Rockets at Suns
Chris Paul is asserting himself more with James Harden sidelined with a hamstring injury, and the Houston Rockets have been the beneficiaries. Paul will try to keep his hot streak going when the Rockets put a two-game winning streak on the line at the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
Harden, the league's leading scorer (32.3 points per game) who has missed five games in a row, could return as early as next week and has seen Paul average 26.3 points and 10.5 assists over the past four contests, including 37 and 11 in Wednesday's win over Portland. "He was exceptional," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters. "He really controlled the game, like he can do. His shot-making was as good as I've seen." Paul made his return in November from a knee injury to produce 11 points and 10 assists in just 21 minutes against the Suns as Houston ran away for a 142-116 win, its eight consecutive victory in Phoenix. The Suns have improved since then and are 7-5 in their last 12 games after a a 114-100 win over Oklahoma City on Sunday.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), FS Arizona (Phoenix)
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (29-11): Paul has been outstanding but it's nearly impossible to make up for Harden's absence on his own, and Gerald Green continues to do his part to fill the gap. "We're having to manufacture points in different ways," Paul told reporters after the win over Portland. "Gerald continues to be great and be aggressive. ... James averages 30 and we're just doing it by committee." Green had 12 points Wednesday and scored in double digits in seven straight games since going scoreless in his debut with Houston on Dec. 28.
ABOUT THE SUNS (16-26): Devin Booker and T.J. Warren combined for 49 points against the Thunder but it was the effort of two reserves and former fourth overall picks - Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson - that garnered most of the attention following the win. Bender hit 6-of-8 3-pointers en route to a career-high 20 points while Jackson had 17 points and personal bests of 10 rebounds and five assists just three games after he was benched in a win over Atlanta. "It was kind of hard to take in. I kind of really didn't understand what he was saying," Jackson told reporters of the benching, to which he has responded with three straight double-digit scoring efforts.
1. Rockets G Eric Gordon is averaging 24.8 points over the last four games.
2. Suns G Isaiah Canaan (adductor) and F Marquese Chriss (hip) are both questionable.
3. G Troy Daniels, who had 23 points off the bench to lead Phoenix in the loss to Houston earlier this season, is 12-for-43 from the floor over a six-game stretch.