Suns-Rockets Preview

The Associated Press

The last time the Houston Rockets faced the Phoenix Suns, James Harden turned in his worst shooting performance of the season and Jeremy Lin was hurt.

That won't be the case this time.

Lin is looking to build on his first career triple-double, while Harden goes for another big offensive display Wednesday night when the Rockets host the Suns.

Houston (32-17) ranks fourth in the NBA with 105.1 points per game, and has been ever better of late at home. The Rockets have won five of six there, scoring 108.2 per contests while shooting 47.5 percent from the field.

They didn't come close to being that productive in the most recent matchup with Phoenix (29-19) on Dec. 4, losing 97-88 at Toyota Center.

While held to its fewest points at home this season, Houston also shot a season-low 35.2 percent from the floor while Lin was out with a sprained right knee.

Harden struggled mightily in that game, converting just 3 of 17 field goals and missing all 10 attempts from 3-point range. He needed to make all eight of his free throws to finish with 14 points and salvage his worst shooting performance this season.

Harden had been averaging 29.2 points over his previous six meetings with Phoenix, and his latest effort could signal a return to that level of production.

The All-Star guard returned from an injury to score 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting in Saturday's 106-92 win over Cleveland.

"I need to injure my hand more often," said Harden, who missed two games with a bruised left thumb. "I shot it better than I've been shooting before."

Lin, meanwhile, is averaging 17.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.0 rebounds during Houston's three-game winning streak.

He started the first two of that stretch in place of Harden, but returned to the bench against the Cavaliers, and responded with 15 points, a career-high 11 boards and 10 assists for his first triple-double.

"That's hard to do," Harden said of collecting a triple-double as a reserve. "It's just hard to be able to score the basketball, grab rebounds and pass the ball and get your teammates involved off the bench as a point guard. It's tough. But he's talented enough to do it and he did it."

Dwight Howard is also chipping in with an average of 23.3 points over the last three games after scoring 26 Saturday. The All-Star center had 15 points and 18 rebounds against the Suns in December, but was 4 for 11 from the field.

Phoenix, which averages 104.7 points, is trying to bounce back from Tuesday's 101-92 defeat to Chicago, ending its season high-tying five-game winning streak.

The Suns shot 38.8 percent from the floor - 8 for 28 from long range - and turned the ball over 21 times.

"We gave up so much easy stuff," said Goran Dragic, who had 24 points. "We didn't bring it, no energy and we didn't do smart plays. They did not let us run our actions. They were denying our big guys. It was just hard to pass and cut."

Dragic, a member of the Rockets from 2011-12, is averaging 26.2 points on 63.2 percent shooting in his last five games, including 11 for 17 on 3-pointers.

Dragic had 19 points and four steals at Houston on Dec. 4.

Gerald Green, a native of Houston. had only four points on 1 for 8 from the field in that meeting. He hasn't been much better in the last two games, totaling 10 points on 4 of 19 from the field.

Those struggles led to increased playing time for reserve Leandro Barbosa, who had 13 points against the Bulls.

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