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Suns In Town As Rockets Look To Stay In Playoff Picture

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams trying to make a push for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference tangle in south Texas Monday when the Houston Rockets play host to the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns are currently ninth in the West, 1 1/2 games behind Memphis while the Rockets are in the 11th spot, three games back of the Grizzlies.

Phoenix, which is embarking on a brief two-game road trip that will also see it visit New Orleans, has dropped two in a row coming in, including a 111-88 rout at the hands of Orlando in the desert on Sunday. Dwight Howard posted 26 points and 15 rebounds in Orlando's dominating 111-88 win over the Suns, who were without star guard Steve Nash, in that one.

Nash did not play because of pelvic instability, which has hampered him for the last few games and is expected to be sidelined again tonight as the Suns try to extend a seven-game winning streak against Houston.

"Steve is the backbone of our team," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "Obviously, he gets guys good looks and he creates situations where we have pace and rhythm and things like that. But we don't have Steve, so we have to create that some other way."

Aaron Brooks, who was acquired by Phoenix at the trade deadline from Houston for Goran Dragic, started in place of Nash against Orlando and tallied a team-high 19 points while dishing out 10 assists. Mickael Pietrus had 14 points and Marcin Gortat posted 12 points for the Suns, who have lost two straight to finish out a three-game homestand at 1-2.

"I'm still feeling it out," Brooks said. "Finding out everybody, where they want the ball at, different spots, trying to figure out the offense; trying to watch Steve (Nash), see what he does and implement that, since this offense has been so successful."

The Rockets have also dropped two in a row, including the opener of a six-game homestand on Saturday when Tony Parker had 21 points to lead eight Spurs in double digits and San Antonio ended the game on an 8-0 run for a 115-107 victory over Houston.

Kevin Martin scored 28 points to lead the Rockets, who are 7-3 in their last 10 games. Courtney Lee added 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench while Kyle Lowry had 13 points and nine assists. Forward Luis Scola missed the game with a sore left knee and is questionable for tonight.

"I'm very disappointed for our team," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We picked it up defensively and played better, but they made plays down the stretch where we were trying to play with a team that hasn't been on the court very much."

Houston, which is 17-14 at the Toyota Center, will also welcome the Bobcats, Celtics, Jazz and Warriors on its residency.

For more on the Rockets, check out The Dream Shake.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.