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Phoenix Suns Stagger Into Houston To Face Disappointing Rockets

The Phoenix Suns are not a happy team right now. After getting blown out on the Florida back-to-back games with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, the Suns needed a win against the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night. That didn't happen and the reason was pretty clear, according to one of the few Suns players who did show up, Grant Hill.

"Obviously, with our quarterback (Steve Nash) out, it certainly creates some challenges, but we've just got to play hard. We've got to compete and give effort. If you make mental mistakes, that'll happen. But we just didn't play as hard as we should -- especially for a team that needed a win," Hill said.

The margin of error for this Phoenix Suns team is small. With two starters (Steve Nash and Robin Lopez) out of the lineup, that margin becomes razor thin. The team might get a pass under those difficult circumstances if they played hard and lost, but what you can't have is lack of effort on the defensive end.

"I'm disappointed. We can't use the fact that Steve (Nash) is out as an excuse; we still have 12 guys on our team that have to play. We didn't do what we were supposed to do. When you are an NBA team and you play like we did, you are going to lose and we did," Coach Alvin Gentry said after the game.

No excuses. Disappointed. Play hard. Compete and give effort. Those are things that the Phoenix Suns absolutely can't afford not to do and there's no faster way to lose a fan base than to play like that.

Tonight, the Suns get a chance at redemption against the Houston Rockets (3-9). The Rockets were picked by many preseason prognosticators to do very well this season, but for whatever reason, those pundits assumed that  Yao Ming would somehow stay on the court. He's only been able to play more than 60 games in four out of his eight NBA seasons and now he's out again with yet another foot injury.

The Rockets are also without starting point guard Aaron Brooks, who is out four-to-six weeks with an ankle injury. 

Without Yao, who played five times this season, the Rockets' only three wins came over teams with a combined 15-24 record (Timberwolves, Knicks, Pacers). But they are well-rested, having last played Friday (loss to Toronto) and, at home, should feel confident about their chances against the Suns with the way Phoenix has been playing.

The key to the Rockets is stopping their two big scoring threats, Luis Scola and Kevin Martin. With Ming and Brooks out, those are the only two Houston players averaging double figures scoring. Veteran center Brad Miller and fourth-year point guard Kyle Lowry will likely start in place of Ming and Brooks.

The Suns may get a lift with the return of their leader, Steve Nash. He reportedly is feeling better and will be a game time decision. Backup Goran Dragic played well against the Bobcats (17 points, 10 assists), but the team struggled mightily when he was on the bench and the playmaking was shared by Jared Dudley, Grant Hill and Hedo Turkoglu.

Nash or not, the Suns need to pick up their defensive intensity and effort and finish their four-game road trip with at least one win.

Bright Side of the Suns looks at just how bad the Suns rebounding and defense are this season.