The Suns and Rockets both put four-game winning streaks on the line Wednesday when they meet at the US Airways Center.
Phoenix (7-6) won all three matchups against Houston last season, beating the Rockets by an average of 21 points, and has taken eight of the last 10 overall. The Suns didn’t open this season with that kind of success, however, losing five of their first six games.
They have rebounded to go 6-1 in their last seven and are coming off Sunday’s 119-101 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in which they shot 54.1 percent and registered a season high in points.
“That was maybe our best game of the year,” said reigning two-time MVP Steve Nash, who had 23 points and 10 assists.
Raja Bell hit seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 30 points to lead all five starters in double figures.
“I thought it was our best 48 minutes. We put it together,” Sun coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Amare Stoudemire continues to put it together following knee surgery that caused him to miss most of last season as he recorded 20 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double and fifth this season. The Suns have been without third-leading scorer Leandro Barbosa for consecutive games because of a sprained left ankle, but the team expects him to be ready for this game.
“We’re hoping to have him back (Wednesday),” Nash told the team’s Web site. “He’s having a great year and is a big part of this team.”
The Rockets (10-4) may also be without one of their stars Wednesday after Tracy McGrady bruised his left hip in Tuesday’s 82-75 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The six-time All-Star returned to the game, but was clearly affected, tying his season-low with eight points on 4 of 14 shooting. He isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to play against the Suns.
“Whatever it was, it was a painful hit,” said McGrady, who is averaging 18.4 points and 6.7 assists. “It was tough for me to breathe, every step that I took.”
“Injuries are part of the game,” said Battier, who scored in double figures for the first time in seven games. “What we have to do a better job of is, when he goes out of the game, not to let up. We need to be strong and say, ‘OK, guys, we’ve got some pretty good players. Let’s keep it up.”’
The Rockets will try to keep it up against the Suns as they go for their season-high fifth straight win. Houston’s longest win streak last season was also five games, established Dec. 6-15.
Houston has won four of its last five on the road, where it is 4-3 overall. The Suns, who are opening a three-game homestand, are 5-2 at US Airways Center.