rockets were three games under .500 one week into December, their current standing in the Western Conference seemed as improbable as their shockingly awful start.

But on Friday, Houston throttled the New York Knicks 120-96 and, combined with the Portland Trail Blazers' loss to the Denver Nuggets, tightened its grip on the third seed in the West. The Rockets improved to 19-4 since the All-Star break and will enter their home finale against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at Toyota Center 1½ games up on Portland with two games to play.

The Trail Blazers will host the Nuggets on Sunday after falling in Denver 119-110 on Friday.

The Rockets have suffered as many losses (14) since Dec. 8 as they recorded over their opening 25 games. Once ravaged by injuries, Houston is 41-14 over its last 55 contests.

"We've got a great group of veteran guys that understand what's at stake here," said Rockets assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik, who filled in for Mike D'Antoni (illness) against the Knicks. "And continuing to build on our championship habits because, hey, the playoffs are going to be starting here in seven, eight days. So we need to make sure that we continue to get better. It's understood that every game is a playoff implication game."

On Jan. 23, the Rockets needed MVP candidate James Harden to score 61 points in order to fend off the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Houston was far more workmanlike in the second meeting between the teams, building a 16-point advantage by the close of the first quarter and extending that lead to 42 points before mercifully easing off the gas in the fourth.

"We're building very, very good habits no matter who we play," Harden said after producing 26 points, eight rebounds and eight assists over 29 minutes. "That's our mindset. That's what we preach and that's what we've been talking about. It was a great job by the guys of going out there and playing four quarters like it was any other team."

The Suns closed out their home schedule with a 133-126 overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, a victory that provided Phoenix a bit of a thrust in advance of its offseason.

The Suns were without six rotation players, including standout guard Devin Booker, yet unearthed strong performances from Josh Jackson, Ray Spalding and Dragan Bender, whose playing time in his third season has been drastically slashed. Granted a rare opportunity to contribute, Bender posted 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and a career-high seven blocks.

"He's still a young player who's trying to figure out and realize (his place)," said Suns coach Igor Kokoskov. "He doesn't even know how much - 7-1 is 7-1 in Europe or here, it's the same. So he's got to use that, trust his size, trust his presence. Meet them with the chest, use his length.

"That's something that with these kind of games we talked about before the game we can accomplish. It's something that he, that we can accomplish as a team, and it's something that he has to do on the court to feel that he he's capable of doing it. I'm glad, I'm happy for him."

--Field Level Media

Updated April 6, 2019

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